The smell of a rain soaked rose garden transports me back to the summer my husband and I got engaged. The Unicorn Song by The Irish Rovers always reminds me of riding in my mom’s old red truck to go care for our horses. Wearing silk lined pants makes me recall cold early mornings in stock show arenas, judging horses and livestock competitively as a 4-H member. Fresh salsa always brings me back to New Year celebrations with my godparents. The things that bring back our memories can be stumbled upon quite randomly, but that’s unfortunate. I’d like to discuss intentional memory mapping! Like a good food and wine pairing, matching specific sensory experiences to seasons in our lives is a powerful tool for creating rich, memorable traditions that we can enjoy presently and recreate in the future.
Memory mapping, in the sense that I’m describing, is about approaching daily life with intent. That intent will pay off, months and decades later, as you’re able to vividly reflect on your life and recreate important anniversaries should you so choose. As an engaged woman, for example, you’ll remember select parts of your journey toward marriage. You’ll remember the dress fitting appointment, the proposal, the night you planned the seating chart, and other snippets of this season. But unfortunately, memory is fickle, and you may forget parts of it. You’ll certainly know you felt excitement, but you might forget the nuances of that excitement that made the engagement so joy-filled. Here are my recommendations for mapping your memories to other senses so that you can create, and open at anytime, a time capsule for any event or period in your life. This post is about leveraging any and all tools to help make that special memory, always just a lit candle away.
Listen to curated playlists.
As discussed in my most recent post, music can powerfully underscore our efforts to create a beautiful environment. This applies entirely to memories as well!
Commit to fragrances.
The sense of smell is directly linked to learning, memory, and emotions. The hippocampus and amygdala are involved in the most fundamental vital activities of humans. The memory of an odor that brings up strong emotions can last quite a long time. Relatively speaking the cerebral center for languages in the brain was developed much later than the area for olfactory sense. A memory described with language is much more visual and rational, but it cannot keep up with the abundance of emotions derived by the memory of a smell. Memory based on language is hard to maintain without the aid of record keeping, but memory based on smell can be evoked with the smallest suggestion at anytime and anywhere. There is scientific evidence that olfactory stimuli can cue autobiographical memories more effectively than cues from other sensory modalities. Stimulating odor takes us through time and space by igniting both the olfactory area and the memory area of the brain. An olfactory simulation makes a memory pop up as if a landmine long hidden in the bushes suddenly explodes. It is as if the smell nudges the detonator, and all the memories burst out at once. Because the effects of smell appear instantly, they stimulate one’s emotions before one even has a chance to think about the smell. For this reason, when we perceive a certain smell, we are carried away by unknown emotions linked to the smell before even beginning to understand the nature or cause of the emotion.”How Flavor Works: The Science of Taste and Aroma
By Nak-Eon Choi, Jung H. Han
Use consistent scents throughout the home.
Ensuring you use related, if not identical, fragrances from room to room ensures you’ll strongly associate that fragrance with the particular season or event you are trying to remember. For example, use all white pine scents during the holiday season. If you prefer slightly more variety you can mix white pine, cedar, and Fraser fir fragrances. Use them in your car as well! Go for real pine boughs and garlands, if not also a cut Christmas tree, to add the dimension of authentic fragrance to the mix! The same premise can be applied with floral fragrances in spring, citrus and herb fragrances in summer, and musky spices in autumn.
Use consistent fragrances in your beauty routines, too!
Many of us have fragranced hair, body, and bath products in addition to perfume. I never use dissonant fragrances, instead matching my products to the best of my ability. Use all gourmands, all herbal, or all floral (even down to the same particular floral if you can!). Don’t confuse your nose with vastly dissonant fragrances.
Leverage your color schemes.
Use a particular set of stationary and ink. Stick to a clear color palette with transitional home decor like throws, pillows, vases, artwork, window treatments, and pottery. Stick to a particular color family for your floral arrangements. Wear a lot of a particular color on your own body, or stick to a consistent nail lacquer. Creating color associations with events and seasons is a very helpful tool!
Drink a staple cocktail or wine.
Bringing flavors into memory mapping creates a wonderful dimension. I think this is best achieved with signature beverages! Of course you might need to learn about wine or mixology to do this. It’ll be fun! Consider grape variety, region, and label when selecting your wine. As you decide on your cocktail of choice, think about flavor and aroma. What herbs and garnishes will add an extra layer of complexity to the flavor profile, and how do those fit with the memory you’re encapsulating?
Binge on a particular fabric.
Whether it’s the linens used in your living, bath, and bed, or the garments you wear, use texture derived from fabric to strengthen the memory connection. Go for buttery suede and metallic brocade in the fall, crushed velvet and downy sherpa in winter, delicate silk and luxurious cotton in spring, airy linen and smooth chambray in summer. Consider transitioning your hand towels, table cloths, bath towels, sheets, bed linens, throw pillows and blankets. Stick to a consistent fabric with your lingerie, from underwear to nightgowns to camisoles. Bring back the old school habit of wearing gloves in temperatures other than freezing ones!
Plan something and attach as many memories to it as possible!
When you plan an event, you must begin with the end in mind. This enables you to work backward, ensuring far greater chances of success. People who buy into new age concepts always tout the importance of “visualization” and “manifestation.” While I certainly can’t prove that they’re wrong, I think the power of visualization comes more from beginning with the end in mind than it does any cosmic power. If you visualize what you want to happen, and immerse yourself in that line of thinking, you’ll become more aware of who you need to become and what you need to do to ensure your intention becomes reality.
As you visualize your future memories, say the road trip you take on your anniversary or the girls weekend you’re planning this summer, indulge in the other senses we’ve already discussed. Listen to your curated playlist while you make your packing list. Burn the candle and cozy up under your blanket as you shop ahead of time. Sip your signature cocktail as you book reservations. Write your itinerary in ink that matches the color palette. Attaching as many connection points to the memory as possible ensures the time capsule you’re creating will be rich, and accessible any time you so choose.