Sound, sight, touch, smell, taste. Our bodies are made so that if one of these senses is compromised, others are more fine tuned and sensitive.
I have some things to say about being present in the moment with all five senses within my own life (to come in a moment). But, where I want to start is with the people that I work with. I’ve written before that I am a Recreation Therapist, more precisely, a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist. I work with people with disabilities in care home settings where I visit and provide services on a quarterly basis. Many of the people I work with are not responsive to activities that others may be, and that’s where I’ve used Sensory Stimulation. My definition of Sensory Stimulation is: using activities that rely heavily on the five senses to help create responses or emotions; with people that I work with that at times would not otherwise respond.
I have many, many, stories and experiences I can look back on, but one of my favorites happened over 10 years ago. There was a man who lived in one of the care homes that I had consulted for who was unresponsive to activities I offered, other than giving eye contact, or at times crying. During one visit, possibly my 30th time working with him, I placed his feet on a vibrating foot pad. As I put pressure on the foot pad for the vibrating to be activated, he laughed out loud. Everyone in the room lit up, staff, other clients, we were all excited to hear him laugh. He continued to laugh off and on for a few moments, and it was an amazing successful experience.
I saw a video on Facebook last week that just made me smile. Check it out:
I love this video. Sound, music, a fathers voice and touch, all produced that amazing smile and dancing.
Therapeutic Recreation is about promoting quality of life through recreation. I have found that Sensory Stimulation both when used in my profession, as well as personally has absolutely promoted quality of life.
I’ve written before about how music is so powerful, it can send you back to a moment in time, bring out emotions at the first sound of a musical chord or beat.
Sound, it’s powerful. My husband tells the story often about how when our son was born, and I was still in the hospital with him, my husband came home, and the door made a squeak when he closed it. He said it sounded like a sound our new baby made, and then opened and shut the door over and over again.
Smell is another powerful sense. I did a workshop on Sensory Stimulation a few years back. One of the activities was smelling different items that were in unmarked jars and identifying them. A colleague of mine smelled the peppermint sample, and said that it brought back an instant memory of Christmas time as a child when her mom used to pull her tights up and accidentally pinch her legs in the process when getting ready for a holiday get together. She was floored because she hadn’t thought of that memory, yet smelling the peppermint promoted it.
The smell of freshly cut grass, it can bring so many back to the sports of their youth, along with the emotions that are attached it it.
Taste is crazy. I love my food. A good friend made a salad dressing that I really liked a few years back. Whenever I had it, there was a familiar feeling that I couldn’t place with a memory. After many times having that same dressing in my present day, it finally came to me, it was like a salad dressing that was from a restaurant I would eat lunch at during my early 20’s while I worked at a bank job while going to college. And now each time I have that, I am brought back to those times, all the feelings of my life at that time, including the insecurities and unsureness of what my future would hold. Crazy stuff.
I don’t have to explain too much about sight. You can see something that reminds you of someone or something, and the emotions it can provoke can be so raw.
Here’s my tie back into my own need to incorporate all 5 senses more often:
Multitasking is the norm, for myself, as well as about everyone else I know. The amount of times I am truly ‘in a moment’ rather than thinking of other things, or what I need to do next, it’s too embarrassing of a number to admit.
I gave this story of my real life experience during my workshop on Sensory Stimulation:
I was sitting in my front yard one late afternoon, in a big chair, with a nice glass of wine. It was one of those rare moments where (as a mom of three kids with a husband, two dogs, three cats, yet no chickens at the time) no one needed anything. I sat back, sipping my wine, looking up at the sky. All of a sudden, all I could hear were birds. Like some crazy call of the wild, Ace Ventura apartment call type bird sounds everywhere. It was a bit psychedelic for a moment, as I looked and watched birds fly from nearby trees, making conversation as they went. I had never paused enough to realize how many flippin’ birds were in my front yard, let alone take a moment to listen to them. As my family members found me for different levels of need, I pointed out the birds and their sounds. I think they all thought I had officially lost it as I sat looking and listening to the birds that have always been there. It just took me until that moment to pause and let my senses bring things to my attention.
Another example, running on the treadmill. It’s awful, no one ever talks about it being fun. I turn the TV on, pass the time. The goal is the workout. I did a run (I don’t call it a race, because that would be hysterical, I don’t race, I go from point A to B, not too fast) in San Francisco that went from the Bay Bridge to the Golden Gate a few years back. Same goal, a workout, fun with friends, but a workout no less. As I looked over to my right, a pelican speared the water and came up with a fish and flew away. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Same workout, but rather than watching the regurgitated news on TV, I was smelling the sea water, and watching a frickin’ pelican pluck a fish out of the water. So cool.
I know I need more moments where I take in all that my senses want to give me. To slow down and truly ‘be in a moment’ like I so want to be more often. To realize it’s a ‘perfect moment’.
I took a video of this perfect moment from a couple of years ago, because I didn’t want to forget it. Lake Tahoe, at sunset, my middle daughter hanging on a boogie board in the water, never turning down an invitation to be at the beach. It was perfect, the sight, the sound, the smell, sipping on a glass of wine, and my feet in the sand. Here are pictures from that moment:
I’m hoping to slow down and pay attention to all 5 senses at once for many more ‘perfect moments’ in 2015.