Awaken Your Senses and Boost Your Happiness

You must be completely awake in the present to enjoy your tea. Only in the awareness of the present, can your hands feel the pleasant warmth of the cup. Only in the present, can you savor the aroma, taste the sweetness, appreciate the delicacy. If you are ruminating about the past, or worrying about the future, you will completely miss the experience of enjoying the cup of tea. You will look down at the cup, and the tea will be gone.

Life is like that. If you are not fully present, you will look around and it will be gone. You will have missed the feel, the aroma, the delicacy and beauty of life. It will seem to be speeding past you. The past is finished. Learn from it and let it go. The future is not even here yet. Plan for it, but do not waste your time worrying about it. Worrying is worthless. When you stop ruminating about what has already happened, when you stop worrying about what might never happen, then you will be in the present moment. Then you will begin to experience joy in life.
― Thich Nhat Hanh


One reason I LOVE mindfulness is it is a practice I use everyday in my life. Using your senses, as explained above by Thich Nhat Hanh, is a beautiful way to wake up to the joy in your life, be more present for your life as it is happening, and boost your happiness each day.

In her new book, Life in the Five Senses, Gretchen Rubin, happiness researcher and writer, explores the mysteries and joys of using your five senses to live a happier and more mindful life. She explains that focusing on your senses gets you out of your head and into your life. The sights, sounds, touch, tastes, and smells we experience each day are a doorway to living more fully and waking up to the joy of being alive.

Here’s how to use your five senses to live more mindfully each day and boost your happiness:

(1) See. Notice the colors, shapes, textures, patterns, logos, imagery, and people that fill your surroundings. This can make even a trip the supermarket an incredible sensory experience. Take in the nature around you too. Plants, flowers, grass, tree bark, blue sky, clouds, and wildlife are all stunningly beautiful and intricate in their colors, shapes, and design. When we look at what is often overlooked, we see things that we didn’t expect to see and it makes the world far richer and more interesting. It also it wakes us up to the present moment and brings us greater joy and peace.

(2) Hear. There are always sounds around you. We live in a world that is almost never completely quiet. So, take in those sounds around you and enjoy the “symphony of life” that is happening at all times. Notice music, talking, laughter, cars, planes, birds, and even rare moments of silence. Take it all in and notice how sounds change and move from moment to moment. Notice how they can even evoke feelings and memories. The skill of really pausing and paying attention to sound can also improve your relationships and make you a better listener.

(3) Touch.  Did you know that your skin is the the largest organ in your body? One of its main functions is to protect you. It also helps you feel everything around you. Try paying greater attention to the textures, weight, contact, and connection your skin and body make with the world. Feel your clothing, the warmth or coolness of the air and sunlight on your skin, the touch of someone’s hand on yours, or your feet on the ground. Touch can down-regulate your nervous system and lower your levels of stress. It can ground you. So, pay attention to what feels good and treat yourself to a greater awareness of touch.

(4) Taste. Slow down and really taste your food and drinks. Even the air can have a specific taste if you breath in through your mouth and notice it. There is a whole variety of texture and flavor in what we eat and drink each day that can be source of great pleasure if we slow down long enough to really enjoy and savor  it.

(5) Smell.  There are so many scents in the air. Some are pleasant, some are not. Notice all the smells around you and what brings you joy. The smell of fresh baked food, spring flowers, cut grass, your home, all of these can bring you joy and comfort. Even noticing what you don’ like can be very interesting. Smell, and all of your senses, can also evoke wonderful memories and connection to people and places in your past. So allow those smells to take you back to a favorite memory. And, make new memories by pausing long enough to notice the smells, sights, tastes, and sensations around you now.

Explore your day as a sensory adventure and wake up your senses.  Dive into the experience of being where you are and find the pleasure in what is all around you!  Slow down, be present and give it a try!

by Cheryl Vigder Brause