We experience life through mind, body, and spirit. Some feel more physically, while others feel more emotionally, and still, others see a more spiritual view of what is happening around them. The holidays bring so many emotions and feelings that can cause stress to the body or even create excitement that may affect your focus. What is happening is that the brain and the body are perceiving your current situation through the 5 senses of sight, smell, taste, hear and touch.
The senses are so important that entire industries have been made for individual senses. Radio for hearing, cooking for tasting, television for seeing and hearing, a fragrance for smell, Massage for healing touch. There are so many moments in the day where we are given the opportunity to give experience something fully just through focusing in on all 5 senses.
This holiday season we can truly be satisfied when we practice the art of gratitude. There are many ways to practice gratitude but one of the best ways is through being present with who we are with and what we are doing. When we experience the present moment we are looking at the whole picture through all five of our senses. Together they make up a beautiful experience that allows for memories to be filtered in the brain that sends us reminders of the good things we have been part of.
Here are some ways to experience the holidays through all 5 of your senses:
Hearing is a mechanical sense. It turns physical movement into the electrical signals that make up the language of the brain, translating these vibrations into what we experience as the world of sound. Why does music invoke so much memory for us? Because of the way it turns an external physical moment into an electrical signal that becomes part of our nervous system. It’s as if we bring the music inside of us and it now lives inside of our system. Experiencing the holidays with music that is uplifting, encouraging, and even emotional, will help create an atmosphere where your body will remember for years to come what song was playing, when, and what you were doing during this specific time.
Sometimes just watching what is happening in front of you is a great way to process an experience. Visual perception engages other parts of the brain as well-signals flow back and forth to regions that store memory, govern emotion, make decisions, and initiate action—as we recognize, interpret, and react to what we see. It’s a highly active process. The brain “completes” pictures, so you can envision an object from a fragmentary glimpse. Emotions amp up activity in the visual cortex, so colors look more vivid and details stand out when we’re happy, angry, or frightened. Heightened attention—vigilance—increases visual acuity. Watching what each family member is doing, how mom is in the kitchen, how your niece is pulling herself up on the chair, or how the guys raise their fists at the game, or even as simple as how the candles flicker on the table could be the best way for you to be present during the holidays as well as enjoy reliving the memories later in your mind’s eye.
We have 10 million smell receptors that can detect 1 trillion different scents. People are drawn to scents that evoke nostalgia and recall fond memories, frequently from childhood and young adulthood. These are unique to the individual and their personal history and experiences. It’s possible that you have memories that flood through your mind often by a particular smell, maybe it’s from a candle, an herb in the kitchen, or the smell of detergent. Making memories through our sense of smell is simple. Most of the time we don’t even pay attention, but if you are intentional to focus on the smells around you during the holidays you might be able to pinpoint the exact smell that will trigger your memory for years to come.
The memories that come from around a table of food is a new experience every time. It is hard to replicate a memory the exact same way, because even the slightest change in taste will offer a different perspective. Taste is the last great sense that cannot be replicated by technology. It’s our senses that can still provide us an experience that is unique, yet sharable among friends. This experience cannot be replicated or duplicated, because each “performance” of a meal is different. When we dine with friends and family we are in essence sharing a piece of ourselves with each other. We are partaking in an intimate experience together that is both physically bonding and spiritually connecting with another soul. When you sit around the table this holiday season and you pass the food to your sibling, spouse, parent, or in-law, experience the food and taste with them and enjoy the supernatural connection you are having with them.
This gift of caring touch is nature's own remedy, yet few of us grownups use it in a consistent, spontaneous manner. Touch occurs across the whole body using a variety of receptors in the skin. Touch augments our conversations, adding garnish and accent to what we want to communicate, but it is also something much deeper. Without touch, relationships are less than satisfying. Ask any married military couple when one partner is deployed, people who have loved ones in prison, or couples whose relationships are dying. The absence of touch leaves us yearning and empty, even if we still hear statements such as “I love you.” Touch is in essence telling your loved ones you accept them, you love them and you are enjoying being with them in the same room experiencing the same things. Gentle touch like on the shoulder, holding hands while saying Grace, cuddling on the couch, a high five or shoulder rub, all communicate that you’re in this moment together and it’s so good to be there with them.