Generating sensory awareness

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Tune-in to the world around you, and discover a new sense of wellbeing

This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared on Happiful

Each of our five senses is powerful and unique, and they can bring feelings of relief and safety – like that good feeling you get after experiencing something comforting, which leads our bodies to release oxytocin, reducing our heart rate and lowering stress levels.

So, how can we generate sensory awareness in our everyday lives?

Sight

Colour psychology is a method for using colours for wellbeing; for many years the link between colour and mood has been explored by researchers. What they’ve discovered is that different colours can have outstanding benefits – for example, blue can evoke a sense of productivity and safety, while purple is thought to encourage creativity.

Start to mindfully pay attention to the colours around you. Observe and describe what you see. Consider the colour, shape, texture, and notice how you feel. Stay in the moment. At home, keep the lighting soft and warm. Maybe light a candle, or purchase a lava lamp or a salt lamp, as these can create a calm mood for rest and sleep.

Sound

A study published in Scientific Reports found that listening to naturalistic sounds, along with being in ‘green’ environments, is linked to relaxation and increased feelings of wellbeing. Listening to the sounds of ocean waves, streams, and thunderstorms, can help to relax the nervous system. Try taking 10–15 minutes out of your day to listen to a natural sound of your choice, and home in on all the different elements within the sound. Head out into the wild, or keep it cosy at home – there are plenty of natural sound clips to stream or download on YouTube, Spotify, and Apple Music.

Smell

Aromatherapy is the practice of using essential oils for an array of wellbeing purposes. Essential oils such as lavender, ylang-ylang, and clary sage may help with anxiety and insomnia, so you could try putting a few drops on your wrists or pillow (mix them with a carrier oil if putting directly on the skin). Rosemary, citrus and geranium can help to lift your mood, or can be used when you need to focus.

Aromas are highly emotive, and breathing in a familiar smell can bring you back into the present moment. Maybe carry a scent in your bag – you never know when you might need it.

Taste

Eating food while watching TV is a regular practice for many but sometimes we don’t actually notice what we’ve eaten, or when we’re full, because we’re distracted. Try to replace this mundane practice with mindful eating. Pay attention to what you’re consuming – the colours, flavours, textures, and sensations. Let your taste buds engage with every mouthful.

Touch

From birth, we have a desire for social contact and connection. The sensation of being hugged or held feels good. But, when others aren’t around, how can we replicate this? A daily practice of holding or squeezing our hands, our arms, or our face, brings a sense of security and self-validation. Another way of generating this feeling is by moisturising your body. Focus your attention on massaging the cream into each part of your skin, and notice how you feel while doing it.

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