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My home is no longer my home, not only do I trip over stray shoes and find alien things lying around on my counter-tops (my nephew assures me they are tiny robots called Hex-Bugs) but things even smell different.

It was strange coming into the bathroom to find the familiar scent of my sister lingering in the air, a mixture of Nivea, toothpaste and just her … fresh, clean and a little bit minty.  As soon as my nose picked up the scent my mind raced back to when we where both in our late teens, getting ready to go out, arguing over mirror time and reminding me of how much fun we use to have in that care-free age.

That sudden flash of a memory made me think of how funny it is that smells can take us by surprise and transport us back to places in just one instance. For me, whenever I smell hot summer air with fresh hay mixed in, I am six years old again, spending my summer holiday with my grandmother and aunt in Germany. Or if I catch a  whiff of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves it is Christmas time no matter how hot it is outside. Some smells even just make me feel a certain way, the smell of grass after a summer shower makes me smile, sea salt on the air makes me content and the scent of freshly baked bread is like a happy, hungry hug.

What many people don’t know is that we smell things much quicker than we see or hear them, the nose is our first sense to pick things up. And because our hooters are so closely linked to the brain’s limbic system (this is where all our emotions are born), the nose works like a little time machine taking us back to times and places to when we first became aware of certain scents and odours. In addition to the strong impact smells make, our nose is like an elephant, never forgetting when we smelt what first, making it hard, nearly impossible to change associations.

So with the smell of freshly brewed coffee in the air and the fragrance of french toast tickling my nose I think the day is off to a wonderfully smelly start.

How smell works

The Nose, an Emotional Time Machine