It’s that time of year. We are approaching “holiday season.”
Holiday time, with its fun festivities and sweet indulgences offers an extra-rich load to our senses of taste, touch, scent, sight, and sound. It can take us to the edge of overstimulation (and beyond). It’s normal to want to partake in all the delights of the season. But overdoing it can lead to all kinds of trouble, from the expected fatigue and seemingly inevitable sinus infection, to other kinds of dis-ease in your mind and spirit.
How can we fully enjoy life and avoid over-stressing ourselves? This month, the Self-Care Series offers simple practices that nourish and care for your precious five senses.
You, Your Senses, and the World
Think for a moment about how important your senses are to your life experience. Sensory inputs translate the world around you into vivid information that influences how you think, feel, and act. Without access to sensory information, your world is muted.
Your sensory capability is unique to you. You may have been born with certain capacities in your sense organs, and they change over time. You may have been born without sight, for example, or your sight may degenerate over time due to illness or age. Whatever sensory capabilities you have today, they are your windows to the world. It makes sense to take good care of your senses!
The ancient healing science of Ayurveda teaches that one of the causes of disease is “disrespecting the senses” (in Sanskrit, asatmendriyartha samyoga). Not paying attention to the information we receive from our senses leads to poor choices that can impact our health (like not wearing earplugs at a loud concert, even though the volume is uncomfortable). Repeatedly doing things that dull or damage the senses (like hours and hours of up-close screen time) adds stress to your entire body.
On the flip side, you can use the wisdom of asatmendriyartha samyoga to improve well-being and enjoy life more. Treat your five senses with kindness and respect, and you can not only enjoy more vivid and rich life experiences, you can support health and healing in your body, mind, and spirit.
Try one (or all) of these practices to treat your senses this fall, and all year ‘round.
Give your sense of hearing your full attention. Close your eyes and just listen. What sensations come through your ears? Big sounds, small sounds, sudden surprising sounds? Sweet, subtle sounds?
Now, see if you can take in more. What sound can you observe in your internal self? Are there gurgles in your tummy? Thumping in your chest? Grinding between your teeth?
And now, take in even more. What sound do you perceive with your being? What sensation do you connect to in the room? In the neighborhood? In the world?
Finally, what can you learn from the sounds you have so carefully and lovingly received? What can you do to protect and care for your sense of sound?
The use of essential oils is trendy, but this plant medicine is not new. Ancient civilizations used essential oils for ritual, medicine, and perfume. Though the scientific community hasn’t shown strong evidence of health benefits of aromatherapy, you can use essential oils to simply give your sense of smell a little love.
Choose an oil based on how it makes you feel. The properties of the plant and the memories or instincts you associate with it can guide you to choose an oil. For example:
- Uplifting/Invigorating: Citrus, Peppermint
- Grounding: Cedarwood, Frankincense
- Calming: Lavender, Rose
There are many ways to use essential oils. One way is to add a few drops of a calming or grounding oil to a carrier oil (like almond oil) and rub it into your feet before bedtime. Make sure you really notice the scent of the oil and how it activates your feelings or memories.
Rest Your Eyes
What a miracle it is to have the sense of sight. They are open and “on” almost all of our waking hours. Americans spend as many as 12 hours each day looking at screens – not including work time! When the eyes don’t get much variety in their use (e.g. only looking at objects close up), your eyesight suffers, and can degenerate rapidly (called myopia, or nearsightedness).
Give your eyes a rest with these tips for soothing tired eyes. They are all simple and easy. My favorite soothing eye treatment is a lavender-filled pillow placed over my eyes at bedtime. The coolness and weight of the pillow on my brow is refreshing and comforting, and the lavender makes this a two-fer eye-and-nose treat!
Love the Skin You’re In
Your skin protects the body, regulates temperature, excretes waste through sweat, and alerts you to changes in your environment through touch, pressure, temperature, and pain. Giving loving attention to your skin keeps this amazing organ in good health.
The Ayurvedic way to care for the skin self-massage called Abhyanga, which is the practice of rubbing warm oil into the skin. The list of health benefits of self-massage is impressive (calming the nerves, lubricating joints, improving sleep, and more). You can start with a bedtime foot massage using a bit of Jojoba or almond oil. This time of year (cooler, dryer, and busy with holidays) is the perfect time for regularly caring for your skin with a whole body self-massage.
Taste the Rainbow
Your taste buds allow you to take pleasure in the food you eat. The sense of taste also serves as a protector, helping you select nutritious foods and to avoid toxic ones.
What you eat has an enormous impact on how your health. But for today, let’s just celebrate the sense of taste by using it to the fullest. Whatever you choose to eat today, go for variety and eat with attention. Fill your plate with several colors of food. Try a new food. When you take a bite, notice the flavor, texture, temperature. Mindfully eating can bring you a whole new awareness and appreciation for what you take in to your body.
The Ultimate Delight for the Senses
Your amazing senses are always at work – protecting, entertaining, and nourishing you. Honoring the senses with your gratitude is the ultimate practice and treat.
Do this today: Place your hands over each of your sense organs, and give thanks. You can do this in two minutes. Cultivate gratitude and reverence for your senses, and they will return your love with the vibrant sensory experiences that allow you to live your life fully.
About the Author
Kirstin Pinit teaches the art of self-care through creative, engaging, and practical habit-change programs. She is a certified coach and yoga teacher and consults with cities, communities, companies, and groups on behavior-change programs and strategies. Learn more about her work at www.kirstinpinit.com.