Sunday, November 20, 2011

Why Focus on Food, when we have 4 (or 5) Other Senses?

Call me a humanist, but I consider the most driving forces in a human being's life to be the pursuit of happiness, and pleasure.  When we do something that brings us pleasure, it sets off a reaction in the brain, flooding our senses with dopamine and serotonin and rewarding us for a certain activity.  This is a good thing, it causes us to do things that are good for our bodies and for the continuance of the human race.  Unfortunately, our bodies' reward systems cannot discern certain destructive behaviors from good ones.

This dopamine rush is addictive.  It occurs when we nourish our bodies with good food, it occurs when we get our heart pumping during a good cardio workout.  It also occurs when we do certain illegal drugs, and levels can skyrocket when we eat sugary foods.  These are not good things.

So why is it that we always seek that dopamine response when we're having a bad day?  We want to make ourselves feel better.  And the problem is, the easiest way to do this, is to reach for that delicious "reward" food, the higher in calories, the better!  This leads to a snowball effect.  Now every time we are sad, or don't feel that great, or have a bad day, we self-medicate with our favorite "bad" foods, and we don't use any other method of reward.

Why has our society neglected all the other senses?  We have 5 (some say 6) senses... let's use them!

Instead of relying on taste and food to raise your mood, let's take a look at some ways we can get the rush of happiness with the other 4 (or 5) senses.


The obvious second choice to taste, there are many ways to gain pleasure from the sensation of touch.  Here are a few examples:

- Petting your Pet.  Many scientific studies back the benefits to connecting with an animal through petting and snuggling them.  This creates a rush of endorphins, allows you to become emotionally connected with your pet, and also fulfills a social need within most people.

- Hugging.  Family, friends, remember to respect other's boundaries, but hugging, and touch in general can do a lot to connect you to someone.

- Crafts.  If you can find something you can actually do with your hands, sculpting soap, knitting, crochet, sewing, art, these things are multi-sense stimulators.

- Sports.  Rock climbing is one of the most touch-stimulating activities, and it also give you that awesome rush of adrenaline!  Playing a sport not only gives you tactile stimulation, but also gives you social interaction, something we don't always get enough of.

- Dance!


Walking outside on a sunny day can bring your mood up instantly.  Looking at beautiful art, or seeing a movie that excites your emotions can also be effective in reversing a bad day.  Here are some examples:

- See an art show at a museum.  Not only will you expand your cultural horizons, you will excite your visual senses, a sense we often take for granted and ignore.

- Go for a walk in a beautiful natural environment or botanical garden.  Enjoy the beauty we were meant to be experiencing.  Whether you're religious or not, we are a part of this world, we should engage in it.

- Look around, appreciate the craftsmanship of the furniture, the architecture of buildings, enjoy what sites you have around you.


Smell is part of taste.  Learn to appreciate smells that are not food smells.  These can also bring pleasure.

- Smell the Roses, the flowers, learn to discern the difference between different flowers.

- Go to a perfume shop and try to find a new perfume or cologne.

- Coffee is something I love the smell of.  It can actually erase a headache, just the smell of it!  Find out what your favorite smells are, and find a way to incorporate those smells in your home, or take the time to seek them out and enjoy them.


Auditory sensations can be some of the most rewarding.  How could you laugh, if you were unable to hear the joke?  Even visual humor is not as enjoyable without hearing the sounds that accompany it.

- Go to a comedy show, and enjoy the sounds and sites of a funny comedian.

- Listen to music that makes you happy.  If music affects your mood like it does to me, make sure to keep the sad music out when you're in a bad mood, and try to keep your music happy and rewarding.  Nothing gets me out of a bad mood quicker than putting on some music I can sing and dance to.

- Really listen to music.  When I was a kid, my step-dad used to sit me down and make me listen to his Braveheart music and other varieties of beautifully composed music.  He would point out where the music ebbed and flowed, how cool it was when certain instruments joined it, what it did to force your emotions to change with the tempo.  Enjoying music in this way was very enjoyable to me.

- Play an instrument.  Were you ever in band?  Play the piano?  If not, take up an instrument!  If so, get back into playing it.  Why rush home to eat a cookie, when you can rush home and play out a beautiful song?

Combine the Senses:

Dance to the music, sing to the music, and let yourself have some childlike fun.

See a play, dress up for a ballet, get out there and do something!

Life is short.  Let's stop making Date night about a dinner out and a movie.  Go do things, play games with your spouse or significant other, be a part of the world, do not just watch it go by.

If you can start getting out there... you're focus will shift from food, to enjoying life and all the activities and opportunities it has to offer you.

And for those that believe in a 6th sense..


- Allow yourself to tune in to your environment, and your own body.  Listen to it.  It will not lead you astray.

- Find something that speaks to you, it doesn't necessarily have to be "spiritual" but you need to nourish your mind and your intellect, and if you believe in souls, you need to nourish that too.  Don't neglect yourself.

- Take an honest look at yourself from time to time.  Find out what your lacking, and go get it!

If you take anything away from this post, I hope it is this: food is a means to nourish the body, but it is not the only sense we have.  Enjoy your food, enjoy taste, but remember to also enjoy the rest of your senses as well.  If you keep a well balanced mind and body, and you use all the tools you've been given, food will no longer be your captor, but will assist you in keeping good health.  If you can look at it in this way, you can make smart and nutritious choices, stop focusing on food all the time, and get on with your life!

Love to all of you!  Your favorite Round Rock Trainer,