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Reasons to Hope

The 5 Senses of Gratitude

On the Cumberland River in Nashville, just before the solar eclipse. Photo: Kate Tucker

Four months into writing the Book of Hope together, we might be full on gratitude professionals, or, more likely in need of a refresh. What better way to get back to the basics than to start with what we can see, hear, taste, touch, and smell? There’s a childlike simplicity to approaching gratitude with the five senses. It’s humbling to realize that gratitude is not overly complicated, nor is it reserved for those magical people who seem always to be happy. Gratitude is for everyone, and it’s actually not that difficult to feel really good, when we let our senses guide us through each moment. 

If you’re like me and the idea of feeling really good in the middle of a stressful week seems insane, you’re in the right place. The very attempt to practice gratitude daily is setting us up for success, as studies have shown it’s not the intensity of our positive feelings, but the frequency that predicts our overall well being. So even when we’re not feeling it… gratitude is working in our lives. 

To help boost the frequency, let’s start with our five senses and see where that takes us. 

My sister Jo and her horse Pippie.

Sight 

We humans are wired to appreciate beauty. It’s all over the Old Testament, especially the Psalms as David and the Psalmists praise God for his beauty, for the beautiful Earth he’s created, and for light itself, with which we see God’s wonders. “For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.” 

Beauty inspires us, evoking a sense of awe and wonder, which naturally results in gratitude and gives hope even in the darkest of circumstances. Beauty reminds us that God has placed eternity in our hearts, as Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes 3:11. “He has made everything beautiful in its time…” 

A magical show I got to play inside a barn in Winterset Iowa in the middle of an April snowstorm. Photo courtesy of Red Valise Recordings.

Sound

We’ve talked a lot about the power of music to heal and bring hope to our lives, from Our Story Our Song to our Reasons to Hope playlist — full of songs that have gotten us through hard times and give us reasons to rejoice today. There is a ton of research on why and how music affects our brains positively. For some absolutely heartwarming evidence, watch the documentary Alive Inside about the transformative effects of music on Alzheimer patients. 

Beyond music, what familiar sounds in your life make you happy? Maybe it’s the windchimes on your neighbor’s porch, or the church bells a block away, or the birds and their merry songs of spring. Stop to listen and you’ll hear an orchestra of delights. 

Sharing a hot fudge brownie sundae with Isabella. She always gets the best part.

Taste

The most pleasing of the senses at certain times of day, taste can easily become a casualty to convenience in our busy lives. But when we stop to savor the abundant goodness of what we eat and drink, gratitude is soon to follow. 

What are your favorite foods? How can you give yourself a little more time at the dinner table to truly enjoy both food and family? Does cooking help us connect with our food in a deeper, more gratifying way? What could we bake for someone we love, to show them our appreciation? 

Rocket Pants stops to smell (and eat) the roses. 

Smell

Smell is said to be our oldest sense, and in many ways it seems the most evocative in that it can conjure forgotten memories in an instant. But did you know that certain scents can actually make us feel happier? Studies have shown that pine, citrus, peppermint, rosemary, fresh cut grass, flowers, and sunscreen support feelings of wellbeing. That’s good news heading into spring and summer, and good motivation to get outside in the garden. 

What are the fragrances of your childhood? What happy memories do certain scents bring up? Do you have a favorite candle you light in the morning? Is there a place you could create an indoor herb garden to brighten your kitchen and your mood? 

Siblings wade into the Cumberland for a closer look at the solar eclipse about to take place in Nashville. 

Touch 

The most active of our senses, touch is a powerful way to communicate and receive compassion, to feel connected and fully alive. After a year of social distancing, there’s no need to explain the importance of hugs, handshakes or a gentle pat on the back, and there’s plenty of research to back that up. In fact, studies show touch to be fundamental to human communication, bonding, and health. 

If we can’t hug all the ones we love at this very moment, what else can we appreciate with touch? Perhaps that set of bed sheets you’ve washed so many times they’re like the softest t-shirt. Or the way your favorite coffee mug feels in your hands when the coffee is still too hot to drink. Or the feel of your feet on the floor when, for the first time this season it’s not too cold to go barefoot. Or my favorite — the spring breeze on my skin in the warm April sun. 

Writing the Book of Hope Week 16

Last week we got out and moved our bodies, feeling the aliveness in our limbs. Let’s build from there and sense our way into gratitude this week. Using all five senses, consider what comes to mind, what unique experience of gratitude or reason to hope that emerges. Take time to see, hear, taste, touch, or smell something that you appreciate, whether it’s really experiencing the loaf of bread you are baking from start to finish, or the candle you light in the morning to mark the start of the day. It can be as simple as looking into the eyes of your loved one as you practice active listening. The human body is a miraculous instrument and our senses write the music that is our life. 

Post a picture representing your gratitude for each of the five senses and tag us @rootandivnenews #reasonstohope or share it on our Pinterest. We love hearing from you! 

If you’re new to the Book of Hope, welcome! Here’s all you need to know to get started.

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