The importance of using our five senses for wellbeing
Wellbeing is something we all aspire to, but it’s also something that we need to work at.
Fortunately, by simply being mindful and becoming attuned to our five senses, we can learn to improve our wellbeing in all manner of ways.
The link between wellbeing and our five senses
Our brains are responsible for processing the information fed to them by our five senses, and interpreting what we see, feel, hear, taste and smell can have a direct impact on our wellbeing:
Wellbeing and sight
Sight can be linked directly to one of the four main pillars of health – eating well. It’s often said that we eat with our eyes, which is why a plate of different coloured foods will be more appealing to most people than a plate containing just one coloured food.1 A study even found that by using brightly coloured plates, older people were around 30% more likely to consume a little bit more food!2
Wellbeing and taste
Taste and smell are very much linked, with around 80% of what our brain interprets as a taste sensation actually coming from our sense of smell. We are capable of recognising millions of different odours, but when it comes to taste, without the added clues given to us by sight, smell and texture, we are only capable of distinguishing whether something is salty, sweet, bitter, sour or savoury. So how can taste by itself lead to better wellbeing? One way is that people who are sensitive to bitterness are likely to be more selective about what they eat and avoid things higher in sugars and fats, which often have a greater degree of bitterness. Another is that studies have shown that sweet tastes can distract against physical discomfort – think about giving a child a sweet to suck on before an injection, for example.3
Wellbeing and sound
Our ability to interpret sounds alerts us to danger – the beep of a car horn, the shrill of a fire alarm or the siren of an ambulance, for example. Sounds can also be used to assist in healing though, largely because music reduces stress and anxiety. Research has also shown that physical therapy patients recover better when certain sounds are played during various points of their therapy.4
Wellbeing and touch
Touch is one of the most powerful tools we have available to us in terms of our own wellbeing. Whether it’s the embrace of a loved one, or the stroke of a pet, the simple act of touch has been shown in studies to lead to a reduction in anxiety and to improve sleeping patterns.5
Wellbeing and smell
Smell is not just something that is associated with pleasure or displeasure but can be an early indication of the manifestation of certain health problems. For example, studies have shown that a decline in your ability to smell could be a predictor of Alzheimer’s.6 More recently, a loss of smell has been cited as an indication that you may have been infected with the Covid-19 virus.
The link between our senses, and the four pillars of health
We view health and wellbeing as something that can be broadly split into four pillars, with each of them needing to be balanced in order to keep us healthy – our senses are strongly influential in each of them:
Sight, taste and smell are all important in ensuring we eat well. From being visually drawn towards colourful foods, to avoiding foods that have gone off and are smelling bad, our sense helps us to get the balanced diets our bodies need.
State of mind
Pleasure can be felt by experiencing human touch, but our state of mind is also influenced by our other senses. Smells can evoke happy memories, sounds can bring us joy and there is nothing better than the taste of a hot drink on a cold day to make us feel comforted.
Staying active is important for all aspects of our wellbeing and relying on our senses can make it easier and more enjoyable. Rather than viewing a walk as a chore, you might instead stroll along a seafront or through a forest, allowing your eyes to take in the sights, your nose to take in the new smells and your ears to enjoy the sounds of the birds in the trees.
With good nutritional supplementation, you can make sure you are consuming everything you need for good health, taking an empowered approach to your nutritional needs.
By remembering the four pillars of good health and being mindful about how your senses can help us experience them to their fullest, you are putting yourself on the pathway to a balanced state of wellbeing.