5 quick ways to come to your senses

Mental healthArticleApril 25, 2021

Becoming aware of our senses is a great way to be more mindful. Read on for some tips to improve your mental state.

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By Bruce J. Little

It’s easy to get frazzled.

Are To Do Lists getting longer or are our attention spans just getting shorter? Regardless, when what we are doing and why we are doing it begins to feel like it isn’t making any sense, this is a prime opportunity for us to return to our senses, say experts.

You’re probably familiar with phrases like “that doesn’t make any sense”, “you’re out of touch” or “I wish they would come to their senses”, but ever stopped to think about what these statements mean on a deeper level?

Most of us engage the five senses: taste, touch, hearing, sight and smell, all day without thinking much about it. We are too busy and distracted. But becoming aware of these senses could be a great way to root ourselves back into reality and bring ourselves back into our bodies, which is often referred to as mindfulness.

Traditionally, coming to one’s senses was associated with “’sobering up’ from a drunken state, waking from a deep sleep, or regaining consciousness after an accident or some other event”, says Clinical Psychologist Timothy Carey Ph.D. in an article for Psychology Today. He explains that we now more commonly associate coming to our senses with an end to behaving “irrationally or illogically”.

Making sense - literally

However, in his book, Come to Your Senses: Demystifying the Mind-Body Connection, Dr Stanley H. Block, a Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Utah School of Medicine takes a far more veritable approach. In the book, co-authored by Carolyn Bryant Block and Joko Beck, Dr Block suggests that “by literally ‘coming to your senses’ of taste, touch, smell, sight, and sound, you begin to control negative responses, free yourself from a paralyzed state of mind, and live a happy, balanced life.”

Dr Block goes so far as to claim that a program he has developed harnessing an awareness of the five senses may even help to “heal from post-traumatic stress syndrome, combat trauma, substance abuse, mental illness, pain, and depression.”

Tangible sensory perception

In a YouTube video titled Mindfulness – Come to Our Senses American Professor of Medicine, and creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic, Jon Kabat-Zinn proposes the following sensory exercise to return to your senses:

Making a meal of it – Professor Kabat-Zinn suggests sitting and eating something (he mentions a raisin or two, for example) and really immersing yourself in the experience. “Feel it, feel the weight of it, all the ridges”, he says explaining that this is the act of engaging a sense “literally and metaphorically”, in order to “wake up” and “be real”.

Before putting it in your mouth he recommends smelling it, and when you do this “make time and remain open and curious bringing interest to it” as though you were looking intensely at something in a “laboratory doing an experiment”. He also mentions extending your senses to feel the air on your face and the pressure of where you are seated in order to bring yourself back in “touch” with your physical reality. If Dr Block and Professor Kabat-Zinn are truly onto something we may have a convenient and cost-effective way of improving our states of mind at our fingertips.