If you answer the question "how do you smell" with the answer "with my nose", you are technically correct. In scientific or medical terms, the explanation can seem pretty irrelevant to the regular Joe, bogged down in medical-speak and complex physiological processes. So let's take a look at what happens when you smell something, in layman's terms (Pleeeaassee!!! LOL 😝) that anyone can understand.
Through the Front or the Back of Your Nose
There are basically 2 ways that you smell anything. You either receive an aroma through the front of your nose (the most common way), or smell enters the back of your nose through your mouth (usually when chewing food). You have chemical receptors in your nose which detect smells and then send that information to your brain.
Your brain goes to work studying that data, telling you whether what you are smelling is an orange, a wet puppy, smoke from a fire or is coming from a totally unrecognized source. This is one of the quickest chemical systems your body has, capable of almost instantly receiving data, processing and memorizing that data and turning it into something you can relate to.
How Your Sense of Smell Is Connected to Your Memory
As fast as this nose-brain-recognition system is, it also attaches emotion and memory to specific smells. Without getting too technical, there is a limbic system in your brain that houses your olfactory bulb. The word old factory refers to your sense of smell, and your limbic system includes compartments which are related to how you behave, what mood you are in and your memories as well.
Since the smelling mechanism in your brain shares residency with the part of your brain dedicated to memory, mood and behavior, your sense of smell is intimately linked to both positive and negative memories.
This is why your most powerful memories, and your perception of how you felt during that event or on that occasion, are often linked to a particular smell. If you are sensing an aroma for the first time, your brain registers your mood at that very instant. If you are happy, sad, confused, scared, or depressed when a particular aroma is initially received, odds are this same emotion will be remembered every time you encounter that smell again, even decades later in many cases.
This explains why essential oils and other aroma therapeutic measures may effectively treat mental problems, disorders and beliefs. Whatever pleasant memories you have attached to a particular scent, that positive mood and happy mindset can be revisited simply by smelling the aroma again.