Reduce Stress Right Now – The Five Senses Countdown

Reduce Stress Right Now – The Five Senses Countdown

It’s easy to get caught up with our everyday emotions and stressors. Practicing mindfulness helps us get unstuck from these overwhelming feelings we experience. For those that found ‘focusing on the present’ through simple meditation challenging, I present you; The Five Senses Coundown. This easy exercise requires full engagement with our surrounding environment as we center ourselves through the five senses. It’s easy enough to practice anywhere as long as you can find a calm space to yourself.

“You must learn to heed your senses. Humans use but a tiny percentage of theirs. They barely look, they rarely listen, they never smell, and they think that they can only experience feelings through their skin. But they talk, oh, do they talk.”

Michael Scott (Irish writer)

That’s right. Our minds never stop chattering, but we can disengage from the chatter by heeding to our senses. If you ever feel the need to break from the thoughts that run through your mind, give this exercise a try!

The Five Senses Countdown

– Pause for a moment.

Find yourself a calm comfortable space to fully participate with your five senses.

pause for a moment

1. The SIGHT Phase

Take a deep breath.

Look around and notice FIVE things that you can see.

The floor, table, curtains, trees, animals, anything you see is okay.

You can say them out loud or silently in your head. With each of the five sights, pause to take them in completely. 

the sight phase

2. The TOUCH Phase

Take another deep breath.

Notice FOUR things that you can feel in contact with your body.

For example; your watch against your wrist, your trousers against your legs, your feet on the ground, or your back against the chair.

Note them out loud or in your head, and rest your attention with each sensation for a few deep breaths.

the touch phase

3. The HEARING Phase

Breath deeply as you bring attention to your ears.

Listen carefully and notice THREE things that you can hear.

This can be the sound of the wind, birds chirping outside, the hum of appliances, cars running, etc.

Listen for and notice things in the background that you don’t normally notice. As you listen to each sound, note the unique characteristics of the different tones and patterns.

the hearing phase

4. The SMELL Phase

As you take another deep breath, concentrate on the air going through your nostrils.

Notice TWO things you can smell.

Bring attention to scents that you usually filter out, either pleasant or unpleasant. Catch a whiff of the pine trees outside, food cooking in the kitchen, or the smell of your clothes. Note the different characteristics of these scents.

the smell phase

5. The TASTE Phase

Take a final deep breath and bring your attention to the tongue.

Notice ONE thing you can taste.

Take a sip of a drink, chew gum, or nibble on a piece of chocolate. If you don’t have anything in hand, notice the current taste in your mouth or taste the air against your tongue.

Concentrate and savor the one flavor.

The goal is to use the five senses to focus on the present environment instead of our thoughts. By the time most people reach the ‘taste phase’, their overwhelming emotions will fade away. This doesn’t mean the negative feelings are gone, but we do get a break from it taking over our minds. It’s our human tendency to worry and feel stressed about the past and future, so bringing our attention to the present can relieve us from these thoughts as well. Appreciating the ‘now’ and ‘present’ is a great way to enjoy life, and what better way to celebrate our current existence than with our five senses!

Image: Unsplash

Harris, R. (2013). Getting Unstuck in ACT: A Clinician’s Guide to Overcoming Common Obstacles in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (1st ed.). New Harbinger Publications.