My first therapist taught me to use mindfulness in the face of anxiety. This basically entails using my five senses to ground myself wherever I am.
I ask myself, “What do I hear, smell, touch, taste, and see right now in my immediate environment?” and go on to list everything I can observe.
An example: I currently hear the birds doing their morning routine, see the leftover rain water on the wood slats of my deck, taste the faintest bit of black coffee that remains on my palette, smell the fresh cut grass on the lawn, and am touching the patio furniture and the deck below with bare feet.
Simply recognizing and collecting this environmental data can really help me tune out anxious thoughts and feelings. It has helped me reconnect to the here and now and not get so caught up with whatever is going on in my brain.
With this exercise in mind, I thought it would be fun to consider this technique on a larger-scale as a general act of self-care. What can I look at to relieve some stress? What smells actually chill me out? What sounds drown out the honks and beeps that plague my Manhattan apartment?
Here are suggestions of acts of self-care for the five senses. Try one from each of the sense categories and figure out which ones work best for you. Perhaps you’re more of a visual or auditory person, or maybe a combination of all the senses will do the trick for you. You won’t know until you experiment a bit, so have at it!
- Pump up an empowering playlist – try this one
- Listen to rain drops hit the ground or running water from a nearby river
- Find an entertaining podcast or stand-up comedy special and have a good laugh
- Turn on ambient noise to help you fall asleep
- Save voicemails from people who matter to you and replay their messages
- Take a moment to listen to your natural breath pattern when your breathe in and out through your nose and mouth
- Listen to instrumental music, perhaps something classical or piano based, while you’re trying to be productive – lyrics can be distracting
- Submerge yourself underwater and listen to how it muffles and distorts sound
- Sit in silence and discover how silence is rarely silent
- Search for visible patterns, like symmetry, tessellations, and stripes, in your surroundings
- Look at old photos and reminisce on those times
- Take a moment to observe something you regularly see on a closer level – discover new details you usually glance over
- Make eye contact with someone who matters to you
- Do a tarot card reading for yourself and meditate on the images that resonate with you
- Read a book – any book will do
- Place inspirational quotes on post-its and read them often
- Change up how your living space looks with a bit of redecoration – even a small visual change can make a big difference
- Gaze at the flickering fire of a lit candle
- Buy yourself a bouquet of fresh flowers and indulge in the accompanying floral scent
- Claim a table in a coffee shop and enjoy the smells of fresh brewed java and pastries
- Find a candle that smells like your favorite place
- Deodorize any objects or places that have an unpleasant smell
- Wash your bedsheets in the evening and enjoy the fresh laundry smell as you fall asleep
- Take a moment to smell your food before eating it
- Burn sage
- Cook your favorite meal just for you and thoroughly enjoy every bite
- Get your carbonation fix with seltzer or kombucha
- Experiment with spices in your cooking and dare to add new ones to your spice rack
- Keep several types of tea in your pantry and brew some of the relaxing variations before bedtime
- Chill your water and add some fruit to it to make drinking it more enjoyable
- Chew slowly and let your taste buds have enough time to process flavor
- Keep mints or a spare toothbrush in tow for when you need a change of palette
- Snuggle up with your favorite blanket or pillow
- Do something to keep your hands busy – knit, build, knead, anything crafty
- Hold crystals in your palms while you meditate
- Regularly receive and give hugs
- Feel your heart beating after you exercise
- Go to a beach and feel the motion of the waves hit your body
- Pet a dog (whether it be your own or someone else’s) and let it lick your face
- Moisturize and soften your skin with a sugar scrub or other exfoliant and a creamy lotion or oil
- Get a massage or facial
- Take off your shoes and walk barefoot on grass, dirt, or sand
Which of the five senses work best for you in terms of self-care? Let me know in the comments and share your own ideas!