We have now reached the final post of our three-part series focusing on our five basic senses and their relation to our emotions, moods and memories! We hope this series gives you greater awareness and power to use your senses to enhance your everyday life.
This post will cover both sight and sound in relation to our memories and emotions.
How Your Mood Affects Your Vision
As we mentioned in Part 1 of this series, your mood can affect your perception. For example, a hill looks steeper than it actually is because you're anxious. But did you know your moods can affect your field of vision as well? A study published in the Journal of Neuroscience suggests that, when a participant was in a good mood, they observed more aspects of an image (such as the background and finer details). However, if they were in a bad mood, they observed only what they were told to observe (the face in the foreground), as if viewing through a tunnel.
Vision - Our First Processor of Emotion
Sight isn't our strongest sense at birth. In fact, it's the last to fully develop! But, once it does, it takes over as our first processor of just about any situation. This includes reading emotions. For example, if you walk into a room and see someone crying, you will assume they are sad. You don't have to touch, smell, hear or taste anything else in the room to observe that. We use our eyes to visually categorize emotional events. This article shares some more information about this processing that is fascinating if you have the time!
The problem is vision isn't as acute when it comes to learning and memory. If you think about it, seeing spaghetti likely won't bring up a special memory, but smelling it may suddenly whisk you away to that one Thanksgiving where the turkey burned and your family had a wonderful night eating spaghetti instead.
Sound - Touch From a Distance
“Sound is touch at a distance,” says Anne Fernald, Professor of Psychology at Stanford University. "...sensory information – a particular sound – is coupled with emotional information – a memory of fear – and stored in the auditory cortex as a bundle. This allows the sound to acquire an emotional meaning.”
This link between sound and emotion often goes unnoticed by us, but it has a huge impact on our lives! (Even brands are using it.) This 5-minute video by Julian Treasure from TED is an awesome exploration of it.
Long story short, though, sounds can not only create emotions (say, through music or loud street noises), but they can also be a processor for them! They are so tightly linked to memories that your brain can hear the difference between a shriek of fear versus a shriek of excitement based on past experiences and present context. And within microseconds!
This article notes strong emotional responses to music, for example, can enhance memories around that particular experience. But is hearing that important to your mental health? Yes! "For the millions of Americans living with untreated hearing loss, a sense of depression or social isolation is a marked consequence and studies have suggested links between untreated hearing loss and dementia."
Harnessing Sight & Sound in Daily Life
Sight and sound are the easiest senses to utilize in your daily life. They are both readily available and easily changeable!
So how can we use these senses in our daily lives?
Quickly Change Your Environment When You're Anxious
So many stressful circumstances come up in our day. Maybe the office is too loud and you can't concentrate. Maybe the kids have been throwing tantrums all day. Maybe little things just keep going wrong. The easiest way to change your state of mind is to change your environment. If you can't get outside for a walk (or it's cold and snowy like it is here), then you can use sight and sound to do this. One option for both work or home is to simply look at pictures of nature! Yes, even pictures have benefits.
For work, we recommend having headphones around so you can drown out that noisy office (which is depleting your productivity btw!) with some calming or uplifting music/sounds.
If you're at home, dim the lights, turn on lamps or light a candle to give a little romantic ambiance. You can also turn on a playlist suited to the way you want to be feeling. Need to relax? Try some peaceful piano. Need some energy? Turn on your favorite nostalgic bops and dance! You do you ;)
Help with Studying or Tedious Tasks
When used during studying or tedious tasks, music can motivate you, improve mood, increase focus and potentially enhance the ability to memorize (for you classical junkies). So turn on your favorite tunes and read more about it from Healthline!
Declutter Your Workspace or Main Area in Your Home
Clutter, even just seeing it, can lead to stress and lack of energy (or worse if left unchecked). Don't worry, we're not saying you have to clean your entire house right now! But, you can start with a small area that you see regularly. Maybe this is your desk, where you stash your mail or simply those dirty dishes in the sink. You can get that hit of dopamine for getting something done and making it look better. If you want to keep going on this track, this article from Very Well Mind is amazing!
Harnessing Sight and Sound for Intimacy
Sensuality is too often confused with sex. It's not just a moment, but more all-encompassing. So instead of a sexual experience, we will suggest using your senses to have a sensual one.
When it comes to using sight for more intimate experiences, we suggest using it for exactly what it is - your first processor! That means go for that ambient lighting or that special outfit (or lack thereof) and let the eyes categorize this moment as something out of the ordinary, something exciting. Then don't stop there! Pair it with other sense-based experiences.
Here are some examples using sight's perfect pair, sound, and some others:
- Put on a sensual playlist when giving a massage.
- Pick out a wooden wick candle and tell each other stories while you cuddle, watch the flames dance, and listen to the crackling.