This week we share some of your stories of the ways in which scent has informed your journey.
What does happiness smell like? Is there an aroma associated with joy, well being or inner peace? What about the darker spectrum of emotions? Is despair a dull and muddy scent or something sharp and unpleasant? Do the shadows smell like stagnant rivers that might never flow again?
There are ways of talking about our emotional journeys from the perspective of our other senses. We see light at the end of the tunnel, we touch the void, we taste freedom and we hear voices. We do not, however, have an olfactory vocabulary for mental health.
As we have outlined in previous journals, odours are processed by the olfactory bulb which begins inside the nose and runs to the bottom of the brain. This bulb is connected to two areas of the brain strongly implicated in memory and emotion: the hippocampus and amygdala. Considering the close relationship between smell and emotion, we think it is time to smell our way to better health.
Here are some of your stories that might inspire people to think differently about our sense of smell, including one from Creative Director and Founder of STORIES by Eliza Grace, Tonya Kidd-Beggs.
'‘During a particularly
challenging time in my life, scent made the
difference between life and death."
The Scent of Grief by Tom
After my father died, I kept his tobacco pipe in a drawer beside my bed. He hadn’t smoked it for years but the smell of it still brought back powerful recollections. I struggled to process my grief and the circumstances surrounding his passing. When it felt like my sadness might overwhelm me, I’d get his pipe out and inhale my father’s memory. Each time I’d remember something different and it felt as though he were with me, helping me come to terms with my loss. Three years on, my grief has changed and the dark days come less frequently. I still have the pipe beside my bed though, just in case.
Joy in the Shadows by Susanna
I have never felt very comfortable in my skin. I’m a very positive person and I love people but I’m just not that keen on myself. My friends are shocked to hear that I struggle with depression. They all say I’m the happiest person they know. My best friend bought me a candle last year called, ‘Joy’. I’m not sure what oils are in it, but it definitely smells citrusy. I like the symbolism of lighting a candle when I feel the darkness setting in. It’s the smell that lifts my spirits the most. I feel lighter and more positive. It’s not a miracle cure or anything, it’s just the smell I have come to associate with joy.
Heavenly Aroma by Tonya
During a particularly challenging time in my life, scent made the difference between life and death. My circumstances were better than they had been in a long time but my heart was sick and I started falling apart. I was in California at the time and in the middle of a conversation when I smelt something that I can only describe as a heavenly aroma. I caught a whiff of it and it completely overwhelmed me. It was like a key that gave me access to memories I had buried very deeply. It was the starting point of a journey of restoration. The heavenly scent is what I sought to reproduce in STORIES No. 01. It is a very significant blend for me.
In perfumery there are fragrance facets. These are ingredients that are grouped together based on their olfactory qualities and similar molecular structures. Some awareness of these groups might make it possible for you to discover scents that could empower you to think and feel differently about yourself and the world around you. Here are a few that stand out for us:
These are the fresh, citrus notes such as Bergamot, Bitter Orange, Grapefruit, Lemon, Lime, Pomelo and Yuzu. They are known for their positive and uplifting qualities.
This is a large and very diverse group of ingredients with varying properties. When used in fragrance the effect ranges from something green and leafy to the coolness of Rose, to light, powdery Violet. There are five facets within this group. The Fresh Floral Facet is the most natural and the ingredients are very expensive. Look for Boronia, Hyacinth or Narcissus. The Cool Floral Facet brings balance. Here we have Rose and Geranium. The Sensual Floral Facet is carnal and narcotic. Think Frangipani, Gardenia, Jasmine and Ylang Ylang. The Warm Floral Facet brings comfort in the form of Broom, Chamomile and Night Scented Stock. The Powdery Facet is gentle and slightly vague. Look for Heliotrope, Mimosa and Violet.
Fresh Green Facet
Imagine a walk somewhere wild and beautiful where you gather posies from the blooms all around you. Those smells belong in this facet. Look for Peach Leaf, Galbanum or Violet Leaf.
The ingredients in this facet are divided into Fresh Spice and Hot Spice. This facet is full of complex ingredients that, when blended well, will take the wearer on an emotional journey. Fresh Spice notes are Cardamom, Coriander and Ginger. They are light yet deep and long lasting. The Hot Spice ingredients blend well in a composition and feature Cinnamon, Clove, Nutmeg and Saffron.
At STORIES by Eliza Grace we appreciate all the tales you share with us about what fragrance means to you. As you consider the role fragrance could play in your mental health, we would love to hear any stories that emerge.