What if we told you that certain types of music could enhance your productivity? Or that specific clothing colors could help you play sports better? Or that a particular scent may be able to snap you out of a bad mood?
These are examples of a concept coined by Oxford professor, Charles Spence, called sensehacking. In his book Sensehacking, Spence explains how our senses impact how we think and feel, and that by “hacking” them, we can improve our mental and physical health.
In this article, we’ll guide you through the exciting world of sensehacking, uncovering its benefits and sharing how you can take control of your senses for a happier, healthier life.
What Exactly Is Sensehacking?
Sensehacking is a relatively new wellness term and trend that describes the practice of manipulating the senses to improve one’s mental and physical health. It involves using different techniques to stimulate the five senses—sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell—in order to achieve specific outcomes, such as increased focus, reduced stress, and improved sleep.
The practice is based on the idea that our senses play a significant role in shaping our emotions, thoughts, and behavior, and that by manipulating them, we can positively impact our overall well-being.
The origin of sensehacking can be traced back to ancient times when people used sensory stimulation for healing and relaxation. However, in recent years, with the advent of new technologies and an increased understanding of the human brain, the practice has gained new momentum and popularity. Today, sensehacking is seen as a cutting-edge approach to self-improvement that has the potential to revolutionize the way we live.
How Does Sensehacking Work?
Sensehacking takes advantage of the connection between our senses and the brain. Different sensory inputs trigger different responses in the brain, which in turn, affect our mood, thoughts, and behavior.[*][*]
For example, pleasant aromas can release endorphins and reduce stress, while bright colors can boost energy and increase focus.[*][*] By combining different techniques and finding the right combination that works best for you, you can use sensehacking to achieve specific wellness outcomes.
Getting in Tune with Your Senses
Not sure how to apply sensehacking to your life? The applications are seemingly endless, so we’ll share some examples to get you started. Before we do, though, it’s important to practice getting in tune with your senses. After all, most people are running on autopilot and barely pay attention to sensory experiences.
The best way to get more in tune with your senses is with mindfulness. As you go about your day, make a point to pay attention to what you’re experiencing through your senses.
For example, let’s say you’re eating lunch. Pay attention to the layers of flavors in your meal. Is it salty, sweet, or tangy? Notice how the food feels in your mouth. Is it soft, coarse, or smooth? Listen to the sounds as you chew. Do you hear crunching, grinding, or bubbling? Be mindful of how you feel during and after your meal. How does the food feel in your stomach? Did your mood change? Do you feel more relaxed?
Practicing honing in on your sensory experiences and how they make you feel is the first step to getting the most out of sensehacking.
Examples of How to Increase Your Well-Being with Sensehacking
The following are examples of how to use sensehacking to improve your mental and physical well-being.
#1: Make a Sensehacking Playlist for Your Workouts
Experiment with listening to different types of music and songs while working out. Notice if a certain song or kind of music gives you more energy and motivation than others.
By paying attention to the relationship between music and your performance during workouts, you can develop a personal sensehacking playlist for achieving an effective exercise session.
#2: View Nature When You’re Feeling Stressed
Feeling stressed and wound up? Try viewing with nature. Mounting research suggests that looking at nature—even if you’re just looking at a picture of nature—provides a host of benefits. These include improved attention, lower stress, better mood, reduced risk of psychiatric disorders, and even improved empathy and cooperation.[*]
Try taking breaks during your workday to step outside or gaze out the window. You could also hang nature pictures around your home or office.
#3: Diffuse Essential Oils
Our olfactory response is directly linked to the emotional center of our brain, which is why emotions and memories are triggered when we smell certain aromas. You can use this to your benefit by filling your living or work space with scents that trigger a desired feeling state.
For example, if you want to feel more relaxed, try diffusing lavender essential oil, which is known for its ability to lessen anxiety. In one study, using a 3% lavender oil spray on clothing reduced work-related stress for three to four days.[*]
Here are a few other examples of essential oils and their science-backed effects:
- Peppermint essential oil: Helps prevent fatigue and increase exercise performance[*]
- Rosemary essential oil: Helps improve focus, memory, and mood[*][*]
- Lemon essential oil: Helps enhance mood[*]
Should You Try Sensehacking?
The above examples are only a small sampling of how you can use sensehacking. A few other examples to consider include:
- Choosing to wear colors that make you feel confident and powerful
- Eating healthy foods that you genuinely enjoy
- Painting your walls a color that sparks joy
- Lighting a scented candle to calm your nerves
- Listening to music on your way to work that’s motivating or calming
- Petting your cat or dog when you need relaxation or a mood boost
If you need help developing habits that improve your physical and mental health, consider joining Knew Health—a monthly membership that allows members to effectively manage healthcare costs.
Our members receive free telemedicine appointments where they can promptly address concerns with a licensed doctor. Knew Health also provides members with free health coaching to establish healthy habits and improve wellness on a daily basis.
While sensehacking certainly isn’t a cure-all, it can be an impactful part of a holistic wellness regimen.