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5 Senses Meditation (QUICK and EASY Five Senses Exercise)

What can a frazzled mom do to reset? Could a 5 senses meditation turn your day around?

Because I’ve encountered medical gaslighting, I struggle with anxiety before doctor appointments sometimes. 

Will this doctor believe me? Are they willing to write my off label medications? Will this be a waste of my hard-earned money? 

On this particular afternoon, I had just finished the paperwork for a new doctor appointment later in the week. When I left to go pick up one of the kids from school, my mind was racing.

I wanted to be present with the kid that I was picking up from school. But I knew if I didn’t act fast, I was going to have a really hard time paying them the attention they deserve from me. 

Maybe you can relate to something at work or a family situation making you feel frantic. What tools can we draw upon that are quick and realistic to do in these kinds of situations?

frazzled mom in car

I reminded myself that I was physically safe. My body tends to go into fight or flight mode, where I’m ready to run away from a tiger when there isn’t actually a tiger. 

Because of the medical trauma that I have been through, I needed an extra boost to help my body relax. Simply trying to tell my brain that I am safe is not usually enough to pull me out of that sympathetic activation. I’ve learned that I do better when I engage my body. 

So I turned to one of my favorite somatic practices because it is so quick: a 5 senses meditation to help reset my nervous system. 

In this post you’ll learn what a 5 senses meditation is, the benefits, how to use this powerful tool, and how to fit it into your busy life! 

RELATED: Get a 7-minute morning meditation and journal for free!

What Is a 5 Senses Meditation?

More than a mindfulness exercise, a 5 senses meditation is a practice where you systematically go through your 5 senses and pay attention to what you notice in descending order. 

You can vary the exact order according to your preferences, but the general flow is typically:

  • 5 things you can see 👀
  • 4 things you can hear 👂
  • 3 things you can feel ✋
  • 2 things you can smell 👃🏻
  • 1 thing you can taste 👅

Most 5 senses meditations will begin with noticing 5 things that you can see, because looking at your environment is a good way for your body to find safety through self location. In other words, it helps your body see you are in the present, not a past or potential future event. This self-locating at the start will help you feel safe enough to complete the meditation. 

Otherwise, you can change up how many of the other senses you want to practice. As long as you put your full attention on each sense, I find it works. 

Occasionally, I’ll start with 5 things I feel and it turns into a body scan exercise where I notice every place something is touching my skin. 

Not only will honing your perception help calm you, but it will also help your kids. I did a 5 senses meditation with our two-year-old at a park. He was getting restless, because the friends we had invited to join us were running late. I walked him through the subtle sounds in the distance and physical sensations of the grass and trees. 

He was ready to play on his own again after connecting together with this tool. It’s easy for most ages, and I love teaching mindfulness.

Here’s what may make it so effective. 

connect heart and brain

Benefits of a 5 Senses Meditation 

I find a 5 senses meditation to be effective because it helps me get back into my body. I’ve tried mindfulness meditations or visualizations, but they aren’t as helpful for me. This may be because during stress, I tend to cut my head off from the rest of my body. 

However, when I use a 5 senses meditation, it’s one of the most effective ways to signal safety to my amygdala. It gets my body and mind back into the present moment. 

Doing a 5 senses meditation outside may offer the most benefits. In a 2010 study, participants reported that doing relaxation practices outside was more restorative than doing them in a simulated outside environment. 

There are so many mental health benefits of meditations recorded in the literature. However, we don’t have specific data on 5 senses meditations in particular. 

For me, the biggest benefit is how calming it is to get back grounded into my body and feel safe in my surroundings. Being a keen observer of my body and environment helps me release tension and gain perspective on whatever is stressing me out. 

Taking a minute or two to prioritize myself makes all the difference in my mood and well-being. So here’s exactly how to do it. 

How to Do a 5 Senses Meditation 

I like the 5 senses meditation because you can do it in any position you like. You can do it standing, sitting, or laying down. Some people might even do it while walking.

You may want to take a deep, slow breath as you start, but I find my breathing slows down naturally as I pay attention to my environment and my body. 

We are all prone to our minds wandering sometimes, so I like to hold whatever number I am on with my fingers so I don’t lose my place. It’s okay if your mind wanders elsewhere. That happens to everyone sometimes, and keeping your hand on the number can help you easily pick right back up where you left off. 

