Mindfulness Made Easy – Practice #6 Smell Mindfully

Here is the sixth of my 50 Mindful Practices  from my upcoming book. Please sign up for my weekly emails if you want to get the rest automatically in your email box. I welcome your feedback and please pass along to your friends!


Practice 6: Smell mindfully

“Mindfulness, bravery and compassion and wisdom are not born overnight but nor are they remote and unattainable qualities. They can be awakened, and once awakened, will inspire others.“ Jane Hope

What it is.  Mindful smelling involves noticing when your sense of smell is being activated and understanding its impact on you.  Our sense of smell is our most powerful sense. For some, the smell of fresh baked bread, clean sheets or popcorn can evoke a sense of comfort. For others the smell of a mother’s perfume can stimulate forgotten memories. The smell of smoke or gas can alert us to danger. The smell of food cooking can remind us that we are hungry. Without a sense of smell we cannot taste! But sadly, many of us do not even realize when our noses are stimulated or the impact that smells have on our entire sense of well-being.  We often only notice smells when it’s extreme, like when the oven is on fire or there is mold on our yogurt.

How to do it.  With another person, go to your kitchen and open up a food or spice cupboard. Select few items that have distinct smells, like lemongrass, peanut butter, coffee or vinegar. Take turns closing your eyes while the other person moves items under your nose. Guess what the item is and reflect on whether it brings back a memory or feeling. Another fun exercise that demonstrates the power of smell is to pretend you have a lemon in your hand (no real lemon is required) and slowly move your hand towards your mouth. Your mouth will begin to salivate even though there is no lemon in sight!

What to notice. How is mindful smelling different than the smelling you do automatically day-in and day-out? How many smells do you notice in an average day? If you slowed down, do you think you would notice smells? Do you think some smells make you more calm or more agitated? Although we can all smell with our noses, it comes as a surprise to most, that we do not use our noses as much as we could. It’s a if we need  to retrain ourselves to smell again. We have all heard the phrase, “You need to stop and smell the roses!”  but it seems so difficult to notice all the wonder and beauty unless we stop or at least slow down.

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