Smell is a chemical thing. The smell sense has some very special properties compared to the other senses. How can we take advantage of those properties to balance mind and body, and bring positivity into focus?
The five senses are what give us the information we need to survive, grow, and thrive.
AND MUCH, MUCH MORE. The senses enrich our lives in ways that are best expressed by poetry and that inspire the sciences to make their secrets known. Smell in particular has great power to influence us. Anyone who has sampled the "spice melange" knows this.
Topics in this post include:
- A plain explanation of the five senses
- Olfaction, or smell, made simple. PLUS the connection to optimism
- My opinion about what we choose to experience
- Can COVID-19 affect smell and taste?
THE FIVE SENSES - IN YOUR NUTSHELL? or your body?
The five senses are how we interact with our environments. As living organisms, we must process all kinds of information about our bodies and the conditions our bodies are experiencing, just to survive. Each type of sense processes the external and internal conditions in a unique way. The result is that we constantly know whether we need to do something to preserve our life, or if we can chill and get on with our business.
The five senses are really fascinating, there's so much to take in. And we DO take it all in, even at a subliminal level.
Pro Tip: Be smart. Be careful what you put in your brain. Choose carefully what you will look at, listen to, and interact with in your mental and physical environment. #GIGO.
odor molecules - smelly little things
There are many ways to talk about odor, but I'm going to break it down in a simple way that makes sense to me.
The memories associated with smells and odors are personal and can be very different from one person to the next. The difference between sensing an odor and how we perceive that odor is mentioned above. But the memories, thoughts and feelings that odors evoke are not necessarily permanent, because this part of the brain is changeable, or "plastic" as we say in the medical sciences. Neural Plasticity.
olfaction, simply put
in through the nose...
Snot is good, slippery snot is even better for smelling! Mucus is necessary for odor molecules to slip and slide around, over, and on the ends of the olfactory nerves that line an area back in the nasal cavity. Healthy mucus contains all the ingredients our little nerve endings need for hanging out in the world.
Is there really much more to say about this? Well, sure there is!
There are over 400 kinds of odor receptors, and we have 50 million or so total, ready and waiting for a hook up with an odor molecule or two. When they hook up, the neurons send information to the brain for immediate decision making: is there danger? It's, like, really fast. We cannot even perceive how fast those reflexes are happening, it's part of our autonomic nervous system. A few death-smell molecules can trigger the urge to run like hell. (Is that cool, or what?)
And if there isn't danger, is there something good in the air? Something tasty? Something sexy? Our olfactory neurons are just itching to get a whiff of what and who is around us, and all it takes are a few molecules to get the chemical message happening on those neurons. (See why it's called "molecular system?")
The neurons, like all good nerves, translate the molecular chemical information into electrical information. The olfactory nerve fibers pass through the bone in our skull and enter the brain, then go to corresponding right and left knobs called the olfactory bulbs, zipping and zapping their little electrical signals all the way. The anatomy and functional explanation about the paths and signaling is too technical for this post; it makes my brain hurt thinking about it, so I am going to keep it super simple from here.
on through the amygdala...
Me, I like the amygdala. I think the amygdala got a bad rap, being associated with anger or aggression, anxiety, and fear (think, terror), and generally "primitive" feelings. But oh! what an exciting time it is for brain science and those little amygdalas! We already knew that they receive input from all the senses and the internal organs. Functional brain imaging, as we speak (so to speak), is showing how many different roles they play.
In general, the amygdalas are the paths, gates, and gatekeepers to the brain's memory, emotion, and decision-making areas. They "integrate" emotions, emotional behavior, and motivation.
Wait! What? That makes them pretty. damn. important! My amygdalas are my good friends, what about yours?
up to the ofc and beyond...
The OFC. "OFC" stands for orbitofrontal cortex. More complicated brain science going on here, but all we need to know about it is that the two OFC's are our Optimism Headquarters. OH! You feeling optimistic? Your OFC's are functioning well. Are you anxious, or suffering PTSD symptoms? They are probably inhibited or damaged. Can they be fixed? You bet your ass they can! #neuralplasticity, Baby.
opinion: Garbage in, garbage out. and what to do about it.
GIGO is a term computer programmers came up with to describe the fact that no matter how good the computer is, if you put in garbage data or have faulty code, you will only get garbage results.
When my husband and I first met, we were both taking Comp Sci courses and we spent many hours writing code using the “old languages." We wrote first in hexadecimal to learn the fundamentals, then Basic, Fortran, and Pascal. After many late, late nights, breakfast conversation was sometimes just the phrase GIGO, meaning of course that all the work of the night before was for garbage.
