Memory and scent: a partnership for life

The ability to smell is one of the first senses human beings develop. A newborn's eyesight is pretty fuzzy, so they smell their way to their mother's breast. Because the brain links smell with memory, babies remember the journey and repeat it whenever they want food and comfort. And as they grow into adults, their sense of smell has the ability to take them right back to childhood.

The reason for this is that the part of the brain triggered by smell — the hippocampus — is also linked to long term memory and emotion. So, while we often talk about setting a mood with fragrance, it's more complex than that says our consultant neuroscientist Dr Pradeep, "The fragrance doesn't create a mood. It dredges up a memory, associated with the mood."

Family and Dinner memories
Beach Scent Memories

These associations form the first time we smell something and many scent memories hark back to our early years, reminding us of family, childhood friends, even inspirational teachers. Dr Pradeep explains that when your mother washed your clothes and placed them — soft, fluffy and sweet-smelling — back in the cupboard, the fragrance demonstrates that she cares. So when you smell the same scent again, you're reminded of her love, even if you left home a long time ago. And it has the power to make you feel happy and reassured.

Dr Pradeep says when we use a fragranced fabric conditioner in our wash, we give children "a memory key which will stay with them forever". What’s more, we can create signature scents to remind family and friends of our home. For a relaxing spa feel, he recommends a blend of rosemary, lavender and eucalyptus.   

Comfort works with the best perfume experts in the world to create fragrances that explore these happy memories. Outdoors smells including floral and woody tones are reminiscent of endless summer days whiled away in the garden or park.

The salty smell of the sea triggers memories of beach holidays, jumping in the waves and making sandcastles. Deep aromas like vanilla and cinnamon remind us of warm and busy kitchens, conjuring up memories of happy seasonal gatherings full of family and friends. It's no wonder that sellers bake bread before showing prospective buyers around their house — it makes them feel right at home.

As well as drawing scents from nature, the long-lasting technology in Comfort fabric softeners, means that clothes will continue to release fresh bursts of fragrance long after you've got dressed. So, you can boost your wellbeing by remembering loved ones at home, wherever you are.