How often do you pay attention to the beautiful and intricate role your senses play in your daily life?
Rediscover and connect with each of your five senses.
Most of us were born with five senses that we have taken for granted our entire lives. Because of this, we often forget the intricate role they play in our lives. Simply put, we forget to appreciate them. Think about how each of these senses affects the activities that are part of your daily life. Take a moment and imagine your life without your sense of sight, sound, smell, touch and taste. How would your life dramatically change in the absence of these senses? Imagine cooking a meal, eating dinner, checking soured milk, driving to work or taking a walk, all without your sense of sight, sound, smell, touch and taste. If you or someone you know has lost the ability to use one or more of the five senses talked about, how have the remaining senses been more acutely developed to experience and enjoy the beauty of the world?
Your memory bank
Did you know your five senses play a vital role in creating memories? When you think back to your favorite meal, when you reminisce about your fondest times or feel the burning sting of your most sorrowful memories, can you envision them? What did they look like? Do certain sounds play back in your mind? Do you remember how the room smelled? How you felt? Does a specific taste come to mind? What senses are triggered by a memory?
Your senses are intricately woven into and connected with your memories. You file away these bits of information into a memory bank. When you least expect it, you see something familiar, become aware of a smell you’ve taken in before or recall a previous taste or texture or sound that takes you back to a time when you’ve experienced it before. Your memory bank opens up, exposing these details and depicting past experiences and memories.
Senses = beauty
Finding beauty in the world has to start somewhere and there needs to be an understanding of how to find the simplicity in recognizing this. We often forget to recognize and appreciate our senses and the dramatic roles they play in our daily lives. What better way to begin noticing this beauty than by understanding and using your senses?
Your sight allows you to take notice of textures, patterns, colors, shapes, sizes, expressions and details of the images you see. Look around; notice how beautiful something is. What is it about what you are seeing that makes this particular image beautiful? Recognize how the sun gently kisses the earth. Identify the look of joy or anguish on someone’s face. What shapes do you see? Do you notice any odd ones? Consider the colors that may or may not match, the hues that are subtle versus ones that are vibrant. You probably do this daily when you are getting dressed. If you are color blind, pay close attention to the details of different shades, shapes, textures, patterns and expressions you see.
When your eyes are closed and you hear something, you draw on your other senses and often envision what that sound may look like. We also use this sense to determine the distance or direction of the sound’s location. We evaluate if it is located to our left, right, in front, behind, near or far.
In life, we evaluate and can determine emotions and reactions that correlate with a particular sound. You may respond differently to the sound of a bee buzzing next to you than you would to a bird singing nearby. You would likely react differently to a person who is laughing and has joy in their voice compared to someone who speaks in a sorrowful tone and is quietly crying. You may not take a step further if you heard water crashing or the crackling of a fire in front of you. We often evaluate these sounds or tones and make decisions on how to react based upon them.
When practicing this sense, listen to what is heard; hear things that you may not have acknowledged before. Notice different levels of sounds, tones and pitches. This may be the sounds of nature, such as birds chirping, the breeze or wind blowing through trees or insects buzzing by. Listen to the noise of cars passing, of feet slowly or hurriedly walking by, of phones ringing, keys jingling or typing on a keyboard. Hear the sound of joy, excitement, confusion, pain, chatter or laughter through tones. Recognize another individual’s voice over the phone. Imagine hearing lost loved ones’ words; do you remember what they sounded like even though it’s been years since you’ve heard their voice?
Ask yourself, “What do I hear?” Pay close attention to the distinct noises that are taking place.
A good time to begin recognizing smells is when you are cooking, eating or when you are in a specific environment where smells are more prominent. Smell can be a trigger of a memory. Close your eyes and focus on different scents. Smells can give things imagery and create an emotional connection to them. A specific scent can create and be the strongest trigger of memory. You associate scents with certain items and experiences as delightful, unpleasant, comforting or alarming. You correlate certain smells with people, seasons and much, much more.
Smells can serve to notify you of a particular situation. If you suddenly smell smoke, you would likely feel panic and become alarmed. If you smell spoiled milk or rotten food, would you still eat it? Have you ever taken notice to the smell right before it snows or after it rains? Do you notice the smell of the change in the conditions of the environment?
If you smell fresh-baked cookies or a roast in the oven, you may think of a positive experience and begin to salivate. In the absence of a physical item, when you close your eyes, can you figuratively connect with the aroma of that specific thing? Smell aids in the ability to taste. If you took a bite of a strawberry, but held an onion under your nose and took a deep breath in, would this impact your enjoyment of what you were eating?
Sensations that can be identified through touch include cold, heat, pain and contact. Through touch, we learn about our bodies, how to communicate with others and recognize different textures, temperatures and sensations. Our fingertips are key components and the biggest indicator in recognizing touch. Mostly, you recognize contact through your hands and feet, but often other areas of your body, such as your tongue, are used to distinguish touch too. Even the hair on your body can act as an early warning sign for things such as heat or contact.
When practicing your sense of touch, look at and focus on the object you’re interacting with. Sometimes, when you visually observe what you are touching, you may find it more pleasurable. Other times, touch may be more gratifying when you cannot see what you are touching or what is touching you. It differs based on circumstances and preferences. To help distinguish the difference, try touching or being touched with your eyes open and then closed.
