Saturday, August 6, 2022

Listen! You Smell Something? A Sensory Exercise


While “Listen! You smell something?” is a brilliant comedic line in the 1984 film Ghostbusters, it also hits a home run in the way lines like that engage our brain. Confusion is king. I’ll talk about that at the end. 

Engaging all five senses is a powerful tool in writing, but today I’ll talk about the benefits of using them to calm anxiety.

Writers? Anxious? Nah . . .

Let’s start with 5-5-5 breath. Pick a spot ahead of you, ideally just above your comfortable line of sight but no neck craning, just slightly above straight ahead. Focus on that spot. Breathe in for five, hold for five, exhale for five. Repeat until your body is calm and relaxed. Then return to normal relaxed breathing for this next section. 

Keep looking ahead and use your senses to pick out:

5 things you see (either in your mind or peripheral vision)

4 things you feel (your feet on the ground, pillow underneath your head)

3 things you hear (electronics, or maybe just ringing in your ears)

2 things you smell (hmm, what did the cat just do?)

1 thing you taste (thinking of a taste may be simpler)

It may be more comfortable to close your eyes after you’ve picked out things you see. That’s perfectly fine. It can help you tune in more to the other senses.

Warning, you may doze off before you finish. Still, if you don’t, those heart palpitations caused by your nerves will have stopped by the time you get to the end.


If not, try 7-11 breathing to start. In for seven, out for eleven. It’s another terrific breathing technique that calms the body. 

Once you’ve found yourself in that super relaxed state, allow yourself to stay there a while. Make note of what else you’re sensing. Tune into your body and your surroundings. 

When you are ready to come out, simply wiggle your fingers or toes to bring your body back to a more conscious state. Get up, stretch if it feels good and move on with your day. 

Try that any time you feel anxious or simply want to tune into yourself and relax. What you come away with may surprise you.

You can also use a modified version of the above to do self-hypnosis. 

First, set an intention. What are you asking of your subconscious mind? Are you re-programming your mind to overcome a bad habit? A feeling? Pain? Our minds are powerful, you’d be amazed what you can accomplish. 

Set that intention and then a time frame. Tell yourself to come out of it in, say 15 minutes, or whatever works for you. 

Instead of 5-4-3-2-1 with the sense we’ll focus on three of them.

3 things you can see

3 things you can hear

3 things you can feel

Next repeat with 2 of each and then one of each. If more is needed, then repeat, this time from the bottom up--all the while focusing on that spot in front of you. Your eyes should feel tired. Do it until your eyelids just can’t stay open any longer. Then relax and enjoy the trance while your unconscious mind makes all the necessary changes.

Can you make lasting change in one session? Yes. 

Does it often take multiple sessions? Also yes.

Each one of us is different, so there is no “perfect” way. 

Whether self hypnosis or a simple few moments to calm an anxious mind, both techniques will help shift your mindset and leave you in a better frame of mind.

So what about the confusion I mentioned earlier? 

Confusion stops someone in their tracks. The downward spiral is interrupted. My hypnosis instructor told a story of confusing a client by pretending to smell his own watch every time she started her downward self-loathing spiral. She’d stop, ask him what he was doing. It would start a conversation that redirected her thinking. 

So, say you feel okay but you’re dealing with someone who is on edge, obsessing about something and heading into a spiral. Try “Listen! You smell that?” and see what happens. 

If they don’t laugh, they’ll still stop the downward spiral with a “What?” which may be enough to get them to stop.

You’re welcome.

Vee R. Paxton, your friendly neighborhood paranormal romance author and certified hypnotist.

Vee R. Paxton is a transplanted Midwesterner living in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Portland and New York City are her two favorite places she's lived (although she loves her hometown in Missouri too!) 
She's passionate about storytelling and reading amazing stories. She's guardian to a sweet Bengal kitty cat, she worked in NYC theater, taught martial arts and also is trained in Reiki and hypnosis.