A Guaranteed Way to Get Moments of Bliss

by | Aug 15, 2021 | Living Fully No Matter What Happens | 0 comments

If you’re ever in the mood for a fun and easy pick-me-up, look no further than your nose.

This humble physical workhorse, conveniently located right on your face, is your fast-track ticket to heartwarming memories.

Test this right now: remember the smell of something you loved in childhood—your grandmother’s kitchen, the art room at school, your pillow. How does it make you feel?

You might not describe it exactly like author Marcel Proust did in “In Search of Lost Time,” but you’ve just had what is called a “Proustian Moment” in his honor:

“…I carried to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had let soften a bit of madeleine. But at the very instant when the mouthful of tea mixed with cake crumbs touched my palate, I quivered, attentive to the extraordinary thing that was happening inside me.”  

Why do smells affect us so powerfully? The answer is that the part of our brain that processes smell, the olfactory bulb, sends information directly to the nervous system and the regions of the brain related to emotion and memory.

How smell gets processed by our brainsThe same is essentially true of taste, according to Harvard researcher Venkatesh Murthy. When you chew, molecules in the food make their way back to your nasal cavity so that, he says, “all of what you consider flavor is smell.”

Another interesting fact about our sense of smell: it is the only fully developed sense a fetus has in the womb, and it’s the one that is the most developed in a child through the age of around 10, when sight takes over. That’s why sensory memories that we stored from childhood can be particularly powerful. (This can be just as true for smells that remind us of something negative.)

So, if you want a mini mood-boost, engage your nose, and remember smells that made you happy.

Here’s a quick list of my favorite smells and the happy memories they invoke, which might give you some ideas:

  • Fresh-mown grass—reminds me of my dad being home on weekends and mowing our lawn
  • Finger paint—free-form, slippery, messy art that was never wrong
  • Pine trees—childhood trips to the mountains
  • Bug spray—summers at my grandparents’ house in Minnesota. The mosquitos were legendary!
  • Coffee in the car—driving for summer vacation to Minnesota, with my parents drinking from the thermos
  • Baking bread or cookies—love in food form
  • Books—either fresh paper or old paper and the promise of a good story
  • School supplies like erasers and rubber cement—I loved learning and all types of stationery
  • Clean laundry—just a cozy home smell
  • My grandpa’s garage and workshop, which seemed filled with mysterious kinds of tools and the potential for fixing things
  • The fresh fragrance of my mom’s house when I’d visit as an adult. It was eucalyptus-y or some other kind of fresh potpourri.
  • My mom’s perfume and favorite after-bath splash. Anyone else remember Jean Naté?
  • Entering the gymnasium for a high school basketball game. I don’t like the smell of sweat, but a gym smell brings back fond memories of cheering for the home team with a roomful of friends and fans.

Whether or not your favorite aromatic memories make you quiver, may they bring a smile to your face and warmth to your heart.


Do you need kind, compassionate support to bounce back from a negative experience? If so, then get in touch with me now, and let’s make the most of your precious time, energy and love. 


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Kristen Carter

Kristen Carter, Certified coach, author, and breast cancer survivor. More

Feeling Inspired

Feeling Inspired

One of the ways I like to feel is inspired. I feel it in my heart center the most, but often get goosebumps and feel “zhoozhy” all over. I can get this feeling from a beautiful vista, the smell of pine sap on a warm day, music, Super Bowl ads, stories of overcoming...

Sailing Out of the Doldrums

Sailing Out of the Doldrums

There is an area extending about five degrees north and south of the equator that scientists call the “itch” (for Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone, or ITCZ) and sailors call the doldrums. In this belt, the prevailing trade winds of the northern and southern hemispheres...

Eat That Popsicle

Eat That Popsicle

Imagine you’re a kid, in the back seat of your parents’ car, heading out on a road trip. At your feet is a bag packed with all your favorite things: activities, snacks, maybe a plush toy or a blanket. What’s in there? (Take a good look, I’m in no hurry.) In my bag,...

What’s the Point?

What’s the Point?

One of the biggest and most common questions I’ve heard as a coach can be summed up as, “What’s my purpose?” At some point in our lives, I think most of us ask this question. We’ve maybe done all the “right” things so far—school, jobs, relationships—and yet the day...

Absorbing Goodness

Absorbing Goodness

A couple of months ago, I got some great advice: “Take time to absorb the things that inspire you, rather than rushing to share them with other people.” The point my friend was trying to make is that while I’ve made a career out of helping other people love themselves...

Bounce back from a negative experience with renewed confidence, hope, and courage.

Explore what kind, compassionate support can feel like with a no-obligation conversation with me by phone or by Zoom.