Can you imagine what it may feel like to have a worm cupped in your hands? Do you envision feeling the slimy, cool to the touch, moist wiggling creature? Can you differentiate soft silk on your skin versus abrasive wool? Can you close your eyes and visualize the touch of a lover’s lips; their hand placed on your leg or touching the nape of your neck? What does it feel like to run your fingers through someone’s hair or through your own? Do you remember a time when your mother gently brushed your hair when you were a child? If you go outside in the cold, can you feel the frigid air against your skin? When you take a shower, do you feel the sensation of warm water running over your body? Do you take notice to the change in temperatures or different vibrations on your skin?
It’s time to taste. Our tongue can separate and distinguish the flavors of salt, sweet, sour and bitter. Everything you taste is a combination of these flavors. Sometimes our taste can even be impacted by a combination of the actual taste of something and a perceived taste of it (this will or should taste like…).
Have you ever tasted the saltiness of a tear that ran over your lips or of the salty air as you stand on the beach? Have you experienced the cool, sweet, sour flavor of lemonade on a hot day or felt the comfort of sweet, hot, chocolaty cocoa on a cold, dark winter evening? Do you enjoy the biting flavor of a fresh, sour-tasting lemon; does it make your lips purse? Can you imagine savoring the succulently sweet taste of French toast on a Sunday afternoon?
The next time you eat, recognize the flavors of the food you’re eating. Is it salty? Does it have a hint of bitterness? Is it so sour it makes you purse your lips? Is it sweet? Is it a combination of flavors? When you eat slowly and practice mindful eating, you focus more on your meal, the flavors that you taste and less on the motion of shoveling food in your mouth robotically. This awareness can actually increase the taste of food, allowing you to savor it and making it more deliberate and pleasurable.
How often do you eat in a hurry, eat standing up, eat as you’re running out the door or eat while you are driving in the car? Do you sit in front of the television or at your desk while you’re eating? How long does it take for you to devour a meal? The next time you eat a meal or snack, take your time. Try to take at least 15 minutes to complete a full meal by chewing slowing and tasting the food you are eating. Don’t just eat to clear your plate. To better taste the flavor of your food, take notice of the colors, smell the aroma, feel the texture and listen to the sound of the food massaging your tongue with each bite.
Reminisce about a time you were indulging in your favorite dessert; think of the details of that experience using your senses. My favorite dessert is tiramisu. Running back through my memory bank I can recall many times indulging in this delicious dessert. When I envision tiramisu, I can see the coffee and cream-layered velvety dessert, espresso-soaked ladyfingers, a light whipped cream layer topped with a light cocoa dusting. I smell the aroma of coffee and brandy. I feel the sensation of my lips connecting with the cold metal fork as I put the moist dessert into my mouth. I can taste the mocha-soaked ladyfingers, the tangy yet sweet mascarpone cream cheese mousse mixture, the saccharine chocolate dusting mixed with espresso and a hint of brandy melting on my tongue. I can feel the smooth, creamy, yet light dessert dissolve in my mouth and move down my throat. My body fills with pleasure as I carefully chew each bite of the delicious dessert.
Mindful eating is taking in and swallowing more than just a bite of food; it is enjoying all of the details that go along with it. It is using your sense of taste along with being aware of what the food looks like, smells like, feels like and sounds like while you are eating it. Become aware of how your senses together play a role in enjoying your favorite foods.
Want to know how to eat mindfully? Here's a quick walk-through!
- Your senses are intricately interconnected and can help you better understand a situation and trigger pleasure or signify a warning.
- Using your senses allows you to become more acutely aware of your surroundings and learn more about yourself and your world.
- Your senses play a vital role in creating memories.
- Using your sense of sight, sound, smell, touch and taste can help you enjoy a greater sense of emotional and physical well-being.
Take time to reflect on the self-discovery questions to open your heart and mind.
- Ask yourself how or when your senses helped shape an experience. (Recognizing these details can strengthen your everyday experiences going forward.)
Was it the images and colors you saw?
Something you heard?
Was it the smell of it?
Was there a taste?
Something you touched?
How did these things make you feel?
- When was the last time you thought about the significance of your five senses and how they impact your life? How often do you appreciate these essential attributes?
- When was the last time you felt the wind gently brush across your skin or appreciated the beauty of a leaf dancing gracefully in the breeze or listened to the majestic background symphony of nature?
- Incorporate your senses into your daily positive affirmations. Imagine what it may look like, sound like, smell like, feel like or taste like. Does this make your affirmation even more effective?
- Take the time and write in your journal what new appreciation you found for your senses at the end of the week. Take in the beauty of them independently as well as combined.
Take time over the next week to implement the action steps to boost your focus and ensure your success.
- Connect with your senses and appreciate these precious gifts you were uniquely created with. You may perceive them differently than someone else, but you’re encouraged to connect with and continue to be aware of each of your senses every day.
- To help acknowledge and value each of the five senses, focus on recognizing and acknowledging one sense over five days. If you are not able to practice a particular sense due to the absence of it, spend that designated day recognizing all of your other senses combined. Being particularly mindful of a sense a day will help you become aware of the role it plays in your life. It will help you feel grateful for your senses and find beauty in each of them.
Day One: Pay special attention to what you SEE.
Day Two: Pay special attention to what you HEAR.
Day Three: Pay special attention to what you SMELL.
Day Four: Pay special attention to what you TOUCH.
Day Five: Pay special attention to what you TASTE.
- Now, try to incorporate this practice into your everyday life by being fully aware of your sense of sight, sound, smell, touch and taste.