Do you ever really think about your senses? Sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell. Each sense plays a key role in our lives every day but most people don’t even notice just how much.
Sight is likely our most utilized sense, or at least the one we are most aware of, especially in a socially distanced world. We see pictures online of our friends, family, and strangers. We look at various ads for products, peruse Pinterest for inspiration, and read articles about the world around us. How sad that in almost all of those scenarios, our other 4 senses are left behind. We see the world around us, which can be devastating or beautiful, both of which can move you to tears. Seeing my soon to be husband as I walked down the isle brought tears of joy. Seeing my dog of 13 years had passed away in her sleep brought a wave of emotions, sadness leading them.
Hearing would be, in my mind, our next most used sense. Phone calls, which are becoming a thing of the past as most people prefer to communicate through text, provide a window of interpretation not granted through text. Simply hearing someone’s tone can tell you more than the words they say. Music is such a huge part of many peoples’ lives, and for good reason. Songs evoke emotion that are unparalleled by almost any other medium. Whether it’s the music itself, the words, a combination of both, or an event or person that a certain song reminds you of, songs have the power to thrust into a sort of time-warp. I can’t tell you how many times I have been driving, gotten wrapped up in a song, and then snap back to reality wondering how I got from where I was to where I ended up because the trip was nowhere in my memory. Not only music, but the sound of someone’s voice, running water, ocean waves, birds chirping, thunder, or even something a simple as the creak of a screen door can jolt a memory to your frontal cortex that seems so present you could touch it. Sitting with your eyes closed letting the world around you in through sound, you’ll find that you hear new sounds that aren’t actually new at all, but it’s the first time you’ve really heard them. With your eyes open, the world sounds like a cacophony of voices, cars, or machines, but close your eyes and your brain will begin to isolate the sounds.
Touch is incredibly powerful as well, but I feel like it’s one of our senses that tends to be overlooked. I actually hate to be touched by people I don’t know, and some people I do know and even like! Hugs make me uncomfortable and I despise when people get my arm/s and talk too close to my face. It’s the one thing I enjoy about our current state of social distancing. As much as I hate to be touched in a certain context, I have never felt more joy than when I held each of my babies when they were born. The warmth of their little skin, their tiny hands around my fingers, the sigh right before I felt them fully relax and fade to sleep in my arms, and as they grow, the hugs filled with relief, happiness, or excitement are moments that took my breath away. Touch can be so wonderful and so horrible at the same time. If someone touches you, though it may not seem inappropriate, if it makes you uncomfortable, it’s inappropriate. Don’t ever think something feels wrong but it must be you. It isn’t. A hand on the small of your back that makes you feel uneasy is your body’s defense to tell you something is off, listen to it. On the flip side, the comfort you feel with a certain person should be treasured. Growing up, I loved my Papaw’s hugs and how he would put his hands on either side of my face and kiss me on the forehead. He’s been gone for years and I swear I can still feel the warmth of sitting beside him on the couch tucked under his arm, cocooned and safe. My little Mammaw, one of few adults I’ve known who was shorter than me, would hug me and lay her little head on my shoulder. Despite her being shorter than me, her hugs made me feel safe. Even though I enjoy hugs from my husband, even he knows that I hate them when I am worried or stressed. As we stood in my dad’s living room watching the EMT’s do chest compressions on him, the officer on site seemed almost irritated that Mark wasn’t hanging on me like a shawl for comfort. I finally said to him that I was a bit claustrophobic and people being too close in the already tight quarters made me feel like the walls were caving in. That’s the funny thing about people to me; what makes one person feel happy and comforted makes another want to escape. Kids need hugs and physical reassurance that you love them. Not only that, but sensory development as they are little is so important.
Taste. We use it every day but it’s rushed, overworked, and unappreciated. The food we eat is so full of chemicals and sugar that our sense of taste is whittled down to nothing. We are so accustom to eating the same processed foods all the time that our taste buds don’t know what to do when they get a different texture or something without a mound of sugar on it. Even when we do eat healthy foods, we live in such fast-paced lifestyles that almost every meal is rushed and we rarely savor what we eat. Food is addictive, to the point that if you get a craving for something, it is torturous to avoid it and difficult to get your mind off of. I try to introduce new things for my kids all the time. Some things they like and some they don’t, and that’s okay as long as they are willing to try them. I don’t like everything so I don’t expect them to either, but I do expect them to keep trying things and inevitably they will broaden their palette.
Smell is probably my strongest sense. I have a heightened sense of smell and sometimes I hate it. I smell everything, whether I want to or not. When we bought our last house, the first time we looked at it, I had to walk outside because the smell was so pungent. It’s a miracle we looked at it a second time because smell is such a strong motivator and it’s hard to differentiate your aversion to the smell of a place from the place itself. Smells can also make you feel like you have traveled back in time, in good ways and bad. Cologne, for example, can really impact your first impressions. Say someone who was mean or hurtful to you wore a certain cologne and then you met someone new who wore that same cologne; chances are you made a subliminal connection between the two and this new person will have to overcome your inadvertent prejudice. I literally baked cookies when we sold our first house, if I had time before showings, to create a feeling of cozy homeyness. The smell of certain foods take people back to their childhood, and what could be better than a happy childhood memory of fresh cookies coming to mind when looking at a house? Not much. People will overlook their sense of sight, knowing they can change the wall color quicker than they will overlook a feeling, which is how most smells are received. If a smell evokes a feeling, that’s how it’s perceived, not as a simple scent that will fade once the cookies have all been eaten.
Do you have a favorite sense? Is one of your senses weaker or stronger than the others? Have there been times you intentionally turned off your senses because what was going on was just too much?