By Karen Rathgeber, Brevard Center
We usually don’t think about how our body reacts to smelling an avocado, listening to classical music, or looking at bright lights at a circus. We don’t pay attention to the stress our body endures by tasting a lemon or feeling a tag on the back of your shirt. But for sensory sensitive individuals these sensations can be overwhelming.
Have you ever heard “you are what you eat”? When we fill our stomachs with not so healthy foods like pizza, soda, and sweets our body rebels by feeling sluggish, tired and our brain has a hard time paying attention to what’s going on. However, when we fill our stomachs with the proper nutritional foods like fruits, vegetables and protein our body responds with more energy and vigor, resulting in a more focused brain.
Controlling our weight through diet is done on a daily basis with a specific food plan. If we control what we put in our mouths, we can influence how we feel, how we feel about ourselves, and create a fit and healthy body. When we slip up for a day, our diet is not ruined but we know that we need to get back on it. When we continually mess up, our body becomes sluggish and our motivation declines just like before the diet began.
A “sensory diet” is very similar to our food diet in many ways. If we control what we take in through our senses, we can influence how we feel, what we think, and how we behave. Just like a food diet, controlling our senses through a “sensory diet” is done on a daily basis with a specific exercise plan to create a fit and healthy body as well as a focused and attentive brain. If we slip up occasionally and forget to do the exercises, then it won’t affect us too much. However, if we fall off the plan completely our brain becomes the same over- and/or under-stimulated brain just like before the diet began.
There are certain types of sensory activities that are similar to eating a well-balanced “main course” and are very powerful and satisfying. They have long lasting effects on the nervous system. They are activities that provide movement, deep- touch pressure, and heavy work. Then, there are other types of activities that may be beneficial, but their impact is not as great. These are called “sensory snacks” that last a shorter period of time and generally include the mouth, auditory, visual, and or smell experiences.
Look for next month’s article for more information about “sensory diets”.