Senses of the Season

The holiday season is a time to come together, create new memories, and experience longstanding traditions that connects us with the ones we love. For many of us, the holidays can also be overwhelming, add anxiety, and increase stress levels. Focusing in on the five senses will allow you to be more in tune with your body and create a more peaceful and mindful holiday season.

Research shows there is a close connection between our sense of smell and the area of our brain that forms memories and emotions. This explains the phenomenon of a certain scent or smell reminding you of a specific memory, good or bad. As we move through the holiday season, take notice of the different emotions or memories that surface when you smell of your family’s home or freshly baked cookies. Take a moment to enjoy the nostalgia. When eating, take time to smell your food before tasting. This helps satisfy cravings without overeating and allows you to reflect on memories tied to the food prepared.

Most of our holiday gatherings are based around hearty meals and festive drinks that conjure up joyful memories. Be mindful of comfort eating. Often times we use the holidays as an excuse to overindulge and sabotage our nutrition. Take the time to enjoy the taste of holiday indulgences and be mindful of how they impact your physical and mental health.

Sounds affect your wellbeing in many ways through emotional connections, learned behavior, and memory triggers. For example, hearing a loud crash causes your brain stem to react and immediately the other senses perk up. But the opposite can also be true: the calming effects of waves crashing onto a beach or a favorite song encourages relaxation. When exposed to noises that trigger negative emotions, combat those with noises that bring you joy instead, like a favorite song, the lullaby your mother used to sing to you when you were a child, or the company of your family. And if the holidays do become too over­whelming, use mediation to eliminate sound completely and reset mind, body, and soul.

One of the first signs that the holidays are near is the changing of the seasons. Take time to look around and reflect on the changing leaves. What has changed in your life? How have you responded to the change? The changing colors mirror the constant changes happening in your lives. This is a great opportunity to take inventory of your mental health and how you respond to the changes in your life.

Studies show that touch can be both calming and overstimulating to the human body. Taking the time to feel a cold breeze blowing on your face, to touch some snow or ice, feel a pinecone, or hugs from friends and family members can ignite some of the feelings associated with the holiday season. If the stress and anxiety of the season is too much, find a calming touch, whether that is a warm blanket, sand or grass between your toes, or a firm massage.