Chelsea and the smell of sunshine.

The Chelsea Flower Show is wrapping up on Saturday the 24th. Strolling through a beautiful arrangement of flowers on a sunny day is enough to get anyone distracted about the Monday through Friday ordeals. But is it just the visuals that send you into this mental bliss, or is there something more going on? How does the scent of flowers affect your state of mind?

Odour has no personal significance until you connect it with something meaningful. Perhaps your grandfather always smoked pipes and a whiff of that same scent today could send you back to pleasant memories him. There is actually a strong connection between smell and emotion, as they are both processed in the limbic system, a collection of brain structures such as the olfactory bulbs, hippocampus, and amygdala. The limbic system is primarily responsible for behaviour, motivation, long-term memory, and olfaction.

Now imagine losing your sense of smell. An estimated 6000 people in the UK are born without their sense of smell, a condition called anosmia. Such a condition can be extremely  depressing and isolating, as it forbids you to smell your grandfather’s pipe, or the flowers at the Chelsea Flower Show. Not only that, but because 80% of the flavour of food comes from the sense of smell, those suffering from anosmia may also lose interest in food.

Anosmia has many causes such as a viral infection affecting the upper respiratory tract, a nose abnormality, diabetes, a head injury, certain medication, liver or kidney disease, or even vitamin B12 deficiency. Generally however, it is because the odours cannot get to the top of the nose or nerve signals are unable to connect the nose and brain. However only those who have anosmia due to a genetic condition, known as congenital anosmia, have the inability to recover their sense of smell. On the bright side, 50% of anosmia cases may be reversed or minimised with, for example, decongestants or an operation clearing out the sinuses.

Head out to Chelsea because even if you cannot smell the flowers, their beauty, the nice walk around the gardens, the sunshine and the company of your friends are all fantastic ways of lifting your mood!