Arom-awareness: The How and Why of Scent Journaling

"I write because I don't know what I think until I read what I say." Flannery O'Connor

I first regularly began to journal my thoughts, my dreams, and my goals when I was in high school. Journaling not only helped me to document my day, but it helped me process my emotions. Often I didn't really know what I thought--or felt--until I wrote it down. It made me more aware of my inner world.

It was not until a few years ago, however, that I first began scent journaling. Scent journaling is the process whereby we write down what aromas we smell in a given day or experience. It is now believed that humans can distinguish 1 trillion different odors, and none of our five senses are more tied to memory and emotion than our smell. However, in our modern day societies, we don't seem to pay nearly as much attention to our sense of smell as we do our other four senses. Scent journaling helps us to become more conscious of the aromas we take in every day.

What is the benefit in being "arom-aware"? For the aromatherapist or perfumer, being able to be aware of and to articulate a wider variety of scents helps us to be better at our craft. For the lay person and aromatherapist alike, it helps ground us in the here and now. Scent journaling can be a sort of spiritual or emotional discipline. It helps us be more conscious of our experiences and helps us remember those experiences later. In a fast-paced, anxiety-laden visually-stimulating world, it can be healing to literally "stop and smell the roses."

"Nothing is more precious than being in the present moment. Fully alive, fully aware." - Thich Nhat Hanh

Here are some ways to begin your own scent journal:

  1. Find a small spiral notebook that you can keep with you at all times, or use a note-taking app on your phone. Use this to jot down when you notice a particularly pleasant aroma, wherever you are. Or, you may wish to record what you smell during a time you wish to remember later. 
  2. Start by thinking of some of your favorite smells that evoke positive memories and jot them down. These need not be sophisticated aromas; in fact, they probably won't be. Folger's coffee reminds me of my grandparents' house; Old Spice original aftershave/cologne reminds me of my Dad; other aromas that evoke nostalgia for me include White Rain shampoo, Crayola crayons, and Vanilla Fields perfume. People my age will probably understand, but CK One instantly makes me think of junior high locker rooms! (Note to all tweens out there: cologne is no replacement for a shower.)
  3. Outdoors is usually an easier place to notice scent. If you take a morning walk, take note of any fragrant plants you might pass by. Jot down a few adjectives that describe the smell, and perhaps what that smell makes you feel. Because all five senses are interconnected, adjectives typically connected with a different sense might be useful here. Most people have an idea of what "green" smells like, or which aromas are "bright". An aroma might smell heavy, thick, or thin. Whatever words come to mind, jot them down. 
  4. If you find it difficult to notice scents in your day to day life, it can be helpful to close your eyes (where it is safe to do so). We live in a very visual society and rely heavily on our eyes. If we take away one of our senses, the others are often heightened. 

Do you keep a scent journal? What are some of your favorite aromas?