I know it can be hard to have self compassion when it doesn’t go perfectly, but remember that you are rewiring your brain to find calm! 

Let me share a few examples of how to do a 5 senses meditation so you can see exactly how it works. 

woman outside in fall

Here is an example of how to do it at a local park.

  • 5 sense of sight observations
    • Trees 
    • Bench 
    • Grass 
    • Clouds 
    • People 
  • 4 sense of sound
    • Wind in the grass 
    • Birds chirping 
    • Kids laughing 
    • Cars driving in the distance 
  • 3 sense of touch
    • Textures of my clothes 
    • Sensations where I’m sitting 
    • Sun on my skin 
  • 2 sense of smell
    • Swamp mud
    • Pine trees 
  • 1 sense of taste
    • Earthy wind 

However, even without the fresh air, you can do a 5 senses meditation inside at your desk or while you’re preparing dinner. If possible, I like to look out a window, but any type of long distance gazing is helpful.

5 senses meditation at desk

If I’m at work, to avoid distractions, I’ve made it a habit to mute my laptop, lock the screen, and flip over my phone. Here’s what I may observe: 

  • 5 different sights
    • Office door 
    • Coworkers chair 
    • Tree outside
    • Clouds outside 
    • Carpet texture
  • 4 different sounds
    • A custodian vacuuming 
    • My air filter whirling 
    • Traffic outside my window 
    • The heat blowing 
  • 3 different things you can feel
    • My chair under my thighs 
    • The table under my wrists 
    • My pants on my hips 
  • 2 subtle scents
    • A coworkers perfume or laundry detergent
    • Cardboard from a shipment 
  • 1 taste
    • My teeth 

Sometimes I will keep essential oils on my desk to inhale to captivate my sense of smell and as a visual cue to remember this practice. 

How to Fit a 5 Senses Meditation into Your Routines 

It only takes a moment to do a 5 senses meditation. You won’t regret pausing to fit this into your routine. 

Consider the times when you reach to scroll on your phone when you’re waiting and decide you’ll try a 5 senses meditation instead. 

  • Letting a pet outside – Waiting for your dog to go to the bathroom is the perfect time to step outside for a few moments 
  • Car pick-up line – Sitting in the car waiting is an ideal time for this 
  • Hopping on a video call – I like to click into video meetings a minute or two early, but I’ll keep my camera off and on mute until anyone else joins to do this 
  • Public transportation – Take a moment to intentionally notice your surroundings if you aren’t the one driving 
  • Sitting in a waiting room – Wherever you’re waiting for someone, prioritize yourself instead of mindless scrolling! 

Set an alert on your phone to go off right before you’d usually scroll. Or you can put a sticky note on your car’s dashboard. 

If you find you like it, you can make a 5 senses meditation part of your regular stress mastery strategy in daily life. 

More places to do a 5 senses meditation are: 

  • Walking to the mailbox – Build the intentional noticing into tasks you already do 
  • Bath – Light a candle and enjoy the different sensations of the water 
  • Sauna – You can stack your health habits by meditating in here 
  • Bed – You can do it laying in bed when you first wake up or before you fall asleep at night

It doesn’t have to be anywhere fancy. The important thing is that you prioritize giving yourself small breaks like this. 

I created this carousel you can save on Instagram and swipe through as well.

I hope you’ll add a 5 senses meditation to your arsenal of resources! 

Where will you try a 5 senses meditation? Share in the comments below! 

More Stress Mastery Ideas: 

Wish you could control your stress instead of feeling like it’s controlling your life, your sleep, and your temper?
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Dijk, E., & Weffers, M. (2010, July). Breathe with the ocean: A system for relaxation using combined audio and haptic stimuli. In Proc. Special Symposium on Haptic and Audio-Visual Stimuli: Enhancing Experiences and Interaction.

Franco, L. S., Shanahan, D. F., & Fuller, R. A. (2017). A Review of the Benefits of Nature Experiences: More Than Meets the Eye. International journal of environmental research and public health, 14(8), 864. 

Kjellgren, A., & Buhrkall, H. (2010). A comparison of the restorative effect of a natural environment with that of a simulated natural environment. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 30(4), 464–472. 

Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.

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