Category Archives: 5 senses

Finding Your Five

This past week I had several conversations with people, from clients to strangers to family and friends, all about how to find your five, and why it’s so important to do so, regularly.

What is “Finding your five?”

It’s about identifying what you can do and what works for you to find pause in only five minutes, thereby restoring some balance to your day. When I worked in corporate America, I stumbled upon this idea and quickly adopted it into my life and adapted it to other situations. Here’s what happened:

I worked at a high-stress luxury retailer for a number of years. Before that I was a fundraiser for a major medical school. Both of these jobs required a lot of management, interaction, and attention. And there were a lot of personalities moving about, mine included. At the fundraising job, I had an office with a door, so it became easy (i.e. not mindful) for me to close the door for 5-10 minutes, listen to a song or just read something not work-related. It was a mindless balm in the middle of a busy day.

At the retailer, I was in an office with two other women, so privacy was not an option. I learned quickly how to create my own privacy by going to the restroom. Specifically, I went to the restroom on a different floor. Whether or not I had to use the facilities, I went when I needed 5 minutes. I didn’t have a smartphone, so there was no email, music or internet to go through and busy myself, which was better for me. I would go to the restroom, go into a stall, close the door and sit on the edge of the toilet, and simply breathe. I’d think of things that made me happy, and quietly breathe until I felt a bit of balance and stress-alleviation return to my body. It usually took 5 minutes, sometimes less.

I have since taught clients, friends and family this little trick, and it works in every situation. Why? Because nobody can (or will) stop you from going to the bathroom. It’s almost an uncomfortable subject, so people just nod in acknowledgement when you say you have to go, and you leave. It’s always an option, and it’s the easiest way I know of to take five, without conflict.

Furthermore, the truth is there is really very little that can prevent you from taking five. If you’re a surgeon, perhaps it’s not the best idea to take a potty break in the middle of your work. Then again, if I’m ever being operated on (and it’s not life-threatening), if my surgeon really needs a 5-minute break for physical and/or emotional reasons, I’d much rather he/she take their 5 than push through it while working on me.

So, the question is: What’s your 5?

Here are some examples for you to consider that focus on the five senses:

  • Taste: food, specifically dark chocolate.If you like chocolate, test this out. Grab a piece, put it in your mouth, and set a stopwatch. Without chewing, see how long it takes to dissolve completely. Experience it melting, focusing on nothing else. My guess is it will be more than 5 minutes and you’ll feel quite relaxed afterward.
  • Listening: Music or a podcast, depending on what works for you, are a great way to take 5. Choose something uplifting that gets your head and heart moving. Pick a favorite song (or songs) that last about 5 minutes and keep them with you at the ready. Or do the same with a podcast or something from YouTube.
  • Seeing: Visual beauty, however you define it, inspires and brings us joy. If that’s a walk among flowers and trees, great! If it’s looking at a favorite painting or item, also wonderful. The key is to keep it readily available and easily accessible. It’s a visual cue you create to signal to your body that it’s time to pause, breathe and relax. (A caution here: if you choose an image with people you know in it, it may not have the same calming effect as it could stir up emotions. For example, a picture of your kids might make you smile, but then it might make you think of the errands you need to run for their school supplies, which may not be relaxing.)
  • Seeing, part 2: Reading is a great way to take 5. Anything supportive, inspirational, or uplifting can recharge you. Exploring positive words on a page enriches both your mind and your heart.
  • Smelling: Aromatherapy has been around for millennia, because it works. Whether or not it works for you is a matter of trial and error with different scents. For calming and stress-release, try lavender, sandalwood, ylang-ylang or chamomile. Invest in a small bottle of essential oil and carry it with you. When you take 5, open the bottle take a sniff and see how your body responds. You may be surprised.
  • Feeling: This is my favorite! Why? Because, for me, it encompasses all the others. When I touch or feel something that uplifts me, such as a favorite blanket or even item of clothing, it brings back memories of sounds, images, smells, and/or tastes from experiences in the past. A simple item can trigger some of the happiest most joy-filled memories, which enhances any mini-break. Petting my dog is similar. There’s a reason having pets in a nursing home helps to improve the morale of the residents.
  • Feeling, part 2: The best feeling I’ve found, however, is the sensation of breath. Breathing with attention is about feeling everything going on inside you. It’s not touch, per se, but it’s still feeling. With each breath, your skin becomes more alive and responsive to slight breezes, for example. Breathing consciously for 5 minutes is the best way I know to find my five.

Whatever your 5 is, find it, name it, and use it. Regularly and often. Not only will you become more adept at self-care and knowing yourself, but you’ll feel a lot better too!

[And remember: small changes, over time, lead to big results. Five minutes is perfectly sized to create something great!]