Healing The Senses

Working in health care means that our senses are constantly barraged by traumatic experiences. Our eyes see horrendous suffering while our ears hear many unpleasant things. So much of our touching involves invading another person, however well-meaning, while our sense of smell…well we don’t have to define how unpleasant smelling can be in a hospital environment. Our sense of taste is assaulted when we feed patients awful tasting things as we sometimes notice our own mouths react as we feed them something that we know is bitter. On top of that, we tend to rush through our breaks and meals without even tasting our food. Finally, the sixth sense, that place of deeper knowing and understanding beyond our traditional senses is often discounted within the hospital environment as we face many different dilemmas in our care for patients. We need to be aware that our senses are being affected. When they become numbed by our experiences we can find ourselves shut off to other experiences as well. So what can you do to heal your sense? Try some of these ideas:

Sight – Take time to intentionally notice things around you. Don’t just notice that the trees are green but notice the many shades of green in the trees and even the different shades in the same tree. Look at pictures that bring you joy. Be attentive to colour and movement.

Sound – Listen to the sound of the rain falling. Play music that inspires you. Listen to the sounds of the city being attentive to how they affect you so that you become aware of when and how noise is affecting you. Spent a few minutes each day in intentional silence (even 5 minutes).

Touch – Take up a creative endeavour that allows you to use your hands like pottery, painting, sewing etc. Sink your hands into the garden and relish the myriad of textures. Be aware when you hold a child of the softness of their skin. Be attentive to everything you touch.

Taste – Actually take time to taste the food in your mouth. Notice when you swallow a hot or cold drink how it feels going down. Try new flavours, textures and combinations of food.

Smell – Stop and smell the roses (and all fragrances)! Not being able to wear perfume in health care is an advantage when you think that perfume can then remind you that you are on your way out for a fun time and allow that fragrance to become associated with a great time.

Intuition – Be attentive to the moments when “your gut” is telling you something. While we may not always be able to vocalize what we are sensing, we can always acknowledge it to ourselves. By being attentive to this sixth sense, we preserve this important sense that helps us to navigate our world.

Walking in nature is one of the most healing things that we can do precisely because it calls all of our senses to attention, often at the same time. At the end of the day, take a few minutes to think about how your senses were impacted by your day and then take the time to restore them so that they aren’t tuned out to the incredible sights, sounds, feelings, tastes, smells and experiences that life has to offer.


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About uhnspiritualcare

Spiritual Care Professional to Toronto Western Hospital with the University Health Network.

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