One of the fastest ways of stopping and reversing the body’s stress response is by making use of the 5 senses. Sight,Taste, Smell, Touch, and Sound are processed in the same part of the brain that is responsible for a host of unconscious, autonomic systems throughout the body.
If you hear a grinding alarm clock at any time of the day, chances are your muscles tighten up, your breath quickens or stops momentarily, and your body is flooded with the stress chemical cortisol.
On the flip side, if you were to think back on a memory of when you were completely at ease and rehearse all the sensory input that you can remember in detail, your body will begin to experience the same relaxation and pleasure that you had in the original moment.
If you’ve ever had a relaxing day at the beach, think about what you can remember hearing (the sound of the water, people laughing and talking), seeing (bright sun reflecting off the sand, colorful beach supplies, animals), smelling (fresh salty air, sunscreen), tasting (fresh seafood, barbecue, drinks, saltwater on your lips after swimming), and touching (fabric of towels, hot sand, cold water, holding hands with someone you love).
Choose any memory that has personal importance to you and rehearse it next time you have difficulty falling asleep or feel tense during your daily commute.
Want to take things to the next level? Plan a sensory-loaded date with your significant other. Splurge on a fancy meal and make the most of every detail. The key to maxing out the value of this exercise is being intentional about every aspect of the night.
1. Sight: Pick a restaurant with a view. Dress to the nines. Call ahead and ask if they provide a flower or candle for the table.
2. Taste: This one features big on date night. Try something new. Novel stimulation pairs with emotional memory in a way that is difficult to unglue. Go bold. Order something you’ve never had before. The novel sensation will be linked to the memory of spending time with someone you love.
3. Smell: If cologne and perfume is your thing then go for it. On your night out, stop to smell the flowers and trees. Be mindful of the aromas in the air on your way into the restaurant. Savor the scents as you wait for your food.
4. Touch: Hold hands, hug, kiss. Dress your best and make note of how the clothes feel against your skin. If jewelry is something you like, pause and be mindful of the sensation as you don your best.
5. Sound: Live music, the sound of each other’s voices, the ambient noises from a quiet walk after dinner.
Think you’re too stressed out to enjoy a fancy date night? Do it anyway and be open to surprises.
Consider this date night to be a deposit in your emotional wellbeing bank. Something that you can draw interest from later when you really need it.
Give it a try. See if it works for you.