“Because our five senses are so powerful, we can use them as vehicles—ways to either amp ourselves up, or ways to comfort ourselves and soothe ourselves down to a more relaxed state.”
“You fill up my senses, like a night in the forest …” Ever heard “Annie’s Song” by 1970s folk singer John Denver? It’s a heartbreakingly beautiful song. You can practically hear an owl hooting, see the moon peeking through the pine trees, smell the rich earth, feel a mossy rock underfoot. And here’s the thing: Filling your senses is not only lyrically lovely, it’s vital to your good health.
From an ayurvedic perspective, “our senses are the ways we receive our physical world, which shapes our perceptions and our beliefs,” says one of my favorite go-to experts, Monica Bloom, an ayurvedic author, practitioner/educator, and ambassador to ayurvedic brand Banyan Botanicals. “Our senses can literally shape our bodies. Our senses can change our moods and our emotions.”
With our senses, we want to think quality and quantity—that’s what leads to the right use. Otherwise, they can become out of balance, Bloom warns, by overuse, underuse, or misuse. “Touch is often out of balance with underuse,” she says. “We need more hugs and physical contact. Or think about how we can overuse taste, like I need a crunchy! I need a glass of wine!” A good example of misuse, she explains, is when we do a bunch of things at the same time, like driving while also wolfing down lunch and listening to a podcast.
“Because our five senses are so powerful, we can use them as vehicles,” Bloom tells me. “As ways to either amp ourselves up, or ways to comfort ourselves and soothe ourselves down to a more relaxed state.”
Here’s How to Use Your Five Senses to Boost Your Good Health
Sound: Bloom suggests being mindful of what you are filling your ears with. “Are you listening to someone complain all day? Is there construction all day? Play calming music; think about the volume of music; and be mindful of the sounds that come from within, the negative phrases, like: “You don’t have time to do this”; “You can’t do this”; “You aren’t good enough for this.” Try nature sounds like rain, birdsong, swishing leaves, or—if you enjoy them—wind chimes.
Sight: “Our eyes are often misused because we are always on the false light of the computer, rather than experiencing the true light of sunlight,” says Bloom. “Also, think not just about the false light of the blue light, but also the content. What are you taking in?” Take in some nature views, such as the ocean, a lake, the sky, or trees. Another option, Bloom says, is a natural flame from a candle or a real fire.
Touch: “That’s why we use the abhyanga massage in ayurveda,” says Bloom. “Or any kind of massage—a loving, respectful touch. You can also pet dog, cat, a guinea pig.” Another form of touch used in ayurveda is to use oil in the ears (Banyan has a video about this on its website). However, Bloom suggests you first consult with an ayurvedic practitioner.
Taste: Our mind needs to be satisfied by a variety of tastes in our foods, so use a balance of flavors and spices. “Be mindful of sugar and salt,” says Bloom, “because both will leave you wanting more food. I always say, keep the 80 percent of the food coming from nature, healthy and not canned or processed, and then 20 percent of the time, you can savor the wine and cupcakes.”
Smell: The nostrils are the closest pathway to the mind, so enrich this sense with aromatherapy or delicious smells like baking bread. “Nothing artificial,” says Bloom, “and stay away from harsh chemical smells like you find in some cleaning products.”
Monica Blooms’ book is In Your Elements: A Blooming Ayurvedic Guide to Creating Your Best Life. Or check out her classes, resources, and podcast on her website, HeyMonicaB.
Want more? Read about 5 back-to-basic ayurveda lifestyle practices.