It can be very tempting to coast through the holiday season to the end of the year. Both professional and personal priorities often fall to the wayside in the face of tempting treats, party invitations, family demands and workplace priorities. You will likely see many articles suggesting that you chill out, step away from the fuss and tune out the noise of life. Far be it for us to counter any suggestion of self-care, but sensory deprivation is not the only way to achieve spiritual recovery. Instead, targeted sensory stimulation could be the best practice to help you not escape the end of year craze but to thrive in it so that you start 2020 more resolute than ever.

            According to a 2006 American Psychological Association Study 44% of women and 31% of men experience an increase in stress over the holidays and considering that study was conducted before the widespread adoption of smartphones, we can make an educated guess that those numbers have only climbed in the intervening years. So, if we know an increase of stress is likely in the coming months what can we do about it? Should we retreat into a meditative fortress of solitude and pin all of our hopes and ambitions on next year? Or can we find opportunities to engage even more meaningfully in these waning weeks by tapping into our senses in both rousing and refreshing ways?

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            If you want to understand the power of engaging your five senses simultaneously just think about how malls do it. As you walk in, you see glittery multi-textured decorations, you hear carols playing from the speakers and smell pumpkin spice lattes wafting on the recycled air. Malls know how to fully envelope you in the holiday spirit and you can do the same for yourself in a less consumerism driven environment like your home or at the work Christmas party.

            Dr. Johan Lundstrom from the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia is an expert in the sense of smell and has recently been studying how it interacts with our other four senses. Historically, it has been common to study each sense in isolation but “once researchers began studying how the senses work together, ‘we started to realize what we thought was true for each sense isn’t ‘Lundstrom says. ‘It could be what we thought true about the brain might not be true after all.’[1]

            This article in Scientific American explains that how our brains respond to smells has been tied by research to the earliest memories we have of those scents and is highly individualized. Therefore, one of the best ways to tap into your sensory potential is to try some experiments. Here’s an example: play The Decemberists January Hymn while sucking on a peppermint candy and wearing your coziest sweater and tackling a creative project, do you feel more focused? Or keep everything the same, but instead of the peppermint, sip some cinnamon tea. As you experiment, you will learn how different sounds, tastes, smells, materials etc. impact your mood, productivity and energy levels. Think of it as the most fun way to make the most of this holiday season and if you want to share the experience with friends consider a private Five Senses Tasting, it’s the best way to see the power of sensory engagement for wellness brought to life.

[1] https://www.apa.org/monitor/2011/02/scents

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