Five Senses Check In

A Five Sense Check-In (Getty Edition)

About six months ago, I spent a Saturday at the Getty Museum.

After walking around the various exhibits on display, I sat out in the garden for a little while, and before I left I did a five senses check-in and wrote the details in my notebook.

I forgot about it for a little while, but recently found it and wanted to share. I love the way these check-ins can fully capture a moment. I remember everything about sitting there writing this, and it made me want to go back!

5 Things I See

1) The garden, made up of all kinds of colors. There are purples, oranges, and yellows. Flashes of red, hints of blue and never-ending variations of green.

2) People. There are families, couples, individuals, photographers, and friends.

3) Clothes. Alongside the smiling faces and posing people, I see so many unique outfits. Some are casual, comfortable, made for walking around the museum. Some are trendy, fashion forward, an expression of style and color much like the art you’d see inside. And others are bordering on fancy, as if they were going or coming from church. They dressed up for the occasion—for the art and the artists.

4) Levels of people and plants. The garden is set in three different levels, giving people a few paths to take around the garden. I’m on the second level, sitting on a bench, and people move both in front of me and behind me. Off in the distance is a big grassy hill where people walk or sit down, taking a break, and enjoying the outside, even if it’s a little chilly today.

5) The Getty. Beyond the garden and beyond the hill is the Getty itself. Tall and beautiful. It is relaxing to look at, and can be viewed as a background to the garden or an element of the foreground with the sky behind it.

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4 Things I Hear

1) Footsteps in the dirt path. Both slow scraping steps from tennis shoes or flats, and quick clicking steps from heels or wedges.

2) Mumbles of multiple conversations taking place around me. Most prominently “did I get it?” or, “do you want me to take another one?” in regards to the series of photographs being taken all around the garden.

3) The water from the fountain. It is a steady stream of water but it is not too loud or overpowering to the rest of the natural noise. It acts like background music, cutting through the silence but not in a distracting way.

4) Children laughing in the distance as they roll down the tall grassy hill. Their laughs echo off the building and travel across the water to me. They are having a good day.

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3 Things I Feel

1) The wood bench beneath me. It is hard but supportive. When a couple sits down next to me, a single plank pushes a little harder into my back. But they quickly decide to move on and the plank relaxes behind me.

2) Tickles of a plant beside me. When I move my head, the leaves casually brush against the back of my neck, flicking my pony tail, causing it to wobble.

3) A small breeze that, when combined with the cloudy sky that the sun can’t quite break through, can be cold. I’m glad I wore a jacket, but I have a bit of a chill! I think I might pick up ramen for dinner on my way home. (And I did!)

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2 Things I Smell

1&2) The flowers. It is amazing to me how their scents can combine and compete, but not in the way that candles and colognes would. They blend and compliment one another, waiting patiently to take their turn as you shift your head or walk around the garden. Each spot on the path has a different scent, and even that can change based on how close you stand to the flowers.

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1 Thing I Taste

1) Perhaps the briefest memory of the jolly rancher I had earlier. That reminds me—I’m hungry.


You can find more Five Sense Check-Ins here.

A Five Senses Check-In (Omicron Edition)

Hello there.

A little while back I started doing these senses check-ins (I’ve done two so far, this one and this one) and I thought it might be time for another one.

This one will be a little bit different than the rest, as I wasn’t outside, amongst the sights and smells of nature, but rather stuck in my room, sick (like seemingly everyone else) with the Omicron variant of Covid-19.

This was my first and (hopefully) only run-in with Covid, which I know makes me very lucky. My family managed to steer clear of it for a while, but Omicron seems to be leaving no stone left unturned. In fact, I was one of the last men standing at my job (and the last woman standing, if you will) as our staff of 13 was picked off one by one, leaving I believe only one person without a positive diagnosis.

Thus, there I was. In my room. Waiting for it to be over.

I wrote this post on Thursday, and have since finally started to feel better, but I like that this is a little glimpse into what I was doing and feeling. I really tried to keep my mind busy since my body couldn’t do much of anything, and this made me feel productive.


Five things I can see

1) The television, slowly flipping through different Google chrome screensavers

2) The very top leaves of my ZZ plant (because it sits on the floor) which continues to thrive and grow.

3) The light coming through the lace curtains that hang in front of my bedroom window.

4) The wrinkles in my comforter, undoubtedly from my continuous fidgeting and occasional napping.

5) My feet, in adidas socks, stretched out in front of me—out from under a blanket for the first time in a while.

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Four things I can hear

1) Cars driving by outside. I’ve heard the occasional police car and ambulance, a sporadic honk from impatient drivers, and the start and (sometimes not quite) stops of cars at the stop signs surrounding my apartment building.

2) My sister, moving around in the kitchen and living room. I can hear her cleaning and organizing, starting our (very loud) dishwasher, and planning out the rest of her day.

3) A conversation taking place outside, a woman calling to her neighbor about her dog and the other woman talking to the dog in a high pitched, loving voice.

4) Creaks in the ceiling from the upstairs neighbor moving around, and miscellaneous doors in the building opening and shutting.

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Three things I can feel

1) The effects of Covid. For me, it is massive fatigue and chest tightness (as of now). I’ve had the occasional fever, but nothing too high, and there is some slight congestion in my head that is making my ears click.

2) The pillow behind my back. My favorite spot to sit in the house is a chair in the living room that reclines. More often than not, when people come over I’m sitting in that chair, eating or writing, or working on a cross stitch. But since I’m sick, I’m spending most of my time in my room, sitting on my bed with a pillow propped up behind my back when I feel like I can sit up. It’s amazing how much sitting up can make you feel like a human when you’ve spent a few hours laying down.

