Building Mindfulness Through Sensory Experience

Do you remember the last time you were caught in an unexpected rainstorm? Becoming drenched without your consent probably irked you. Did you rush to seek shelter, cursing as you had to jump over puddles while wondering how long it would take for your wet clothes to dry? Now, try to think of the last time you saw a child in the rain… 

Were they upset by the event that was completely out of their control, or did they embrace all the wonderful senses that were triggered by the sight, smell and feel of rain? 

Children are a perfect example of what it means to be mindful as it comes naturally to them. They stop to smell the flowers, become enchanted by butterflies flapping past, and throw temper tantrums in the moment when things don’t go their way, only to stop crying when given a toy that distracts them.

As we get older, staying in the moment becomes more difficult…more of a conscious effort. As we get swept up with the anxieties, responsibilities and stressors that come with adulthood it’s easy to get lost in our thoughts. 

Mindfulness is about being present in the moment. It’s about being aware of your thoughts, your surroundings, your emotions and how you feel physically. It’s a powerful mental skill that can aid in getting you through stressful situations and show you how to keep a lid on top of daily anxiety. And, while there are many ways to teach mindfulness, sensory activities have been shown to be one of the most beneficial. 

Ignite Your Senses

Researchers have proven that incorporating sensory experiences into meditation to achieve the art of mindfulness can improve well‑being and physical and mental health. Instead of sitting silently in a meditative state, by consciously beginning to notice what your senses take in, and acknowledging without judgment, labeling and letting go, you can begin to master mindfulness. Here are some steps to get you started: 

  1. See Things Differently: Sit down in a quiet, calm place with little distraction. Put your hands over your eyes. After a little while, uncover them and try to observe something that you hadn’t noticed earlier. Perhaps it’s a painting on the wall or a bird perched on a tree in the distance. Whatever it is, take a moment to appreciate it. If you prefer being more active while practising mindfulness, take yourself for a walk and try to focus on one thing before moving onto the next. 
  2. Listen Closely: Whether it’s listening to the words or instruments in your favourite melodic song, or speaking to a loved one on the phone and noting the tone of their voice, make a point of purposefully using the sense of hearing to enjoy the synchronicity of sounds. Closing your eyes and noting outside noises is also a great way to centre your mind.
  3. Inhale with Purpose: Breathing is at the heart of all life, yet it’s something many of us take for granted. The next time you’re outside, inhale deeply through your nose, taking in the aromas in the air. Savor each smell – good or bad. You could also try washing the dishes using scented soap, or rubbing your favourite body cream into your skin while taking in its scent. An essential oil diffuser is also a fantastic way to help you breathe in the moment.
  4. Eat With Your Mind: Eating is one of the greatest pleasures on earth, yet most of us wolf down our food without a second thought. At your next meal or snack, consciously take yourself through a brief mindful eating session. Not the flavours and textures as they roll around your mouth, and be grateful for their nourishment. When you next pick up a beverage, notice how it feels in your mouth and how it makes its way into your stomach. Observe and appreciate the benefits and importance of hydration.
  5. Touch with Feeling: The body’s largest organ is the skin. Covered in nerve endings, our ability to touch and feel is one of life’s most precious gifts. By using a sensory tool like the Hydrean, you can better cultivate awareness and break your everyday pattern of perception. Using your thumb to do the ‘sensing’ over the devices’ grooves, practising touch while mediating can deepen your experience if done daily. 

Once you begin to practice awareness through everyday sensory experiences, you’ll start discovering more and more opportunities to enjoy them. Each time you do, you’ll be pulled from the stream of thoughts that suck you out of the present. 

How will you use your senses to evoke mindfulness?