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nasen: Using our senses to support wellbeing

In this blog, the SEND experts from nasen explore suggestions for ways to use our senses to support wellbeing.

Posted on Friday 01st October 2021

Many thanks to nasen, the SEND specialists, for this blog which reflects on the key messages from an article written by Joanna Grace within the May 2021 edition of nasen Connect.


In her article which appeared in the May 2021 edition of ‘nasen Connect’, Joanna Grace talks about the role of the senses with regard to mental well-being.

As she explains, “We take cues from our senses to let us know whether we are safe or in danger”. She goes on to describe a “scale of sensory environments” ranging from feeling totally secure to totally threatened. Being aware of our senses and creating opportunities to provide appropriate sensory experiences, can play a part in helping us to feel safe and therefore to support our mental well-being.

Joanna describes some simple strategies for using 7 of our senses to support well-being:

  • Auditory – Play music that has a heartbeat rhythm to it. Reggae music is a good example, and many children’s songs follow a heartbeat rhythm. Try white noise; apps are available to generate this or explore ambient drone music.
  • Olfactory – Take in natural scents like the smell of the rain or the earth. Consider your use of synthetic scents, it may ordinarily be your favourite perfume but is it too much for right now?
  • Gustatory – It is natural for a body that is stressed to crave sweet foods. Answer these cravings within a balanced diet (be aware that someone craving sweet foods all the time can be a sign that they are under constant stress).
  • Tactile – Connect with more than just the sheen of a phone screen or the keys on your keyboard; we see a lot of the world but how much of it do we touch? Take little detours in daily life to feel the texture of the wall, to run your hands over the grass in the garden.
  • Vestibular – Movement connects us with our embodied self. If you are able to: squat down on your haunches, jump up and down a few times, rock from side to side or dance. Pay attention to the movement. Rocking is something we all (regardless of disability, ability or neurodivergence) find comforting. Be aware that someone who rocks all the time maybe communicating to you that they are feeling stressed by their environment.
  • Visual – We tend to move about using our vision for navigation but not for seeing. We use it to make sure we do not bump into the table as we walk past it to the kitchen; we do not attend to it however. Move things around in your house so that you notice them again.
  • Proprioceptive – Try a weighted blanket. Although not as good as being allowed to hug our friends, it can be a good sensory support whilst we wait for those days to return.


nasen is a charitable membership organisation that exists to support and champion those working with, and for, children and young people with SEND and learning differences. For the over 35,000 active members, nasen offers a range of resources including a bi-monthly membership magazine, nasen Connect. In addition, members can access the additional services (Annual Webinar Pass, SENCO Support Service and Publication Subscription) as well as a range of CPD.

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