Sensory Nutrition

If you want to thrive, you need to feed your senses just as much as you need to put good food in your mouth. This became clear to me early in my decades-long exploration of the optimal environment for human beings.

Your senses evolved over millennia, in surroundings that long predated buildings and cities. You are made to recognize every change around you as meaningful. For your hunter-gatherer ancestors, every smell, snapping twig, shifting breeze, or change in color had great significance—for survival, for nourishment, for pleasure.

Here are just a few examples of how your senses harken back to your evolutionary roots:
• Your eyes work best when they experience a variety of lighting levels and colors, as well as opportunities to shift between near and far focus.
• Your ears are made to interpret rich, subtle sound textures, near and far.
• Your sense of smell perks up when you encounter a new scent.
• Your body is “tuned up” by moving air and changes in temperature.

When your senses don’t receive the complex, changing, meaningful stimulation they’re made for, they go to sleep—you numb out. Unpleasant sensory inputs (noise, ugly scenery) may also cause you to shut down.

In short, no matter where you now live, you crave the rich sensory textures of the living world. But in terms of sensory nourishment, most of us are starving on junk food.

Fortunately, within the problem lies a delightful solution. The best way to get the sensory inputs you crave is to more directly experience the constantly varying light of the sun and moon, darkness of night, air movement, plant life, birdsong.

Nurturing your senses is a path back to wholeness—not just for you, but (as you’ll see in future blog posts) for the web of life. You can start small: pause to look up from your tasks and gaze at the sky; step outside and feel the air on your skin; smell the roses; add a delightful sound to your environment (a windchime? a little fountain? a birdfeeder?).

It won’t take much to feel the difference. When your senses have been starved, a little nourishment goes a long way.

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