3) The Kate Spade blanket beside me. It was a birthday gift, and it has been the coziest companion. Before I got sick, it was my go-to napping blanket, but for the past couple days it’s become more or less an additional appendage. (Thanks Kristine!)

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Two things I can smell

1) To be honest, I can’t smell anything, and that’s not because I’ve lost taste and smell (thank goodness) but because I’ve been sitting in this room for so long, that any discernable smells (which now that I say that, I honestly hope there aren’t any), have long gone unnoticed. I did just take a deep inhale through my nose however, and should nasal congestion join this party in the coming days, I’m trying to remember what that’s like.  (Thankfully, it never did!)

2) All this talk about not being able to smell anything made me sad, so I lit a candle given to me by my sister for Christmas, and now the room smells good.

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One thing I can taste

1) Cold Water. I have been trying to diligently drink as much as possible, as I know it’s important to stay hydrated when you’re sick. And I just love cold water.


Sending well wishes from my (currently four walled) corner of the world.

Stay hydrated, stay healthy—or if you’re like me, get better!

A Five Senses Check-In

Back in October I wrote this post—inspired by The Next Right Thing podcast—that was all about connecting to your senses in order to find some peace amongst the fear of the future and chaos of the present.  

Right now, I have a lot of moving pieces in my life, a lot of things that I don’t feel like I have control over and that are changing. As a result, I have been pouring myself into projects, exercise, and goal setting in order to combat the corresponding anxiety. Yesterday, after getting home from work a little earlier than usual, and with the sun out and the weather an incredible 75 degrees outside, I found myself debating over how I could be productive. Should I go for a run, a walk, a hike, do yoga, do work, write, clean, read, pray? What could I do to make myself feel good, or better, or at the very least, calm.

After a while, I decided to do a little yoga, even though I spent the first few minutes frustrated and unwilling to participate. I pretended to relax until I actually relaxed. Then, I sat down on my bed and tried to map out my plan for the rest of my evening—instantly going back to that place of demanded productivity.  My mind was racing and I felt like I was wasting time. But then, I felt the breeze come through my bedroom window. And then I noticed that the sun had turned golden with the evening and there were birds chirping outside. And then I thought back to that post, and I thought it was a fitting time to shift my focus back to the present—“to what is rather than what we are afraid could be.”

Here’s what I wrote down:

Five things I can see

  1. The golden hour sunlight shining through the window
  2. The flickering shadows casted on my bed, my floor and my wall from my blinds
  3. A branch of the palm tree in my backyard swaying in the breeze
  4. The collage on my wall that I made to inspire me whenever I look at it
  5. My newly painted pink toenails

Four things I can hear

  1. The bells of the church down the road that mark the start of every hour
  2. Birds chirping—a reminder that spring is so close!
  3. Neighbors chatting and laughing
  4. A UPS truck driving in the distance

–Three things I can feel

  1. The evening breeze that is cool but no longer cold
  2. The soft comforter that sits on top of my bed
  3. Hunger. The excited kind of hunger you feel when you know what you’re making for dinner and you can’t wait to have it. Looking at you Naan pizza.  

–Two things I can smell

  1. The laundry detergent I used to clean the cozy sweatshirt I’m wearing
  2. Fresh air from my open window

–One thing you can taste

  1. Cold water

There are a lot of things that we can’t control, but there are also a lot of moments that we can choose not to let control us. As it turned out, there were plenty of good things to find on what tried to become a very stressful afternoon. And while I can’t guarantee that anxiety won’t sneak its way back into my shoulders, as I sat there, allowing myself to feel the breeze, to listen to the family next door joke and laugh, and to watch the sun turn gold, I knew everything was going to be okay, and that I could take a deep breath and relax.

Finding Focus with Your Senses

With so much going on and so many reasons to both worry about the future and get lost thinking about the past, it is easy to lose sight of the present.

I know I have a tendency of focusing on the if/when’s of the future or the “if only’s” of the past, and at times I can think and worry about them until I spiral down to a point of near paralysis. As a result, I often look for ways to reconnect to the present moment, as it’s the only thing I have any control over.

Recently, on an episode of the podcast The Next Right Thing, host Emily P. Freeman shared an exercise geared to get you back into the present moment by focusing on the senses. She said, “senses bring us back to the present moment, reminding us what is rather than what we are afraid could be.”

The exercise asks you to notice and/or write down the following:

Five things you can see

Four things you can hear

Three things you can feel

Two things you can smell

One thing you can taste

As I write this blog in a low sitting chair on the beach, this is how I would go through the exercise:

Five things I can see

  1. The waves moving in and out
  2. A ship far off in the distance
  3. My brother’s sandy feet
  4. The freckles on my knees
  5. A feather stuck in the sand

Four things I can hear

  1. The ocean
  2. Kids playing and laughing
  3. An airplane overhead
  4. A seagull squawking

Three things I can feel

  1. A slight breeze
  2. The sand between my toes
  3. The heat of the late morning sun

Two things I can smell

  1. The ocean
  2. Fresh (non smoky) air

One thing I can taste

  1. The bagel I ate for breakfast

What I love about this exercise is that it can bring you into the present both to diffuse a stressful or anxious situation, or to magnify a good one. It can bring good things into focus so you can appreciate them and it can bring negative things into focus so you can move away from them. It can also act as a good distraction from intrusive or anxious thoughts, and give you something to do for a few minutes besides just breathe—which sometimes just doesn’t cut it.

This exercise can be a great go-to on anxious days, long trips to the DMV, stressful family gatherings, slow moving traffic, mornings when it’s hard to get out of bed, nights when it’s hard to fall asleep—really any time when your mind needs something to focus on…other than what it’s currently focusing on. Or, on good days, it can be used to focus and perhaps memorize the things around you that make this moment perfect so that you can remember it forever.