What does it do to your mood when you see a clear blue sky? How about when you smell leaves burning or a flowering tree? Our five senses not only inform us about our surroundings, but influence our experience of them. If you’ve ever tried to sell a house, you’ve heard the advice about baking cookies or spraying a lemon scented cleaning product before a showing to give the buyers a positive impression of your home. As an aside, the cleaning product trick works on other guests too!
Because our senses trigger our neurochemistry, they play a powerful role in mood and can be great tool to influence it. And at those times when you’re finding it extra challenging to pull yourself out of a funk, your senses can do most of the work for you!
Have you ever done any creative visualization exercises? Where do you picture yourself? Most of us picture ourselves somewhere in nature – on a beach, in a meadow, in the forest. Generally the first sense that’s engaged in such an exercise is vision. There’s research out there that shows that you don’t even have to really be at that place to benefit from it! Studies have shown that even looking at a picture of a tree for 30 seconds triggers your body’s relaxation response. Did you catch that? A picture!
Think about what music you play when you’re trying to focus, relaxing in the bath or working out. Many people have playlists for those types of activities, and for good reason. Different frequencies and beats have different effects on your nervous system, so choose carefully and go with whatever meets your goal at the time. Music also triggers context dependent memory, so when you listen to music from happy times in your life, it bathes your brain in endorphins. Can you say 80’s playlist???
Imagine a delicious mug of _________ or a steaming bowl of _________ or even a cool ________. Yes, I meant to make blanks there for you to fill in as you wish. Don’t you feel better imagining them? Think of how good it feels to taste them!
Taste can be slightly tricky because many people feel guilt if they eat a food that they give a “bad” label to. Remind yourself that you’re having your taste of choice for mood improvement purposes, and therefore it’s medicinal 😉
Ever notice the oohs and ahhs that come of out people’s mouths when they touch something soft, fuzzy, smooth, or otherwise pleasurable? Sometimes people even catch themselves “petting” a soft pillow because it feels so nice. Choose something that feels good – silk, a pet, a worry stone, even fuzzy blankets.
Smell is the most powerful memory trigger to our brain. Smell is also one of the most powerful influencers of our mood and one of the easiest to use tactically. If you can’t be around the source, consider carrying around some essential oil (citrus oils are particularly good for mood). EOs stimulate nerves in our nasal passages which directly affect the limbic system, home of Fight and Flight. Calming yourself from the deepest parts of your brain is a true superpower!
Take some time today and think about what things came to mind as you were reading about the specific senses. How can you use them to boost or even change your mood?