Use All Five Of Your Senses And Unleash Your Superpower.

6 min readMar 23, 2021

We all want to be able to enjoy the feeling of being at our most productive, creative, and inspired. Many of us adopt all sorts of ambitious life-hacks in pursuit of our best selves, while neglecting an astonishing toolkit that is always at our disposal! Evidence suggests that making a habit of engaging the five senses can have a profound impact on our capacity to achieve, manage anxiety, and live in the moment. If you can’t say with confidence that you’re harnessing your full sensory repertoire, then read on to discover why it matters, and some of the simple things you can do to tune in to both yourself and your environment.

Life In A Soundscape

You might imagine that focus and creativity warrant a silent space, but in fact ambient noise is far more conducive to thinking outside of the box. A study titled Is Noise Always Bad? Exploring the Effects of Ambient Noise on Creative Cognition published by Oxford University Press reveals that there is an optimal decibel zone for enhancing our cognition capabilities. Fascinatingly, the studies summarised examined the impact of a low level of ambient noise (50db), moderate level (70db), and high level of ambient noise (85db). Those immersed within a moderate ambient noise environment were able to tap into the greatest creativity, and engage with innovative ideas more effectively.

So, it would seem that those who work in the corners of bustling coffee shops may well be on to something. For those of us who don’t chase caffeine with our achievements, there are plenty of apps and even YouTube channels dedicated to delivering valuable soundscapes. If you’d like to know more about the importance of sound, check out another of our articles on the topic.

Within Our Field of Vision

Perhaps the most crucial of all of our senses, it is important to remember that unless we are asleep, our sight always extends beyond that which holds our focus. In fact, our minds continue to process what is in our peripheral vision, no matter how intense our current activity! This makes decluttering and personalising our productive space all the more important. Another sensory super-charger can be discovered in choosing to surround ourselves with natural colours, plants, and even pictures of nature. Research that was led by Vrije University Medical Centre in the Netherlands tells us that just looking at pictures of nature can positively impact our work-related stress levels.

Of course, inhabiting an office with a beautiful view, or even taking periodic strolls in nature are both fantastic ways to engage this sense — and more. Delve into our article about the many benefits of nature to discover the myriad of body and brain boosts to be harnessed. With the outdoors in mind, don’t forget that light is another important sensory element that we often neglect; the key in this area is adapting towards what we are hoping to attain. A 2012 study published in Behavioural Science highlighted that daylight exposure is conducive to accuracy and alertness. In contrast, a 2013 study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology revealed that dim lighting is favourable if we wish to get into the creative zone.

Temperature and Touch

We all know that a hug from a loved one is good for our well-being, but we often don’t appreciate that what’s experienced through our skin — the largest organ of our body — can have a deep impact on how we feel and perform in a much broader sense. Research published in PubMed in 2011 shared findings that crossing our arms in a self-embrace can have an analgesic effect. Meanwhile many researchers hypothesize that the same act triggers a release of oxytocin, on a smaller but comparative level to the way that sharing touch with others does.

Temperature is also a vital factor when it comes to our sense of touch. A study from Alan Hedge at Cornell University found that a chilly work environment dents our focus and accuracy. Being cold is more than unpleasant — it also robs our ambitions of vital energy. The impact of this is not something to take lightly: raising the thermostat from 20°C to 25°C reduced the errors typists made in Hedge’s study by 44%.

Appreciating Aroma

How often do you consider whether the scents around you are stalling or stimulating your day? Unpleasant odours can be detrimental on a subconscious level, while certain smells can help us refocus and fuel our imagination. Environmental psychologist Sally Augustin tells us that the aroma of Rosemary can be energizing, cinnamon can charge our creativity, and jasmine can offer a boost to cognitive performance. And how does this sense create such an impact? Scents are captured and conveyed via signals that travel from our nose to our brain, through the olfactory nerves. These signals in turn stimulate our limbic system, which is the area of our brain that is vital to both emotions and memories.

Tantalizing Our Taste Buds

While poor snack choices can certainly serve as a distraction, science tells us that specific flavours can actually enhance our flow state. A 2017 study titled Taste Perception and Creativity revealed that although we might reach for something sweet when starting out on a creative task, we should actually grab for something sour in order to boulster our performance. Intriguingly, a 2013 study from the Britih Journal of Health and Psychology adds another dynamic in that students to nibbled on fruits and vegetables over the day experienced improved mood — definitely a valuable factor when it comes to feeling innovative!

Five Senses Exercise

Now that you have an enhanced appreciation for the five senses, its time to adopt a practice that will aid in making utilizing them a fully integrated habit. Those who have dug into anxiety hacks will likely have come across what is known as the Five Senses Exercise. However, the value of this practice extends far beyond anxiety; it can be useful as a mindfulness method for tuning into the present moment, and shedding mental distractions when starting the day. Try these simple steps, and see if it contributes to your performance and creativity:

  • Count 5 things that you can see: pay attention to your environment, and look for details that you haven’t noticed before.
  • Count 4 things you can feel: Tune in to sensations such as those created by your clothes, your feet on the floor, and objects around you.
  • Count 3 things that you can hear: What might at first strike you as silence will reveal the hum of appliances or the sounds of traffic or bird song.
  • Count 2 things you can smell: Scan the air for aromas, whether unpleasant or pleasingly fragrant.
  • Count 1 thing you can taste: Connect with your taste buds — take a sip of your drink or a bite of food if you want to.

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