As humans, we are given the ability to experience life through our five senses. In our fast paced modern world, many of these sensual pleasures are lost. Our senses provide critical information for our survival and warn us of danger. We can see an oncoming car, smell a fire or spoiled food, or feel the pain of a burn. However, our senses also bring pleasure and guide us to enhance our health and well-being. Although there are unhealthy pleasures, ((ie. excessive drug and alcohol use, eating poorly or smoking) connecting to your senses can be a simple route to better health. Finding the healthy balance between deprivation and excess, is an important goal for those who are seeking healing. So let’s look at each of these important tools for pleasure as well as health.
TOUCH – Your skin is your body’s largest organ with millions of nerve receptors. As essential to survival, it is also a form of communication. We as an American society have lots of rules about touch and often pull back from physical contact. Although “boundaries” are important, we often lose the benefit of caring touch. As a patient,you are being touched constantly. Although procedures can be physically painful, don’t hesitate to speak up if you feel you are being touched in a harsh or uncaring manner. To increase the positive benefits of touch try:
Getting or giving a hug or massage ( you can also massage yourself by gently rubbing your face, neck, shoulders)
Enjoy the weather- the sensation of wind on your face or the warmth of the sun
Walk on the grass or stroll on the beach
Treat yourself to a long soak in the tub or a long shower
Pet an animal
SIGHT This is your most dominant sense. We as humans have evolved to be drawn to the natural environment where we seek beauty. Research shows that looking at the beauty of nature helps us recover from surgery, tolerate pain, and manage stress. Focus on what is around you and look outside whenever you can. Bring the outside in with a plant, a pet or a photograph of an outdoor scene .Noticing the physical environment around you helps to redirect the ongoing internal chatter in your mind . Look for the color, texture, and shapes that surround you in the natural environment.
SOUND From the time we hear our mother’s heartbeat in the womb to the constant clatter that surrounds us on a daily basis, we are seldom without sound impacting us. We know that different sounds affect our mood. We all have our preferences in music ,and research shows us that music can affect our emotional state. The right music can bring you joy, calm or frazzle your nerves. What sounds in nature bring you renewal or soothe you emotionally? Making your own music with either learning a musical instrument or even singing can be quite invigorating. Don’t forget to move to music- it’s good not only for your body but your spirit!
TASTE Eating is a lot more than taste, yet how many times do you eat and not really taste what you are eating? We rush through our food and often don’t recognize if we are hungry or full. Although you are programmed for sweets and foods rich in calories, you can make a point to slow down and really taste, chew more slowly and enjoy more with less. Taste with your nose- smelling the aroma of your food can lead to more pleasure as well as few calories. Pay attention to the colors of fresh fruits and vegetables not only for the visual gain, but the good nutrition they bring to your diet. Try to bring some variety into your diet- if you never try anything different, your diet will be “safe” but pretty boring and bland. Try to decide when you are really hungry. Remember food cannot be a substitute for emotional hunger or boredom. Instead of eating when you really aren’t hungry, consider another sensual pleasure – listening to music, reach out and touch someone special or even try a walk or watching a movie!
SMELL Get to know your nose. Aromatherapy is the science behind how different smells can create different moods. There are more than 10,000 known scents. How well can you identify different scents? Scents can trigger memories as well as can be programmed to aid your healing. Try to practice some relaxation and when relaxed, take some sniff of a pleasant scent to make that association. You then can use that scent to bring about relaxation when you are in a stressful situation.
We are all unique in which of the five senses we have developed and use the most. Try to identify which one you are most comfortable with and try to focus for a week on developing one of the others to help you move on your healing journey. Enrich your life and pleasure and COME TO YOUR SENSES.