While I was learning how to code, I took a psych course that touched on things like operant conditioning and the topic of subliminal advertising. That was when I realized that I had to take control of my own mind, by being very selective about what I read, watched, and listened to. If I put garbage in, I'd get garbage out.
Do you see where I'm going with this? If you read my first post, you got the message. We have to take control of our thoughts.
"My message is simple: We may not be able to control our circumstances, but we can have some control over our feelings, and experience some degree of happiness, if we stay centered and hold our balance, but that means we have to have take control of our thoughts."
Because brain science is evolving so rapidly and information is being shared freely, I’ve been able to confirm my intuitively-derived hypothesis that we can use scent molecules to influence our minds. We can program our minds, taking advantage of the amygdala and the OFC's. We choose to do this.
Fragrance Flow is a system that I came up with to trigger flow state during normal, daily activity. Flow state is a good thing, lots of wonderful brain chemistry happens when we flow. I consider Fragrance Flow to be a "molecular system" because it only takes a little bit of a scent for us to recognize the scent and use it to trigger a memory. Now more than ever ... the spice must flow!
OK, for those of you not familiar with the sci-fi classic “Dune,“ what I'm saying is that scents (the spice) are the key to exploring our unique and individual universes, where time is altered, and space is folded, and we expand our consciousness: we flow!
Is there any scientific precedence for using scent this way, to trigger flow? Not really, although people use aromatherapy to influence mood and such and there have been studies to look at that. (If you know of such research let me know!)
There are a few newer opinion articles about using certain scents as flow triggers, so my idea is not original.
Should that stop us from trying out this hypothesis? Of course not! We don’t have any time to waste when it comes to developing our superpowers! We are not doing anything invasive, or sneaky, or dangerous by using natural materials and making our own informed decisions. We aren't taking advantage of ourselves, the way we are taken advantage of by influencers -- we're taking advantage of our innate abilities in the same way we'd train to sing, or paint, or dance.
But here I want to emphasize the point to only use natural materials. How do you improve your #ScentLife? By reconnecting with nature- the natural world and also your natural self!
This is the recurring theme for my work: I cannot condone using chemically synthesized odor molecules for any reason. Period. Remember that GIGO applies to all of our senses. You must take control of your scent life by first choosing to avoid synthetic fragrances and second choosing to embrace the natural world with all its funky odors.
So switch to unscented and naturally scented products as much as practicable. Go au naturale. Good job! Good choice!
COVID-19: can you smell?
Did you know that loss of smell is much more predictive for COVID-19 infection than fever or cough? Thankfully, preliminary research shows that the virus is not attacking the olfactory neurons, but support structures for those neurons. So the loss of smell is temporary, compared to anosmia caused by some viruses that attack the neurons themselves.
Friends, I just want to say that smell research has become a very rapidly changing landscape because of COVID-19. The studies looking at this have exploded in number and size in terms of scope and of data collection- in just a few months. There are studies being published so fast, this information did not even exist when I created Fragrance Flow in July 2019. And I cannot keep up with them because the publications are literally, like, just a couple of weeks old when they hit my medical feeds. It’s an embarrassment of riches for olfactory research.
In my first post I said that the pandemic has thrown everything out of balance, but it's important to stay in the present moment to be balanced. What can we do?
"The first step is to choose to see the present moment in a positive way, like being grateful for this very simple breath you are taking now. So, let's do this positively! Take a deep breath in. Breathe it out.
The present moment, this breath, is a very good thing. Be grateful you can breathe. #breathingisgood"
Allow me to adapt the same message for smell.
"The first step is to choose to see the present moment in a positive way, like being grateful for this very simple odor you are smelling now. So, let's do this positively! Take a deep breath in, smell the scent. Breathe it out.
The present moment, this ability to smell, is a very good thing. Be grateful you can smell. #smellingisgood"
If you or someone you know has had loss of smell you may want to check this out:
coming up next: Animal Aromatik.
In these first two posts I explained why I named my brand Take Kontrol and what I mean by Fragrance Flow Molecular System. If you liked what you read so far, my next post will be a real treat.
Musk. Pheromones. Sex. Molecules. Primal drives.
Not too dirty, not too sciency, but just enough to get you interested in your animal nature. You are an aromatic animal, ANIMaL ARoMATIK!
Let's take a deeper look at how to TAKE KoNTRoL of, or at least harness, our animal nature.
Last minute advice:
Wear a face covering Always & Everywhere, take some vitamins (zinc and zinc ionophores to be precise), love the ones you’re with, stay super duper hydrated, and just breathe and smell stuff. Because we are lucky ducks if we can still breathe and smell, don’t you think? Stop and smell the roses, literally and figuratively. Stay busy with good endeavors, try to fill your heart with good vibes and don’t put garbage into your brain.
We Got This!