The Season in 5 Senses: Finding Calm, Centered, Peaceful Moments

Posted on December 21, 2022 at 6:00 am

By Abra Cole

For some of us, this is the season of overwhelm. Expectations we have for ourselves or that others have for us can be downright unbearable during the holidays.

This year, I propose trying a different approach to the holiday season. Namely, let’s take a step back, give ourselves a little space, and try to find more meaning in doing less.

If you have anxiety, you may have learned the 5-4-3-2-1 technique. This is a fairly simple yet effective method for calming our minds when we’ve reached a breaking point. It is designed to refocus our minds on the present by way of the five senses—sight, smell, touch, taste, and sound—and turn our minds away from the spiraling thoughts that can fuel anxiety.

Here’s how to use the 5-4-3-2-1 technique:

  • Find a spot to sit down, and focus your attention on five things that you can see.
  • Then, find four things you can smell.
  • Next, identify three things you can hear.
  • Then, notice two things you can touch.
  • And finally, identify one thing you can taste.

By the end of this exercise, your mind will hopefully feel less crowded with uneasy thoughts, and you will be more grounded in the present.

This winter and holiday season, we can do this on a slightly larger scale as well. If you are feeling anxious, scattered, or in any way flustered, you could try this out to see if you feel more centered once you’ve finished.

5 Things to See This Winter Season

  1. Lights bright on houses and in yards
  2. The sun as it turns the snow to glitter
  3. Prints in the snow—hoof, paw, claw—of the various cats, birds, squirrels, and deer that wander through your neighborhood
  4. Your breath in the cold winter air
  5. People helping other people

4 Things to Smell

  1. Evergreen boughs
  2. Gingerbread cookies baking
  3. Cloves stuck into oranges
  4. Wood burning in a fireplace

3 Things to Hear

  1. The hushed silence of the snow falling outside
  2. Laughter of neighborhood kids (and adults) engaged in a snowball fight
  3. The calming sounds of your favorite seasonal album

2 Things to Touch

  1. A soft blanket to cuddle up in
  2. The crisp pages of a cookbook as you flip through, looking for a new soup recipe to try

1 Thing to Taste

  1. A cup of creamy hot cocoa or spicy hot cider after spending time outdoors in the cold

For these five steps, you can substitute your personal favorites for any of those I’ve suggested above.

Hopefully, this technique will help you get through this winter season with more calm. And whether you’re feeling stress about the weather, the holidays, or anything else, I wish you peaceful winter moments and a hope-filled new year.

More for the 5 Senses

Here are some materials to help inspire calm moments through the five senses. You’ll find these books and CDs in our library catalog. Give one a try!

For Sight

For Smell

For Hearing

For Touch

For Taste  

Abra Cole

Abra Cole works as a Public Services Specialist for Spokane County Library District. She enjoys engaging with library customers, including hearing about their favorite books, hearing about how their gardens are growing, and helping them solve technology troubles with personal mobile devices and the library’s 3D printer. In her free time, she enjoys gardening, expanding her fiber-arts skills, and hanging out in the woods with her family.

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