Feast for the Senses

Expand your usual gratitude list this Thanksgiving beyond the people and things you treasure to appreciate the simple sensory experiences that bring you comfort and joy. Relish your Thanksgiving meal more fully by savoring the smells of your favorite dishes comingling. Look around and take in the vision of the feast and your loved ones. Eat more slowly to delight in the flavors and textures of your meal.

Your five senses offer access to enjoyment anytime. Your senses are the contact points between you and what surrounds you. Vision tends to dominate our sensory experience because the visual cortex typically has the most brain real estate, but don’t forget to notice sounds, tastes, smells and tactile experiences. Pay attention to this interface between you and your world.

Each season offers unique sensory treats. During summer, we are bombarded by bright light and colors, bird song and floral fragrances. Autumn offers the invigorating sensation of crisp mornings with chilly air and the sound of leaves crunching under our feet, stirring up the distinctive smell of fall. In the U.S., daylight savings time creates afternoon sunsets, as more and more of our waking hours are consumed by darkness.

Darkness often has a negative connotation, with winter portrayed as bleak and desolate, suggesting sensory deprivation. But this year, explore a positive mindset by orienting to winter’s countless sensory delights. Let the long dark nights sharpen your nonvisual senses. Appreciate the enlivening cold, contrasted with the inner warmth. Even just imagining a crackling warm fire will calm your body. What are your favorite smells of the season? Cider with mulled spices, pine trees, candles, hot chocolate? Enjoy the softness of your favorite sweater or fuzzy blanket. Savor the flavors of a winter stew. Take in the calming hush of a snowy day. Notice how lights are brighter and warmer as they contrast with the darkness.

The coziness of fall and winter offer a feast for your senses – enjoy this sensory bounty.

Photo credit: Ryan Matthew Smith

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