We have five senses: touch, smell, taste, sight, and hearing. How many times a day do we stop and appreciate all five of these senses?
How likely are we to notice our sense of touch unless there is an unpleasant one such as pain or extreme heat or cold? How often is our sense of hearing dulled by constant background noise of people talking, phones ringing, copiers running? How often do we just look up and notice all of the brilliant colors in our place of work or even outside our window? Do you stop to taste your food or do you simply inhale it down so that you can get on with your busy day? The answers to these questions should bring you to an acute awareness of what you might be missing!
Touch is a biological need that can only be met through contact with another human or animal. Studies have showed that when touch is denied or severely restricted in infants, they die. Other studies have suggested that humans have developed some self destructive methods of compensation to satisfy the hunger for touch including smoking, overeating, nail-biting, compulsive sexual behavior, and even physical violence, aggressiveness, rape and other forms of sexual abuse. The deprivation of touch creates a sense of isolation from ourselves and others and can manifests in unsatisfying relationships, boredom and general apathy for life and sexual dysfunction. So why don’t we touch? First, not everyone knows how critically essential touch is. Second, some are afraid of their own bodies and therefore refrain from touching others due to their own internal dialogues and judgement surrounding receiving pleasurable tactile experience. Third, society is increasingly viewing certain types of touch (i.e. hugging,) as inappropriate and sometimes these simple innocent forms of touch can be misconstrued as sexual advances in some cases. Finally, reaching out to touch makes people vulnerable and that carries the risk of rejection which could cause emotional hurt or pain. The bottom line is that touch is one of themost necessary forms of sensory connection and should be included in our daily life as part of our total wellness.
Exercise: Give a hug to someone who would not be expecting it today. In fact, give a few. Sources say you need four hugs a day for survival, eight for maintenance, and twelve for growth. See how many hugs you can get in a day and notice how it makes your feel.
Sight is a useful way to keep us from running into walls and stepping into holes, but it is more than that. Seeing the beauty in our everyday surroundings can be a way to bring joyfulness to the day, and can be a way for us to be in the moment. Light and color therapy have been used for many years in illnesses such as anxiety, depression, and insomnia. The concept of color therapy is that different colors stimulate different responses in the brain therefore releasing certain chemicals that can alter mood and other process in the body. Colors can be healing and something as simple as opening the blinds to your office can make the difference between a dreary depressing work day and a light and relatively peaceful one.
Exercise: If you are in an office with a window, open your blinds and let the natural sunlight in. Even if it’s raining or seemingly gloomy, keep the blinds up. Set your alarm in during the day on the hour, and every time the alarm goes off look up from whatever you are doing and look around. Notice every color on the wall, in the person’s sweater walking past you. If you are by a window look out the window and take one minute to appreciate all of the colors you see. When the minute is over, go back to work. Notice how this simple exercise changes your day.
We are often inundated by the everyday sounds of traffic, office chatter, background noise to the point that we unconsciously dull our sense of hearing. If you are lucky enough to live in a quiet neighborhood you might wake up to the sounds of birds chirping in the morning. Like color and light therapy music therapy has also been used to treat many conditions including insomnia, anxiety, panic disorder, even hypertension and pain. Harsh sounds can damage the ear drums and put the nervous system on edge. Just so, music can alter the mind creating calming effect or stimulating creativity in an otherwise uninspiring environment. Many pregnant mothers play music to their unborn babies, and it has been shown that certain types of music played early in life help in brain development early on. There are many different uses of sound for well-being including singing, playing an instrument, listening to pre-recorded music or simply sitting outside and listening to the sounds of nature. Also, let us not forget that sometimes the BEST sound is the sound of silence!
Exercise #1: Work: Incorporate music into your work day. If you are able, bring a CD of your favorite music and play it on your computer or headphones while you work. If you are unable to play music while you are working, go to a quiet comfortable place and play your music during your lunch break. Allow it to relax you and revitalize you for the second half of your day. Notice how this affects your work day.
Exercise #2: On your way home from work, instead of talking on the phone, listening to the radio, or chatting with the person you are riding with, enjoy complete silence.
Home: Take an evening after work and instead of turning on the television, take one hour, light some candles and put on your favorite relaxing music. Just sit on the couch or whatever place is comfortable and enjoy the sounds of your favorite tunes.
The sense of smell is generally the most neglected of our forms of energy input. We usually only notice our sense of smell by default, when there is either a foul smell, a smell that indicates danger, or a smell that indicates it’s mealtime. There are certainly other ways to stimulate our sense of smell in a pleasurable way that can be relaxing and bring good feelings. Like all of the other senses, smells send messages to the brain. The olfactory part of the brain in which smell is held, is very closely tied to the part of the brain where emotions are felt. Have you noticed that a good smelling cologne or fragrance might heighten an attraction to your special someone (or prospective someone)? As we become more aware of our sense of smell, we can fully appreciate the subtle aromas of foods, fragrances of nature, and even the scent of our loved ones and these fragrances of life can contribute to and benefit our over all wellness.
Exercise: Light a scented candle or incense in the house. Notice how long the scent stays in the house after the candle or incense has ceased to burn. Utilize these pleasant fragrances during your calming night of music and candlelight evening. See how it affects your mood.
While the actual dimension of eating will be covered in a future article, it is necessary to mention taste and how as a part of our senses as well. In our society we have a tendency towards fast “everything” Fast foods are often over-salted, and otherwise tasteless. On another note, we sometimes eat so fast that we don’t have time to even enjoy the texture or taste of the food we are eating. While this is bad in general for digestion, it can make eating a less pleasant experience over all. There are thousands of delicious spices and herbs that can be used to enhance cooking, however even in the absence of these herbs and spices, simply slowing down and chewing our food could reveal a much more explosive taste and pleasurable experience in eating.
Exercise: Take at least one meal in the day to sit down in silence or with quiet calming music, and appreciate your food as you eat. Notice the different flavors as you chew and swallow. Notice the aroma of the food (because the aroma is an integral part of taste as it is digestion).
Our senses may not seem like a most obvious component of our total wellness, but incorporating some of the above exercises can greatly enhance your sense of well-being.
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