Two weeks ago I spent an entire day focusing on my senses. I eliminated anything that overstimulated my senses, and focused on activities that would stimulate my senses in a positive way.
I work with children with disabilities, and many of my students have Autism. Autism is a “disorder” (I don’t like that word!) that often effects the sensory input or output of an individual. For example, the feeling of clothes might be too much sensory input on their skin, so when wearing tight clothing they are constantly overstimulated. Or it can go the other way, I have one student who often craves the input of a hat on his head. But Autism doesn’t just affect the “touch” sense, it can affect all senses. In our classroom I have tried to address all senses, which is why I felt it was important to spend an entire day focusing on my own sensory inputs. I wanted to try to understand what it was like to be totally overwhelmed by the world surrounding me.
So here are my rules for the day, broken down by the 5 senses:
Sight – Very limited artificial light. Artificial lights only used when there was no other option. No screens of any kind. I duck taped my phone to only show the time, and I could still swipe across if someone called. It did not leave my phone sticky, and it was easy to remove.
Sound – I really hate to hear my own voice day in and day out, constantly talking to students, so I decided to speak as little as possible. I wanted to turn inward and listen to my thoughts, not my voice. I should also mention my husband was out of town. I live with my parents, and I told them beforehand what I was planning to do. I also decided no music, radio, podcasts, or any artificial sounds. No restaurants, no shopping, no busy streets.
Taste – The only rule here I had was no restaurants, because even though I love to eat out, often times the food can be overwhelmingly flavored, which is great, but I wanted a low input day. So I made all my food at home, and tried to eat as mindfully as possible. I also decided to eat all meals outside to enhance the experience.
Touch – I wore comfortable clothing all day, nothing that felt constricting or tight. It was my typical weekend uniform though, I don’t usually choose clothes that feel tight. I also made a decision to spend at least 30 minutes with my shoes off and feet connecting to the earth. You can read more about the effects of this can the benefits of negative ions here.
Smell – I diffused a blend of essential oils most of the day in my room, but I also just paid attention to the smell of cigarette smoke, cleaning supplies, and other bad smells throughout my day and avoided them as much as possible. The blend of essential oils I used was lavender, eucalyptus, and tee tree. In the evening I lit many candles in my room and enjoyed the perfumey and earthy smell.
So those were my parameters. I documented the day with my camera, and I kept my journal close by to write down my thoughts.
8AM to 11AM – I woke up, and within 7 minutes I had fed the cat, brushed my teeth, washed my face, gotten dressed, made the bed, put in my contacts, and taken my vitamins. On a typical weekday this whole routine takes me at least 30 minutes. I just couldn’t believe how much time I saved by not checking my phone and watching the news.
11PM to 11:30AM – After I ate breakfast on the porch I read The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog (I have a few kids with severe trauma in their past). I read a lot of it. I just kept reading! There was not a lot else to do. I started to get a little burnt out from the book, so I did some food prep and also worked in the garden for half an hour or so.
11:30PM to 2PM – I had to take my mom and our dogs to the groomer, so I was in the fluorescents for about 10 minutes. Other than that it was a fairly uneventful car ride. After eating lunch on the porch, I came upstairs and just sat in my bedroom. What do I do now?
2PM to 4PM – I read for a lot longer. I finished Forest Bathing, which was driving some of my motivations for doing a low sensory day. After I finished I walked to Forest Park, and I walked around for about 2 hours. I slowly meandered around my favorite places, then sat in the grass under a tree and stuck my feet in the ground. Right before I left I wrote in my journal “I feel like my tank is being filled up, like I’m getting something from the earth.” I know, super hippy dippy. That’s just how it felt.
4PM to 10PM – I cooked myself dinner and also a quiche we brought to the mother’s day brunch at my grandma’s. After over 12 hours of no artificial light, I turned the lights on around 8:30PM. I took a bath at sunset, and lit a bunch of candles. After my bath I tried to continue reading by candlelight but I just couldn’t do it. One of the lightbulbs in my bedroom is a smart light, so I turned the brightness down to about 20%. Before my bath, at 7:30 or so I really just wanted to turn on the TV. I was pretty bored, and the book about the psychology of kids experiencing trauma was bringing me down. So I perused my bookshelf and found The Last Mrs. Parrish, which I got for Christmas. I decided to draw a bath and use a Lush bath melt, and start this new book. My night was kind of taken over after I started reading it. I couldn’t put it down. I wouldn’t say this is a literary masterpiece, but it totally gripped me. I read almost half of it before I fell asleep.
At the very end of the night I wrote that I felt like I had spent the whole day at the spa. But I hadn’t, I had just let myself be lost in my senses, and I said no to input that felt bad. It was that simple. I slept so well that I hardly moved my sleeping position all night. And this relaxed feeling kept me feeling energized the rest of the week.
I personally don’t have time to do this every weekend, but I think a monthly practice would do wonders for me. Next I will try a Low Sensory Hour after a particularly rough day, and I would also love to do a Low Sensory Weekend.
What do you think? Would you ever try it?