10 Ways to Use Sensory Experiences to Build MindfulnessNone By Amy Miller
As a former teacher, and now as a busy mom to a precocious 3-year-old, I know that sensory play is a pretty big deal.
After all, brain development abounds when kids’ play involves many or all of their senses. Who would argue with increased cognitive, language, creative, and problem-solving skills? Certainly I’m in favor of those things. But after I became a parent, as I combed through Pinterest ideas of rainbow-colored noodles and glow-in-the-dark slime, I thought, “Who has time for that?! There must be a better way.”
The same way I felt about elaborate sensory play activities is how I sometimes feel about mindfulness. “Who has time for that? I can’t be in this moment! I have too much to do!” “After the kitchen is cleaned up, then I’ll dedicate time to practicing mindfulness.” Right. Right after I make the glow-in-the-dark slime.
I started looking for opportunities for sensory experiences in our daily activities. We wash hands, eat meals, go for walks, take showers. These are all activities that naturally require the use of our senses. So why not gain the benefits of sensory experiences and mindfulness together with everyday situations? Researchers have found that mindfulness practice improves well-being, physical health, and mental health. A suggested technique for incorporating sensory experiences into meditation includes noticing what our senses take in, acknowledging without judgment, labeling, and letting go.
One of the best things about training the brain through mindfulness is that all we need is our senses. And we don’t need to sit in quiet meditation for that. We can employ our senses as tools of mindfulness by bringing our awareness to daily tasks and savoring experiences. You can get started with these simple activities:
See Things from a New Angle
Cover your eyes. Turn in a slightly different direction than you were facing before. Uncover your eyes and observe something about what you see that you hadn’t noticed earlier. Maybe it’s a pattern on a rug, or building architecture. Take a few moments to consider and appreciate what you see. Repeat as many times as you like, and feel the gratitude grow.
Go for a Sightseeing Walk
Get outside and take a walk. Try to focus your attention on only one thing you see at a time for a few moments, before moving on to the next.
Listen Like You've Never Listened Before
As you listen to your favorite music, be deliberate about trying to differentiate the instruments you hear. Take a moment to appreciate the synchronicity of the instruments working together.
Be a Mindful Listener
Call a friend or family member on the phone. Notice the tone of their voice, and be purposeful about truly listening to their words.
Wash Your Hands with Awareness
While washing your hands, focus your thoughts and attention on the feel of the water and soap. Spend a grateful moment appreciating warm, clean water, if you have it.
Give Yourself a Mini-Massage
Give yourself a hand or foot massage with coconut oil or lotion. Concentrate on how the lotion feels and the moisture it brings to your skin.
Inhale Aromas with Appreciation
If you're outside, try to pick out the different scents in the air. For example, deeply inhale the sweet aroma of freshly cut grass or cool spring rain. Savor the moment and appreciate the smell—and its source.
Let Your Favorite Scents Linger
Use your favorite scents in soap for washing the dishes or taking a shower. Breathe deeply and let your senses and mind settle on the aroma. You could also enjoy essential oil in a diffuser, and take a few moments to identify and appreciate the smells of the elements.
Have a Mindful Meal
At your next meal or snack, mentally take yourself through a brief mindful eating session. Be grateful for the nourishment. Concentrate on the flavor and texture of your food and how you feel while you eat it.
Sip with Your Senses
Hydrate yourself! Choose your favorite thirst quencher and consciously enjoy the next drink you take. Notice how it feels in your mouth and as you swallow. Observe and appreciate the benefits of hydration in your mouth and in your body.
Once you start practicing awareness through everyday sensory experiences, you'll start finding more and more opportunities to enjoy them. The possibilities are endless!
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