The festive period can feel a bit overwhelming for our senses. We hear Christmas songs on repeat everywhere we go; the wonderful smells and tastes of cinnamon, mulled wine and mince pies in the air; and Christmas lights illuminating shops, streets, and homes alike. This can be both energising and stressful, however, it is important for us to take the time to really engage with all our senses and understand what is going on for us in the moment, no matter how hectic it is.
Our senses provide us with data points and information about the environment we are in and how we are responding to it. Quite often, the data we get from our senses is linked to an emotional response – referred to as “conceptual association”1, in other words, what we sense can dictate how we feel. Along with this, sensual information is heavily linked to emotional memories2,3. For example, at Christmas time, when I smell cinnamon or touch our homemade Christmas decorations, I get a feeling of contentment and joy from holding these heirlooms and being around familiar scents every year – even if my family isn’t with me. For me, these things remind me less of what I was doing and remind me more of how I was feeling during Christmases gone by.
Being more self-aware allows us to really be present in the moment and take note of what triggers us to be at our best and not at our best. Research shows4,5 that being truly self-aware increases our ability to manage stress and be in control of how we respond to events in daily life, making us more resilient and less reactive. Engaging with all our senses is one of the most reliable and instant ways to become more self-aware. Taking the time to step back from what you are doing to discover how you are feeling can enable you to engage with events in a different way. A concept called “Sensual Thinking”, refers to the act of connecting with your senses and making decisions using sensory information as a guide to make you a happier, healthier and more intuitive individual6.
This concept is fascinating to reflect on at such a busy time of year. When was the last time you truly engaged with all five senses?
- Thomson, D. M., Crocker, C., & Marketo, C. G. (2010). Linking sensory characteristics to
emotions: An example using dark chocolate. Food quality and preference, 21(8), 1117-1125