Awakening the senses: reach out and touch

touch a treeWhen it comes to creativity, it’s important to have a constant stream of inspiration to draw from. If we choose to pay attention to them, our senses can offer bucket loads of material as we move through each day hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting, and touching. Paying attention to our senses helps us live in the moment, excites our curiosity, and can make us more in tune with our natural impulses. However, so many of us—myself included—go through our days without really feeling much of anything. To deepen my own awareness, my plan is to write a post on each of our senses, explaining some ways that we can focus more intently on that sense and wake ourselves up to the variety of experiences around us. Hopefully, they’ll help you too. So far, I’ve also written about taste, sight, and smell.

Touch

I’m sure we can all agree on the importance of our sense of touch. Studies show that hugging someone you care about can reduce blood pressure and provide other health benefits and that babies who are not touched early in life don’t develop normally. Touch helps connect us with the people we love, but it also helps us perform most of our everyday tasks. We rely on touch to find the keys beneath our fingers when we type, to find the lip balm buried at the bottom of our purse, and even to keep ourselves upright (this site says that elderly people might be more prone to falling because their feet aren’t as sensitive to the ground as they used to be). Unlike other senses, which receive information from one small area of our bodies, we can experience touch in countless different ways, over almost every part of our body, which means there is plenty of opportunity to be inspired. 

Exploration

See how many different ways you can experience touch in a single day, and how many different parts of your body are affected. Seek out new textures and sensations as you try these ideas:

  • Go barefoot – As often as you can, take off your shoes and socks to let your feet feel the ground. Obviously, this will feel better in summer than in the depths of winter, but even when your feet spend much of the day wrapped up in warm boots, let them out once you’re in the comfort of your home. In our house we are usually sock free.
  • Play in water – Think about how differently water feels on your skin than air. Feel the water moving past you as you swim, the pressure of it gently helping your body to float, and how it feels to blow bubbles under water. Jump or dive in to experience the impact of the water’s surface tension on your body.
  • Feel the wind – I tend to dismiss the wind as an annoyance so I challenge myself – and you – to pay closer attention to it. What direction is it coming from? What temperature is it? How strong is it blowing and how does it make your body react? Do you feel pressure or just a temperature change? A therapist of mine once challenged me to find something unique or pleasurable in every sensation, good or bad. See what you can find in the wind.
  • Touch plants – A friend and I once had coffee at a cafe within a greenhouse. It was February and we both needed some contact with greenery. After we finished our drinks, we wandered around touching every plant within reach, even rubbing some of the leaves against our faces. Adding a tactile dimension made us feel a lot more connected to the plants, and helped to cure us of our winter blues.

Comfort

Think about how you use touch to comfort yourself and others. What are your go-to solutions? What are some other ideas you can try?

  • Massage and acupuncture – While I know it’s not for everyone, I adore massages. It doesn’t matter what kind they are, from a fully clothed Thai massage, to a barely clothed scrub down in a Turkish bath (one of the more interesting experiences I had in Istanbul), to a gentle shoulder or foot rub from my boyfriend, they all feel amazing. I think the reason I like them so much is because I feel so taken care of. This person is taking time from their day to focus solely on making me feel good. I started seeing an acupuncturist regularly last year and, while I don’t love the needles, I do enjoy how many different touch sensations I would experience in one session. The softness of the sheets, the heat lamp she turned on to keep my feet warm, the suction cups pulling on my skin, the tuning fork vibrating through my muscles, and her own gentle hands rubbing my belly or feet. It was the ultimate comforting experience.
  • Stuffed toys – Not just for children, we have a couple of these puppets in our house. They’re soft and snuggly and make great reading companions. I included this one in a self-care kit I made for my friend for Christmas. I included instructions to rub its ears on her chin 3 times daily. It makes me feel relaxed just thinking about it.
  • Cuddles – Need I say more?

Pay attention to what sensations brings you comfort – is your couch soft and squishy, or more firm? What clothes feel best when you’ve had a tough day? Based on touch alone, do you prefer the blanket that your grandma crocheted, the quilt your aunt made, or the Ikea blanket with the super soft fibres? How is your sense of touch influenced by your memories or emotions?

Mindfulness

Focusing on our sense of touch is the perfect way to calm our minds. Use this technique when you’re caught up in your thoughts and want to slow down:

  • Close your eyes and feel your feet on the floor and your bum in your seat. Feel the weight of gravity holding you in place. Pay attention to all the points of contact between your body and the chair or the floor, as well as with other parts of your body. Feel your clothes touching your skin.
  • Starting at the top of your head, slowly scan down your body, noticing any sensation. Don’t think about whether it feels good or bad, just notice it and keep moving, until you’ve scanned all the way down to your toes.
  • Take a few more deep breaths, open to any sensation that you might notice. Open your eyes and continue on with your day.

How do you stay connected with your sense of touch? In what ways do you use it to explore your surroundings, find or bring comfort, or practice mindfulness? Leave a comment below! 

 

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