These days, it’s all too easy to feel stuck in your head or trapped behind a screen. You might feel disconnected from your body or the world around you, or as though time is slipping away.
One cure? Tap in to your five senses.
There are many easy, quick steps you can take to enhance your senses—and by strengthening your awareness and appreciation of your senses, you’ll make your life happier and richer.
Boosting your senses will help you to…
- stay focused and productive
- connect more deeply with other people
- evoke and create strong, vivid memories
- spark creativity
- have fun
- feel calmer, less stressed, and more energetic
- be present in the moment and appreciate the ordinary
How to strengthen your senses
To boost your senses, you can experiment with a variety of approaches:
- Immersion—immerse yourself in one or more of your senses
- Deprivation—deprive yourself of a sense to heighten your awareness of it
- Knowledge—take a class, read up; the more you know, the more you notice
- Splurge—make a modest purchase of something gives you pleasure or comfort through one of your senses
- Confound—do something to startle or surprise your senses
- Notice—take the time to pay attention to the ordinary experiences that are easy to ignore
How to heighten your sense of sight
- Turn your smartphone to “grayscale” so that the screen appears in black, white, and gray. Depriving yourself of color will make you aware of its power.
- Splurge on a set of colored pens, so you can enjoy colors beyond black and blue when you’re writing.
- Look closely at something that’s usually in the background and notice shapes, colors, patterns—a pet’s fur, a painted wall, wood grain in the floorboards or table, a house plant, the packaging of an everyday item.
How to heighten your sense of hearing
- Turn off your devices’ notification sounds so you can focus on what you want to hear without being distracted by pings or buzzes.
- Deprive yourself of the sounds of conversation by scheduling a day of silence, when you don’t talk to anyone, listen to music or podcasts, or watch TV or movies.
- Notice how music can change your mood, then create an “Audio Apothecary” playlist of energetic, upbeat songs to play when you’re feeling low
How to heighten your sense of smell
- A tip I learned from perfumers: Run up and down the stairs a few times. The exercise will increase blood flow to your nose and strengthen your sense of smell.
- Take a deep sniff of a strong smell (a bottle of capers, a clove of garlic) first with one nostril, then with the other, to appreciate how each nostril perceives a slightly different smell.
- Notice the smell of a place you often visit: hardware store, liquor store, department store, ice-cream parlor, coffee shop, library, pet store.
How to heighten your sense of taste
- Pinch your nose closed, then take a bite of something with a strong flavor, such as a chocolate bar. Notice the taste—then unplug your nose, and notice how much more complex that flavor becomes. Without the sense of smell, we taste only sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami. We need smell for complex flavors.
- Confound your tongue by trying the “miracle berry,” a tablet that you pop into your mouth to make sour things taste sweet.
- Put a dollop of Heinz Ketchup on your tongue and try to distinguish sweet, salty, bitter, umami, and sour. (Then try to think of anything else that manages to combine all five tastes.)
How to heighten your sense of touch
- Give a loving touch to another person—appropriately, of course—with a hug, handshake, fist bump, or pat on the back. Notice how physical touch changes your emotional response.
- Make a modest splurge by buying a fun touch toy, such as a pop toy, fidget spinner, therapy dough, kinetic sand, or Silly Putty.
- Make a non-Newtonian fluid out of cornstarch to be confounded by its strange qualities.
There are also a few general behaviors that will strengthen your senses, as well as make you generally healthier:
When you make the effort to strengthen your senses, you’ll feel more connected to the world, to other people, and to yourself.
Many of us have foreground senses and background senses; we appreciate some senses, but neglect others. Take the free, quick quiz to identify your neglected sense, and get concrete ideas for tapping into this sense to have more fun, love, energy, and calm.
By going through your body, you can reach your spirit, and through your spirit, you can reach your body.