Do you spend too much time in your own head? Does it feel like you’re on a hamster wheel of your own thoughts? Or like your awareness only exists from the neck up, as if you didn’t even have a body? You’re not alone – this is very common! American society is quite disembodied. We’re taught to solve problems through thinking our way out of them. And we live as if our body is a moving pedestal for our heads. Read on to find out once and for all, how to get out of your head.
As a holistic therapist, I always tell my clients, “the best way out of the head is into the body.” And one of the easiest ways to bring mindful awareness into the body is through the senses. Oh, and we actually have 8 of them, not 5. Here are some ways you can get into all those wonderful senses:
1 | Mindfulness of Smell
Go for a walk and take the time to stop and smell the flowers and the fresh-cut grass. Take a shower or bath and notice the scent of the body products you use. Create a spa-like environment in your home through putting essential oils in a diffuser or lighting candles, incense, sage or Palo Santo.
2 | Mindfulness of Taste
Prepare a delicious meal or snack and eat it slowly and mindfully. Notice each flavor as it emerges. Salty, sweet, sour, savory, fatty, acidic, spicy, umami, tart, bitter. Or pop a mint into your mouth and notice the minty taste. You can also taste a minty mouth after tooth brushing.
3 | Mindfulness of Sound
Pop in your earbuds or blast your favorite playlist. Try meditation music or sound meditations. Or you might sit outside and hear all the ambient sounds. There may be birds chirping, children playing, the rustling of leaves, a helicopter or airplane passing above, a fountain gurgling, construction sounds, a siren, a neighbor calling for their partner, a dog barking. Notice without judgment.
4 | Mindfulness of Sight
Find something beautiful, meaningful or interesting to look at and give it all your attention for a few minutes. This could be a house plant, a trinket, a piece of art, or any object really. Notice the size, shape, color(s), texture(s) and depth of the object. See if it has light and shadow playing off of it. Pay attention to how you feel as you look at this object.
If you want to take this exercise further, you could carry a grounding object with you (it could be a stone, a shell, a favorite pen or small figurine) and look at it when you want to ground yourself.
5 | Mindfulness of Tactile Sensation
Feel the sensation of clothing or blankets on your skin. Sense the texture — soft, scratchy, smooth, silky, bumpy. Notice the temperature and the movement or stillness of the air on your skin. Bring awareness to the sensation of a loofah or a scrub exfoliating your skin when in the bath tub or shower. Feel the hot, soapy water on your skin while you wash dishes. Pay attention to any dryness or dampness that you can feel on your body. Sense the hair on your skin.
And the three senses no one told you about…
6 | Mindfulness of Proprioception
Sense of pressure/body orientation
At home? Feel the weight of your body pressing down into the supportive surface below you, use a weighted blanket or squeeze a stress ball. At the gym? Take a yoga class, foam roll, swim, lift weights or use the rowing machine. At the spa? Get a massage.
7 | Mindfulness of Vestibular Input
Sense of gravity/movement in space
Jump on a mini trampoline, jump rope, bounce on a Pilates ball, start an impromptu dance party, rock in a rocking chair, lie in a hammock, go on the swings at a park, go for a bike ride, a run or any physical activity. Experiment with inversions – A simple one is putting your legs up the wall in a 90-degree angle.
8 | Mindfulness of Interoception
Bring awareness to the sensation of breathing. Do an internal body scan – notice aching or lightness in the forehead, tension or relaxation in the neck and shoulders, tightness or openness in the chest, grumbling or softness in the stomach, tightness or looseness in the calf muscles. Feel the sensation of satisfaction after a meal, notice warmth in your chest when you’re experiencing gratitude, feel the butterflies in your stomach when your partner kisses you.
Try bringing awareness to these 8 senses for the rest of the day and see what happens. Notice if you feel more present, more relaxed and if your thoughts slow down a bit.
Remember that everyone has different sensory profiles and preferences and so what’s calming to one person could be agitating to another and vice versa. Furthermore, some folks require more intensity in these activities than others to gain the intended benefit. For one person, doing a calming breathing exercise might get them into the body, whereas for another, they may need a more active breathing meditation, like breathwork. For one person, doing a restorative yoga class might be the ticket, whereas for another power yoga may be the best fit to quiet the mind. I always recommend an attitude of curiosity and experimentation to see what work for you.
Now I’d love to hear from you:
Do you struggle with being “in your head” too much?
What helps you get out of your head and into your body?
Which of these senses are you going to begin tapping into?
Are there any other sensory activities that I forgot to list?
Thank you for reading and for your input in the comments. As always, take what works and leave what doesn’t. Be well.
If you need help right away, please utilize the following crisis resources.
This post is meant for educational purposes only and isn’t a substitute for diagnosis, assessment or treatment of mental conditions. If you need professional help, seek it out.
About the author
Hi! I'm Natalie. And my passion is helping ambitious, creative millennials achieve everything they want in life, career and relationships. I provide in-person therapy in Pasadena and online therapy throughout California. Click here to get started.