Using Your Five Senses in Recovery

Whether you attend regular Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings or 12 Step meetings, it’s a good idea to add other measures of help to your recovery skills. You never know when you will have an adverse reaction to an event or circumstance and suddenly become ungrounded. Ungrounded can be interpreted as not being fully present, thrown into a tissy, feeling anxious or out of control.

You have immediate access to your five senses. That’s good to know, although when we are hit by a crisis are brain doesn’t always navigate inward for help. We think of help as external. It takes practice, to be able to access your inner strength. One helpful skill is using your five senses for help when you’re caught off guard by anxiety.

For the sake of practice, name three things for each of your five senses (hear, smell, touch, taste and see) you notice or can think in the present moment. Is there a certain scent or essential oil you love? What kind of music soothes you? Pay attention to the clothes you are wearing. Do they please your tactile senses or are they too tight, do they itch or feel greasy? Can you close your eyes and taste three of your favorite foods? What do you love to look at: horses, birds, the color of leaves in spring or the ocean? Notice how your anxiety shifts when you use your senses. Are you feeling more grounded?

There’s a great saying in AA: fake it till you make it. Look at that person’s posture—they must take good care of themselves and be self-confident. Notice your self-perception when you slouch or sit with your shoulders hunched. Try sitting up straight or walk with perfect posture like a ballerina. Do you notice a change in your mood? Conjure an image of yourself when you feel strong, alert and content? Whatever it is, make a mental picture of it. Try bringing it to mind when you feel anxious, ungrounded or conflicted.

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