By Allison From-Tapp, Psy.D., HSP
With the multitude of holidays upon us, it is sometimes hard to remember to stop and breathe and notice all that is around us. As we busily move about our days, we often move so quickly that we get stuck in a loop of busyness. When that happens, we may take things for granted. Mindfulness helps us slow down and pay attention to even the smallest of things.
About a week before Thanksgiving, I got COVID for the first time. It was a hard blow as I deemed myself one of the immune, but it finally got me (even though I had the most recent booster just five weeks earlier). While the general illness itself wasn’t terrible, the Thursday before Thanksgiving I completely lost my senses of taste and smell. I now know, those are things I often take for granted.
I forget to hold gratitude for the importance of all my senses. What I learned over the next week or two is that taste and smell are essential for my well-being. I practice mindfulness throughout the day, which often includes smell. I stop and practice a few deep breaths any time I pass by something smelly: a candle, a flower, fresh laundry, an herb plant, my lotion, seriously almost anything! “Stop and smell the roses” is a good mantra for many things! And when I couldn’t smell . . . it felt miserable and even a bit scary. I also delight in good food, often cooking for our family, so being unable to taste left me feeling empty, sad, and even less useful.
My senses have fortunately returned and I feel tremendous gratitude. Even the less pleasant things (that wet dog smell this weekend!) still bring a thankfulness that I have the ability to take in everything. And it comes with a knowledge that we can and do lose important things over time. When we do, we have to learn how to shift and adapt. But, while we are able to use the senses we have, I will try to remember to be grateful every day. I will continue to practice just being in each moment and savoring it to the best of my ability.
This is especially true around the holidays. Many of us may get to spend time with loved ones who we may not see as often. My challenge for us all is to be intentional about the moments we spend with them. Embrace the time you have with the people (and pets) you love and when you can, allow yourself distance from those who don’t bring you joy and peace.
In a previous blog we introduced you to the first leg in our campus mindfulness tour. Here is the second.
Mother Catherine Spalding Square: If you have an extra moment, take a seat to breathe and relax. While you sit just notice the things around you. Notice everything your senses can take in. What does it smell like? What do you hear? What can you see? What can you touch that is within reach? Take a moment to see what it feels like. If you have food or a drink, more deeply notice how it tastes. Then just breathe, softly through your nose and then let out a deep exhale. Try this breathing a few times before you move on with your day.