We say it constantly: Life is HARD.
Finding yourself, navigating friendships, making a living, maintaining professional relationships, dealing with illness, paying bills, raising kids, trying to be a good person, caring for elderly parents — sometimes you wonder if spontaneously combusting is the better option.
Fortunately, five senses mindfulness exercises can turn down the volume a tad.
Plus, doing them reduces symptoms related to anxiety, depression, and high blood pressure.
So if you’re ready to shed some stress and attract good energy, pull up a couch.
What Are the 5 Senses of Self?
Did you know humans actually have about 21 senses?
However, we pay most attention to the main five: sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell. Some people have all five senses; others enjoy enhanced perception in three or four because they’re missing one or more.
Let’s unpack the quintet and examine how each sense affects physical and mental well-being.
Here’s a fascinating statistic: Most people rely on sight for 80% of their perception.
Optic lenses process colors, shadows, expressions, shapes, and more. The eyes are the body’s second most intricate feature, composed of three central receptors and over 200 million pieces. (Your noggin ranks #1.)
The average human can process about one million hues, which may sound like a lot but is nothing compared to most insects. Take the butterfly: it sports five photoreceptors and sees ultraviolet rays.
(What animal has the best eyesight? The reigning monarch of earthly vision is the mantis shrimp, which has 16 photoreceptors, allowing it to see all the colors we do, plus UV, polarized, and circularly polarized light.)
Quick: What’s the body’s largest organ?
If you said “skin,” congrats. That’s correct; touch plays a vital role in our sensory perception.
Touch is a physiological alert system. For example, we recoil when something’s temperature is too hot or cold on our skin.
Conversely, positive sensations can be soothing and help slow our circulatory and nervous systems.
Leverage your sense of touch to maximize well-being by trying the following:
- Use a weighted blanket
- Get a very soft sweatsuit or pair of pajamas to lounge around in
- Give and receive hugs
- Take a bubble bath with essential oils
- Use satin or silk sheets
The body’s auditory system is composed of the brain, inner ear, outer ear, and middle ear and processes sound waves in a given environment.
Fascinatingly, scientists still aren’t 100% certain how humans make sense of music. They understand auditory logistics (how the ear works), but there’s still a missing link.
What we do know, though, is that the brain works hard when listening to music, and it’s the best passive workout for gray matter.
Sound therapy can also help:
- Reduce depression, pain, anxiety, and blood pressure
- Improve mood, alertness, memory, and sleep quality
- Help control appetite
Other studies suggest that listening to music while exercising increases your endurance and singing releases endorphins and oxytocin, two of the body’s feel-good hormones.
Taste dictates how we nourish our bodies. Part of the gustatory system, our sense of taste informs us about food’s texture, temperature, and taste.
People have between 2,000 and 5,000 taste buds, and the variety accounts for why some people crave Sour Patch Kids, and others reach for Pixie Sticks.
For millennia, smell has long played a role in healing rituals, spiritual ceremonies, and societal customs.
Olfactory bulbs are part of the limbic system and are directly connected to the amygdala (emotional processor) and hippocampus (associative learning).
Resultantly, scent and memory are closely related. The taste of something can transport us to another place and time in seconds.
Ultimately, aromatherapy has healthful effects. Benefits may include:
- Reduced stress related to anxiety and depression
- Lower blood pressure
- Improved sleep quality
- Alleviation of pain and labor discomfort
Some studies suggest that various “smell therapies” may help alleviate migraines, asthma, menopause symptoms, and arthritis.
Moreover, additional early research points to the possibility that scent may play a more prominent role than we thought when it comes to cognitive function.
How Does Using the 5 Senses Encourage Mindfulness?
Do the senses impact mindfulness, the art of living in the moment and accepting your circumstances? If so, how do you engage the five senses?
Fundamentally, mindful people are observant people.
Instead of zooming through life on autopilot, they notice the world around them and take time to smell the proverbial roses. That doesn’t mean mindful folks don’t work hard.
Quite the contrary. Instead, they tend to work smarter and make better decisions.
What Are the Benefits of 5 Sense Mindfulness?
The act of becoming aware through the senses is known as sensory mindfulness.
Above, we’ve discussed the senses of self and how to use them to encourage mindfulness. Now let’s look at the benefits of five-sense mindfulness exercises.
- Stops Unwanted Thoughts: Do racing, intrusive thoughts plague you? It’s maddening, but mindfulness can help.
- Lowers Heart Rate: Centering yourself in the present lowers your heart rate.
- Promotes Relaxation: When you’re not drowning in the past or hopped up on the future, it’s easier to find relaxation in the middle.
- Builds Natural Connection: Engaging the senses is an excellent way to develop a stronger connection with the natural world. Moreover, people who spend more leisure time outdoors tend to be happier, healthier, and live longer.
- Reduces Catastrophizing: If you’re like most folks, you’ve been caught in a doom spiral once or 20 zillion times. Worries invade your mind and whip up a storm. Fortunately, practicing five-sense mindfulness is a way to airlift yourself away from danger. Sure, every day can’t be perfect. Ups and downs carve our lives. But you’re also not supposed to live in a constantly boiling stew of stress and worry.
7 Ways to Practice 5 Senses Mindfulness
We’ve compiled a list of five senses exercises to try. Give each one a shot, and after each session, take three minutes to jot down how you feel.
When you’ve tried them all, review your notes. Then, decide which practices to keep in rotation and which to discard.
