How we can use thought association to help us cope
Have you ever noticed how looking at old photos, listening to music, reading, playing with your pet or just snuggling up can make you feel better? Maybe even lighter and a little less stressed. Sometimes even a waft of a scent can make you smile. And a favourite food treat definitely makes you feel better.
Our senses play a crucial role in our survival and even our development. Sight, sound, touch, taste and smell are all so important in our everyday lives. Many of us take them for granted. But what if we didn’t? What if we used them to further enhance our daily living?
Sight gives us the opportunity to appreciate so much. Really seeing something, is a skill that’s worth honing.
Think about a time when you went through old photos, or went to see an exhibition or a concert. Or even when you saw a friend from a distance.
Remember how it made you feel.
Sound is probably really one of the most underrated senses. Stop, right now stop. Listen to what you can hear. Keep listening; to the sounds far away and then bring your focus to all the senses around you. As you listen to them notice how they make you feel? A bird singing, a plane overhead, a car, voices, singing, the fridge humming?
Whatever you can hear notice it and recognise how it makes you feel.
Touch helps us to feel, not just physically, but emotionally too. And what are we if not emotional creatures? We need touch, we need contact, we need to feel grounded. It can be with loved ones, with professionals (like massage therapists 😊) or just through our own touch with the earth.
Think about soft silky warm sand running through your fingers. Or the solid ground beneath your feet, or a baby’s skin, and while you’re thinking about it notice how you feel.
Taste is another of the senses. Tasting something that you had on holiday may remind you of a time where you were relaxed and enjoying something new. Or how about eating something that your mum used to cook when you were little. That taste can transport you back to childhood, a time when you were young and full of wonder. A sweet one that you used to buy from the penny shop; army and navy, sherbet pips, cough candy. I think we can all think of things that bring us a sense of “””ahhh”, chocolate, cheese, bread, crisps, cakes the list is endless.
What’s going through your head right now as you think of how something tastes?
Our sense of smell seems to be the strongest of our senses; people remember smells more accurately over visual memory. Smells play a huge part in our lives, just think of all of the aromatherapy oils that you may have come across. We have been using lavender as a relaxant and sleep aid for centuries. We use eucalyptus to help us breathe more easily. Many of the chefs on television have demonstrated that most of what we taste actually comes through our sense of smell.
Try eating a crisp with a peg on your nose and then work out what flavour it is, I think you might be surprised.
Now try to find something that smells nice and take a nice inhale of it. Notice your thought and your emotions.
Help is at Hand
All of our senses have so many uses but sometimes we forget to use them in times of stress which is of course when we need them most.
An Overview to Our Senses
Here are some tips on using your senses to support you; –
Sight – Get a photo, postcard, picture, book mark or just an item that when you look at it a smile comes to you and you feel joy. Keep looking at the item and keep feeling the smile and the joy.
Sound – Find a piece of music, a song, a show, a recording, a sound that you can access that when you listen to it uplifts you and makes you feel joy. Keep listening to the sound and focus on how uplifted you feel listening to the sound and how joyful you feel.
Touch – Get something that you can feel and touch, maybe a soft piece of material or a hand cream or a plant. Something that when you touch it makes you feel a connection and brings you joy. As you touch the item and feel it in your fingers, think about the connection you have to the item. Think about the joy that connection brings you.
Smell – Find a hand cream or a candle or a perfume/aftershave that when you smell it you feel calm and full of joy. Really inhale that smell and as the smell travels to your olfactory system really associate that smell with calmness and joy.
Taste – Get a boiled sweet or a wrapped chocolate/nut bar that when you eat it you feel comforted and in turn joy. Take the sweet or a bite of your item and just hold it in your mouth. Notice the different flavours, notice how your mouth waters, now suck or chew it slowly. Notice how much pleasure that brings you and the joy of something so simple.
Your secret weapon – Thought Association
Now, all of these things are physical things, which is good because you can keep them with you. And in times of stress you can use each of these things. You can look , listen, touch or taste your things to invoke your feelings of calm, balance, connection and joy . Eventually, you will just be able to use thought association to bring balance. You will just be able to think about the photo, the song or the sweet and a sense of calm will fill you as the stress leaves.