On Halloween, we thought it might be fitting to write a post on creature comforts. But what does this mean? Certainly not ghosts, ghouls, and goblins, but those intimate pleasures in life that bring us the most comfort and joy, if we simply pay attention to them. With the last of the colourful leaves falling, and autumn coming to a close, the time is opportune, for tuning in to our “creature comforts” as we move into the colder winter months. Mindfulness practice encourages us to pay attention to the present moment, as it is the greatest gift we have. It teaches us to notice the small details in our lives and moment-to-moment experiences, so that we may appreciate their subtleties. This will be our focus in today’s post. To us, creature comforts have to do with observing our five basic senses, and deeply enjoying the simple pleasures they could provide us. Have a read through our list, and think about what comfort means to you; do you have any particular creature comforts?
1) Sense of Touch – Feeling Warm: feeling warm and cozy has to be one of the most delightful experiences. Aside from the numerous healing properties of certain herbal teas, and their anxiolitic or soothing effects, the feeling of a warm beverage being consumed constitutes something special. Mindfulness would have you attend to the details of this warming, comforting feeling. Does it calm you down? Does it make you feel nostalgic or bring up a cherished memory? Or does it simply help warm you up from the outside cold? What about putting on a sweater or dressing gown that’s just come out of the dryer, or stepping into a warm bath? Or feeling the soft fur of your beloved pet? Feeling warm is a powerful source of comfort for many individuals. The next time you enjoy a warm beverage or curl up beneath a blanket, we encourage you to take note of how it makes you feel, and appreciate those precious details.
2) Sense of Taste – Cooking & Sharing: few activities are more therapeutic than spending an afternoon in the kitchen. Granted, not everybody likes to cook, but most do like to enjoy a home-cooked meal. As a foodie, I deeply enjoy both. Besides the therapeutic process of getting lost in your favourite recipe, or reading a book while the stew simmers, the experience of eating, or sharing a meal with those you care about can be incredibly pleasurable and comforting. We often eat on the go, or in a hurry, and Mindfulness practice alerts us to the fact that we often eat our food on “autopilot,” not necessarily even aware of what we are eating, and certainly not attending to what it tastes like. The next time you eat a meal, try eating it slowly, away from your computer or mobile device. Appreciate each bite and the flavours it offers. If sharing a meal with someone you love, consider your efforts in preparing it, and fully immerse yourself in the gastronomical experience. It is remarkable how comforting our sense of gustation can be, if we simply pay attention.
3) Sense of Smell – Aromatherapy: to me, there is nothing that can awaken a memory or evoke emotion, like a scent. I still remember the smell of the aftershave my father wore when I was a child. It would fill the car on our way to daycare. Four-year-old me was very attached to dad and always riddled with nerves at daycare drop-off, so the smell of this particular cologne, to this very day, makes me feel anxious. Our sense of olfaction is extremely powerful, and as much as it can stimulate unpleasant memories, it can likewise evoke pleasant ones as well as positive emotion. Aromatherapy would be the technical term used to describe this process. It is a form of alternative medicine known to stimulate parts of the brain that are responsible for olfaction, which then alerts our limbic system (responsible for emotion) to retrieve pleasant memories or simply calm the nervous system. Specific essential oils could facilitate this process, but other pleasant odours can do the same, such as that of your favourite candle, meal cooking, or perfume. The intention with olfaction is simply, to notice. Notice what emotions different scents evoke for you, and appreciate them – even the less pleasant ones. Which ones do you find comforting? I know I love the smell of bonfires and cinnamon. So yes, I have both scents in candle form for when I need a little mood-lift.
4) Sense of Hearing – Your Favourite Song: music can arouse incredible emotion. When we need to release tension or anger, feel sorrow and cry, fully exert ourselves in exercise, or celebrate a special occasion, there is always “a song for that.” My partner and I like to have “vinyl nights,” where we put on our favourite records and simply listen to them, the old-school way; the way our favourite music was appreciated in its day. Play your favourite song and pay attention to how it makes you feel. Music could bring you back to different periods and moments in your life. Think about the songs that bring you the most joy. What kind of music do you find the most comforting? For me, there’s just something about Big Band that lifts my spirit, and come December 1st, I’m all about those Christmas carols, but that’s just me. What’s your jam?
5) Sense of Sight – Appreciation: vision may well be the sense we most often take for granted. We don’t really think about how fortunate we are to simply be able to see those traffic lights that consume us with frustration. Often considered to be the most crucial of our senses for evolutionary purposes usually involving safety, “sights” are likewise to be enjoyed. Take a look outside your window and appreciate the plethora of colours; oranges, reds, and yellows, peppering the trees and draping the ground like an autumnal canvas. These are gifts, if we learn to see them as such. Appreciate your eyes, and all that they allow you to experience. Think about what visual stimuli or sights bring you the most comfort and joy. Old photographs? Your favourite film? The sight of your family and loved ones? There is a world of colour to be enjoyed, and Mindfulness practice will tell us to awaken ourselves to it.
Tuning into the subtle comforts our five senses can provide, especially from a Mindfulness perspective, can actually improve mental health and reduce anxiety or depressive symptoms. Opening our minds to such nuanced pleasures will encourage gratitude and increase our well-being. We hope this post has encouraged you think about what brings you the most comfort. It might take a little more attention, but in time, you’ll find the things that bring you the most joy, are the little things; the intimate details you could touch, taste, smell, hear, and see for yourself.