1. Object and Landscape Examination
Examining an object’s shape, size, and condition transforms it into something more — and the practice enhances perspective, wisdom, and your powers of observation. Here are a few questions to ponder when considering an item or landscape:
- What is it made of?
- Is it one piece or many stuck together?
- How many edges does it have?
- Are there cracks? Do they affect its appearance?
Outside or inside, the choice is yours. Doing this exercise with wildflowers, grass, plants, bark, et cetera can be incredibly illuminating.
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2. Music Concentration
Find a comfortable spot — inside or out — and grab a pair of headphones.
Open your favorite music app and choose something unfamiliar. Why something new? Because listening to unknown music is a better workout for the brain.
Instead of paying attention to thoughts, focus on each note. Try to pinpoint the different instruments and what they’re contributing to the piece. Direct all your energy to the music.
Although classical music is an excellent option when doing this exercise, explore genres. And don’t forget about music from around the world. Absorbing foreign beats and languages enhances the cognitive workout.
3. Massage Therapy
Touch is soothing, and few things feel as fabulous as an hour-long, full-body massage.
Reputable massage chains and individual practitioners usually have great deals for weekly appointments.
Furthermore, many health insurance companies now offer massage therapy allowances because they qualify as preventative care.
Interested in going the DIY route? Keep an eye out for at-home massage equipment. Options abound for every budget.
4. At-Home Aromatherapy Steam
Do you want to pamper your pores and olfactory system without spending a small fortune at a spa? Try a DIY facial steam. How does it work?
- Boil a kettle of water.
- Once it boils, fill a large mixing bowl halfway. Be careful not to scold yourself.
- Add drops of essential oil. Obviously, the more you put in, the stronger it will be.
- Then, put a large towel over your head and place your face over the bowl. The towel should hang around your head and bowl. The goal is to create a “closed” steam area using the towel.
- Stay like that for 5 to 15 minutes, soaking in the scented steam. Feel it clearing out the dirt and grime trapped in your pores.
- When time is up, lightly wash away the sweat and apply a non-greasy moisturizer to your neck and face. It’s ok if your face still has a bit of steam or water when using the lotion.
After you’re done with your at-home facial, follow it up with a healthy snack that indulges your taste buds. Yes, whole-grain crackers, nuts, apple slices, honey, cheese, grapes, and a small glass of wine all count as healthy.
5. Sensory Journaling
Are you a journal person? If so, why not keep one dedicated to sensory perception?
It’s a fascinating exercise that boosts creativity and sharpens your capacity for observation — a valuable skill for any problem solver, writer, or artist.
How does it work? Simple. Every day, take five minutes to write down the day’s most memorable sensory experience.
It can be anything. Maybe you touched something soft or walked barefoot outside. Or perhaps you had an extraordinary sensory meditation session.
Whatever the case, take five minutes to write about it. Try to be detailed, and don’t hold yourself back with concerns about proper grammar or impressive vocabulary.
Let your consciousness flow from your mind, down the neck, through your arms, and out your fingers with no care for good or bad.
6. 5 Senses Meditation (Inside)
Five senses meditations are a great way to release tension, learn about your body, and improve concentration.
So how’s it done?
- Pick a quiet spot somewhere in your home.
- Next, prep the room to engage three of your five primary senses by:
- Putting on meditation music
- Lighting scented candles or incense; if you don’t want to use flames, try a diffuser
- Cover your legs with something soft
- If meditating is already a part of your life, do your normal routine. If this is your first time, sit on a chair, floor, or bed. Cross your legs or don’t. Whatever feels comfortable for you is what you should do.
- Then close your eyes. For this meditation, instead of stimulating your sight, the goal is to turn it inward.
- Breathe deeply. Notice the air traveling in and out of your body.
- Let the tension leave your body. When a spot on your body tightens, relax it.
- Starting from the top, acknowledge each of your senses.
- Eyes: Consider if you see anything with your eyes closed. Do you see colors? Shapes? An Image? If so, what does it mean to you?
- Nose: Soak in the room’s aroma. What do you smell? Is it only one thing or a combination of many?
- Skin: How do your clothes feel on your body? What about the thing you put in your lap? What other things feel like that?
- Ears: Is the meditation music affecting you? Can you parse the different notes? Do you feel it flow through your body?
- After about five to ten minutes of considering your sentences, end with some more deep breaths and a statement of gratitude.
When you’re done, journal about the experience while munching on something yummy.
7. 5 Senses Meditation (Outside)
Doing five-sense meditations outside is exhilarating. The fresh air does a body good, and hanging with Mother Nature’s bells, whistles, and songs have a tranquilizing effect.
- Dress for the weather and pack a blanket or outdoor meditation chair.
- Head outside and find a safe, comfortable spot.
- Sit comfortably on your blanket or chair.
- Start breathing deeply and close your eyes.
- After you’ve done several rounds of deep breaths, begin to pay attention to your senses.
- What do you smell? What does fresh air smell like where you are?
- Are you sitting near earth or grass? Touch it and consider how it interacts with your skin.
- What voices or sounds do you hear? Try to isolate each one.
- Open your mouth a bit. Does being outside “taste” like anything?
- Once you finish with smell, touch, sound, and taste, open your eyes. Pick a sight and focus on it intently for two to three minutes. Notice every element.
- When done, make a statement of gratitude.
Five-sense mindfulness exercises are an excellent way to relax and connect with your inner self and the world around you.
Make it a habit by starting small and working up to longer sessions. In the beginning, one minute for each sense is sufficient.
Good luck, and enjoy the serenity.