Travel is among the fastest means to shaking up our sensory experience and enlivening the senses. And the holiday season is a perfect time to experiment with this notion.
You could bemoan the hassle of buying expensive plane tickets, or the car GPS that tends to prefer roads that don’t exist, but rather than letting the stress of travel encroach on your holidays, why not take a more playful approach?
Among the many benefits of travel (especially during a festive season) is that by being in a different place (or even just more attentive to places we’ve been before) we are immediately transplanted out of our daily routine and into a world we must make anew each day.
All the small rituals that we take for granted like what mug will be used for coffee, or what we’ll do on Sunday morning are suddenly disrupted. We can bring a heightened level of awareness to everything we choose to do. Sure, this could be annoying, but it could also be fun.
Another benefit? You may just find yourself more fully immersed in the present moment.
Studies show that the more our minds drift the unhappier we become. Even if we’re engaged in an activity we don’t really like, as long as our minds are focused on the task, we’re happier than if we try to let our minds wander.
Read on for the best ways to engage each of your senses during the holiday travel season and prepare to find yourself happier than ever too!
SEE | One of the more obvious benefits of travel is the opportunity to see new sights and enjoy new views. Take in the people–their way of dressing or their mannerisms. Take in the landscape–the shape of the skyline and the play of light off store windows. You can do this even if you never leave town. As your drive around finishing your holiday shopping imagine that you’ve never been down those roads before. What new landmarks can you find? How do you know your next turn is approaching? Look at the road signs and play with the drive. Notice how your awareness shifts–you’ll no longer be thinking about your shopping list; instead you’ll be attentive to the task at hand. Instant mood boost!
SMELL | A certain cologne, fresh-baked cookies, the NYC subway… Our lives are captured in the smells of our day-to-day. Sometimes a certain odiferous experience can transport you back to a previous time and place, living on in your memory. Intentionally create new memories with your loved ones by fastening your attention to the smells of the holiday kitchen and table. For example, add a secret aromatic spice to your stuffing and see if anyone can guess what it is. This year pass on the roses and stop to smell your memories (in the making)!
HEAR | Some of you already have the Christmas music blaring but there are other, no less cheery, ways to amp up the sense of sound this season. Whenever I travel, I try to take particular care to listen to my environment. Are the birds different? What kind of accents can I hear? Whether you find yourself in a big city or small town, try to pinpoint as many different sounds as you can and pay close attention to how each sound makes you feel. From the cackle of your cousin’s laugh, to the bark of the family dog, let each noise become brand new, like you’ve never heard it before.
TASTE | The holidays offer an abundant smorgasbord of delicious-ness to delight our palates. From Thanksgiving turkey to Christmas cookies and Hanukkah latkes there’s no better time to treat your sense of taste. If you find yourself traveling this season, you have an even better opportunity to awaken your taste buds and enjoy the variety. If you’re out of town for a while, have your family take you to a local spot and try their favorite dish. Or take home a tasty souvenir that reflects the area’s specialty.
TOUCH | Shmoosh your feet into the sandy shore, kick up the desert dust, give a high five for the touch football score. Even better, exalt in the luscious textures of the season and cozy up with a hot mug and a soft blanket. But my holiday favorite? Indulge in a hug from friends and family. After a long day of travel, there’s nothing like a tight squeeze from a loved one to bring you the truest warm fuzzy feelings for the holidays.
Whether you’re traveling or staying put in the coziness of your home, there are plentiful opportunities to create in the moment, sensory experiences for yourself (and your loved ones). Experiences that will not only enrich your lives but also give a whole new meaning to having a happy holiday.
So, how will you experiment with your senses this holiday season?
Photo by Kholodnitskiy Maksim