“All we have to believe is our senses, for they are the tools we use to perceive the world.” – Neil Gaiman

I often tell patients that a good way to explore their feelings is by keeping a journal. Some people call it a diary. Call it what you like, but it does wonders for organizing your thoughts and can also help you gain a deeper understanding of yourself. If you’re like most people and not sure how to begin, this quick-start guide is for you.

The five senses

We experience life through our senses. They serve to help us to not only perceive the world around us but to interpret it as well; yet most of us don’t think about them very often. When you think about making entries in your journal, try to use one or more of the five senses to help you connect with your memories and feelings.

• Smell

• Taste

• Sound

• Touch

• Sight

Let’s say you are recalling a visit to a barn. Close your eyes for a moment. Can you taste dust in the air? Can you smell leather, manure or hay? Can you hear a horse whinnying and snorting, flowing water in a creek, wind rustling the trees? Now think about fresh baked bread. Which of your senses come to mind first?

What would life be like if we couldn’t see or hear? Imagine how Helen Keller learned to live a full life when she had to rely on touch and smell instead of sight and sound. Keller wrote a book, The World I Live In, and many magazine articles about her experiences as a blind and deaf person.

Without seeing or hearing her entire life, Keller experienced the world by paying attention to things that most people didn’t notice. When someone asked her, “Aren’t the days and the hours all alike to you?” she responded, “Never! My days are all different, and no hour is quite like another.”

Engage your senses

Pick one topic from the following list every day for the next 7 days. Try to limit your time to ten minutes or less. Consider which of your senses are part of your memory. Keep in mind the power of three (The Rule or Power of Three suggests that things that come in threes are funnier, more satisfying, more effective, or more memorable than other numbers of things.) and try to incorporate both words and images. Start saving things for the next day.

1. Three of your favorite smells.

2. Three things you can’t stand the smell of.

3. Three of the best things you’ve ever tasted.

4. Three of the worst things you’ve ever tasted.

5. Three sounds that please you or music you love to listen to.

6. Three sounds that annoy you.

7. Three things you love to touch or feel good to you.

8. Three things you want to avoid touching.

9. Three places, things or people you wish you could see in person.

10. Three places, things or people you never want to see in person.

Next Week—The Beginner’s Guide to Journaling: Part 3.

Wishing you the best always,

Dr. Dale Simpson (The Every Day Psychologist)

Dale Simpson, PhD, is the father of five children. As a practicing psychologist for more than 37 years, he has counseled children, teens, adults and couples and currently practices in Venice, Florida. Dr. Simpson was a cofounder and publisher of an educational magazine, wrote the Inside the Family column for the magazine, served as a featured speaker at numerous parenting and homeschool conferences, and is the publisher of Learning for Life Press.

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