By Melody M. Ott
LCSW with Wellbeing Collective
So it’s summertime and the living is easy, right?.....
Maybe not so much. If you have children, you may be juggling camp, child care or just plain stir crazy restlessness in the summer months. If you don’t have children, you may notice they are everywhere right now and life is moving at a different pace. Changes in routine alone can throw even the happiest summer camper off their daily schedule and leave us wondering when the heck is school starting again?!
One of the easiest ways to come back to the present moment, or a calmer version of the moment you are in, can happen through a simple “Take Five” practice. Our brains are wired to take in lots of information all of the time. We are constantly responding to our surroundings, big and little wellbeings alike. Our five senses are the most basic, primitive ways that information reaches our brain to make decisions, usually ones we are not even conscious we are making. Ever smell fresh baking and then realize you haven’t eaten in six hours because you were busy working on that proposal or cleaning up after you family or any number of things that we can get caught up in doing? Our sense of smell can bring us back to BEING rather than simply DOING by paying attention to the body and what we need. The same goes for our sight, taste, touch and hearing. One of the quickest ways to get back on track and notice what is happening both inside and outside of us is to check in with our five senses. It’s easy and you can do it anywhere in five simple steps. Simply tell yourself you are going to “Take Five” and:
Look around you and notice five things you can see. This can be anything in your immediate surroundings.
Notice four things you can feel with you sense of touch. This could be your feet on the ground, the feeling of your shirt on your back, a soft pillow next to you, or even your fingers touching one another.
Listen and notice three things you can hear. This may be the sound of your breath, birds outside, music or the laughter of your children in the other room.
Breathe in and notice two things you can smell. If there is nothing readily available to smell, think of two smells you love. You may notice a memory arise as the sense of smell is strongly connected to memory.
Notice one thing you can taste. A sip of water can be helpful if you don’t notice any taste. Water also helps flush out stress hormones so extra credit here.
Then take a deep breath in through your nose, let it fill your belly and gently let it out through your mouth. You may notice that your body feels calmer, your mind a little clearer and your shoulders more relaxed. Maybe even turn the corners of your mouth ever so slightly upwards and experience a smile. This is a fun activity to try anytime you need to take a break, when big or little people are testing your patience, when you are tired or distracted or simply when you want to just enjoy the moment you are in. You can also create environments that include those things you love to look at, hear, smell, touch and taste. When we create spaces like this for ourselves and those we love, it’s so much easier to reach that calm we crave.
So, kick off your shoes, feel the sand between your toes or the cool water of a pool. Listen to the birds, feel the warm sun. Experience the sounds and sights of summer. Eat an ice cream cone or some fresh watermelon. What five senses of summer most appeal to you? You can treat yourself to a mini summer vacation just for you simply by “Taking Five!”