Many mental health problems develop because we lose contact with the environment (all that is outside of us). Our senses which are there to connect us with the outside world get dumbed down and we end up on auto pilot in our minds, which is a major factor in anxiety, depression and self esteem issues.
In this exercise you will use all five of your senses: sight, touch, taste, sound and smell. Some of your senses will be better developed than others but don't worry, it can take time to strengthen a lost sensory ability. I suggest spending a minute or two on each, extending it if you'd like to turn it into a regular practice.
Using this technique can prevent and soothe anxiety and interrupt unhelpful negative thoughts.
Take a moment to look around the space you are in. Really engage with what you're seeing. Find something that particularly attracts your attention. I always have a plant in the corner of every room as natural phenomena are particularly grounding for me. You may be drawn to a colour or texture. Fully immerse yourself in what you see, notice the shapes and colours, tones and shadows.
Now switch your attention to what you feel. Start by noticing the experience of your feet on the floor, and/or your body in the chair. Take a moment to see what's happening in your body as it touches. Move your hand onto the arm of the chair or reach for something nearby and explore the feeling as you touch it.
Many people like to carry a stone or shell, or other small object in their pocket or bag specifically for the purpose of calming touch when required.
I expect you're getting the hang of this now, so take a moment now just to notice what the sounds, once you have identified one, you can move to another - see how many sounds you can hear and the impact they have on you.
Follow the same procedure using your sense of smell. This can sometimes be less obvious, though you can engage with the sense having a 'neutral' response if little is detected. If so, seek out a flower, plant, piece of fruit, essential oil (or anything with an aroma) and notice it's impact upon you.
A useful exercise for taste is to eat a raisin or small piece of fruit and fully engage with the experience. So often we eat on automatic - next time you have a meal, slow down and fully engage with the sense of taste.
When we engage all five senses we are using incredible tools that our body has evolved over millions of years. Heightening our sensory awareness allows clearer interaction with the world we live in - engaging in this way we allow the world around to become a source of support.
So stop telling yourself a story about what's happening in this moment and use your senses to tell you exactly what's going on in this moment. If you have any difficulties take it slowly or move on. Sometimes peoples sensory awareness is dulled by past trauma or other difficulties. If you find it particularly difficult it may be worth seeking professional help.
Kate, a Counsellor (Prof. Dip) and Psychotherapist (MSc) enjoys sharing inspiration and tips for better wellbeing and as a writer, maker and meditator she likes to share her knowledge freely. Bringing a sense of fun and reality to the therapy conversation with her witty cartoons.
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