Mindfulness and the Five Senses

Mindfulness is an important part of life.

Mindfulness is an important part of life.

I’m a big fan of mindfulness. It always seems like when I’m mindful, I’m happy and content and enjoying life. And one of my goals for this year is to be more mindful.

What is mindfulness? Mindfulness is paying attention on purpose! A lot of us go through life mindlessly. Here are some examples of mindlessness:
• Breaking things, spilling things
• Forgetting someone’s name as soon as you hear it.
• Listening to someone with one ear while doing something else at the same time.
• Being preoccupied with the future or the past.
• Eating without being aware of eating.
• Having periods of time where you have difficulty remembering the details of what happened – running on autopilot.
• Reacting emotionally in certain ways – feeling like an emotion just “came out of nowhere”.
• Daydreaming or thinking of other things when doing chores.
• Doing several things at once rather than focussing on one thing at a time.

To get in touch with mindfulness in your life, I recommend getting in touch with your five senses. Remember those five senses? The ones you studied in childhood? We seem to forget about them when we become adults.

“Magic is really only the utilization of the entire spectrum of the senses. Humans have cut themselves off from their senses. Now they see only a tiny portion of the visible spectrum, hear only the loudest of sounds, their sense of smell is shockingly poor and they can only distinguish the sweetest and sourest of tastes.”
― Michael Scott, The Alchemyst

I love that children are really mindful. They see the world in the moment and use their five senses every day. They use their senses as a window into the world They learn from it. It’s how they get their impressions of the world. How often do adults say “don’t touch” to children. The reason we do is because children learn so much through touch and their others senses.

Adults mostly use their eyes and ears. Our senses are often dulled. As part of your mindfulness practice get in touch with that inner child again and use your five senses. It will anchor you to the present. Our five senses are a gift that we take for granted.

Here is your homework. Use your senses more mindfully in your daily routine and at work and you’ll feel happier. Take the next five days and concentrate on one each day. Try these mindfulness exercises and watch gratitude and appreciation crept into your life.

Day 1. TASTE
Taste, spicy, salty, bitter, sweet or umami? What does your food really taste like? Tasting slowly is one of the most amazing parts of mindfulness. Can you believe that your tongue has so many receptors connected to your brain. Tasting food can give so much pleasure but often people eat mindlessly in front of the TV, standing up or in the car.

Taste exercises: On the day you practice mindful tasting, sit down for each meal and snack. Come to your meal very hungry; all things taste better when you’re hungry. If cooking, resist tasting the meal. Then, sit for a moment. Put your fork downing between bites. Chew slowly and take your time. (eating slowly will also aid in digestion.) Then really taste your food. By the way don’t be watching TV or reading while you eat.

“There is nothing else filling your mind as you chew — no projects, no deadlines, no worries, no ‘to do’ list, no fears, no sorrow, no anger, no past, and no future. There is just the apple.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh

Day 2. SMELL
We usually don’t use smell much unless we’re hungry or if something smells bad. And yet smells is so important! It helps you to taste, change your mood, make you more calm or sleep better. There are people who train themselves to smell as part of their job like a sommelier or a perfume tester. Aromatherapy can heal. I just read recently that your skin may have smell receptors! I even read that you can smell happiness. There’s much more to it than meets the eye (or should I say nose!).

Smell Exercises: Smell the coffee go outside and smell the earth. I love the smell just after it rains. Have your favorite spice or perfume ready to smell. Also there is a smell of no smell. Ponder the smells that make you remember something… maybe some deep memories from childhood? Try visualizing the smell before you actually smell it. Close your eyes. I read a study that smell is actually keener after exercise. Also, stay away from stinky smells. This can inhibit your nose from smelling the better ones.

“Of the five sense smell has the best memory.”
~Rebecca McClanahan

Mindfulness Exercises: Put your phone down or get your eyes away from the screens. Really look around forget that you’re looking at a chair instead look for color shape lines

Sight Exercise: Close your eyes and then open them. Look at color as if you’re seeing it for the first time. Find uplifting sights to look at today – beaches, fall leaves in your life, in photos or online. Look at shadows during a walk. Look at people instead of looking down today. Use your beautiful china to drink your coffee or tea. Eat off a beautiful plate. Wear colorful clothing. Do this eye yoga: Roll your eyes around. Look up, then to the side, then down, then to the other side. Repeat ten times.

“Our sight is the most perfect and delightful of our senses.” ~Joseph Addison

We would be unable o focus if we always listened to every sound. So we naturally drown out the other sounds. But on the day you focus on your sense of hearing, really stop and really listen.

Listening Exercises: What do you hear? loud soft? What sounds do you like. What do you not? When listening to some of your favorite music your emotions can change to joy and happiness. Jazz is good for hearing all kinds of instruments. Try closing your eyes and listening to all the sounds around you. Close your eye and listen to a gong or a singing bowls while breathing deeply. Really listen when someone speaks to you. I like this research that I read, “Try drinking red wine. Red wine contains resveratrol, an antioxidant that has been shown to improve hearing in mice. Drinking a glass of red wine every evening may enhance your ability to hear over time”. I guess I’ll have to try this! 🙂

“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”

Humans are born with the need for touch! And we are always touching but are we actually feeling? Unless something is very hot or very cold, the feeling doesn’t always stay. Really feel something and use adjectives to describe what you’re feeling.

Touch Exercises: Go outside and try touching bark. What does it feel like? soft, hard? Connect the floor with your feet. Find a soft blanket and pillow to sleep on at night. This week give yourself your own massage. Work baby oil or some nice smelling lotion first into your feet legs torso arms head. When you shower spend some time massaging your head without thinking about anything else.

“Touch is the only one of our five senses that doesn’t lose its potency with age.”

I’d love to hear how your exercises and your week goes…please comment below!

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3 Responses to Mindfulness and the Five Senses

  1. Steve Harris says:

    Thank you Zen Mamma,
    My wife and I went through a difficult time with the loss of our grandkids. We did lot of crying and now, a year later we are moving on both figuratively and physically.
    We appreciate reading your web site. I especially liked the positive quotes. One my wife uses is ” look where your planted. So we are
    Moving on and will “plant ourselves in a new environment.
    Thank you for sharing.


    Betsy Reply:

    I am so sorry to hear about your loss. I am filled with gratitude to hear that the blog has helped you through difficult times. I often wonder who is reading it and hope that the writing here inspires. Thank you for your comment and I hope that life will continue to improve even if, at the time, it will never be the same.

    Sending peace your way,
    Betsy/Zen Mama


  2. Colin says:

    This such a fantastic idea! I believe it’s really important to take time out to get in touch with your senses. I’m excited to try these exercises out!


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