The five senses approach to mindfulness

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For those of us who have minds that seem to be more cluttered that a hoarder’s home – which I would guess is most of us – it can be difficult to pull ourselves out of our heads and experience the world around us.

One of the reasons I drank was to reduce stress. I now know that it actually caused more stress rather than reducing it, so now that I’ve ditched alcohol I’m looking at alternative and more natural ways to calm my mind.

I’ve found that active mindfulness is a great way of centring myself, helping me to experience the moment rather than letting my never-ending chattering mind distract me from what is around me.

One of the best techniques I’ve discovered is the five senses method.

It’s simple and can be done anywhere – on a walk, watering the plants, swimming laps, waiting in line at the checkout, watching kids sports.

Basically, you experience what you’re doing through your five senses:

  • Five things you can see
  • Four things you can feel
  • Three things you can hear
  • Two things you can smell
  • One thing you can taste

It’s simple and effective. For example, during my morning walks I try to do this exercise at least once.

I’ll look around me and pay attention to what I can see – the formation of the clouds, a duck swimming in the river, flowers in a neighbour’s garden.

Then I’ll notice what I can feel. The soft breeze on my arm, the weight of the water bottle in my hand, the feel of the soft grass underfoot. You get the idea.

The actual process of going through the list helps me to pay attention to what is around me and the fact that I’m observing my surroundings through my senses distracts me from my thoughts.

I find it helpful in terms of mindfulness, especially when I’m in nature, and it also helps me to practice gratitude by observing the beauty around me.

I do this exercise while walking and swimming but it’s also good whenever you notice that your mind is racing.

Simply stopping to look, feel, listen, smell and taste is very effective in bringing you back to the present. And who knows what you’ll notice when you start paying attention!

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