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All About You: Let your senses inspire you

All About You by Richard Hawk

EDITOR’S NOTE: Motivating employees to work safely is part of the safety professional’s job. But who motivates the motivator? In this monthly column, veteran safety pro and professional speaker Richard Hawk offers his entertaining brand of wisdom to inspire safety pros to perform at their best.

Our senses work together to create our moment-to-moment feelings and reactions.

Sight, sound, taste, smell and touch are the five “mainstream” senses. Others – such as our sense of balance and body awareness – are vital, but don’t typically affect our emotions.

Senses affect our moods in an ever-changing emotional landscape. You can be feeling fine – until you hear someone make a disparaging remark. Conversely, you could be feeling a bit down, when a whiff of the popcorn a colleague is making for an afternoon snack sends you to the break room in a better mood.

At times, we let our senses drive us, especially when they provide us with a reward for a harmful habit. But we also can use them to inspire and help us perform better – or simply to enjoy life more.

Here are three ways you can use your senses to get inspired:

1. Listen to music connected to positive experiences. Many of us respond to music in deep and profound ways. I’m a musician, so music has played a powerful role in my life.

But regardless of how much we know about the theory or technical aspects of music, we often find ourselves moved – mostly in an uplifting way – by rhythm, melody and harmony. Even sad songs, as several studies have shown (including one conducted by researchers at Durham University in the United Kingdom), hold power to lift our spirits.

If you can, listen to some inspiring music when your workday isn’t going well. Try songs that have a positive link to your past. I know that if I listen to songs that often played on the jukebox in the cafeteria at my high school, they always rally my feelings. (One of my favorites is the upbeat instrumental “Frankenstein” by the Edgar Winter Group.)

This type of musical connection also can help improve memory. A song associated with an event will cause the event to be more vividly encoded in your hippocampus – a memory-storing part of your brain.

Music also can rouse you to perform better. That’s why so many athletes listen to music while practicing or getting ready for a game or competition. I know it gives me an emotional boost while I’m exercising.

2. Tap into aroma’s stimulating power. My wife helped me to realize firsthand how dramatically aromas can affect the way I feel. Many times when I’ve come home exhausted from traveling, she has mint-infused candles burning. The house smells awesome, and it perks me up.

At first, I don’t think either of us realized that’s what the minty aroma did, but it has become a ritual I always look forward to. Two other aromas that I use to perk me up are cinnamon and rosemary. If you haven’t already, why not try using various aromas to give you an emotional boost?

3. Commune with (or view) nature. If you can take a break outside, take special notice of the sky, foliage or whatever the season presents. If you can’t get out, simply viewing natural settings or wildlife on your phone or computer can help you feel better. “Being in nature, or even viewing scenes of nature, reduces anger, fear and stress and increases pleasant feelings,” a 2016 study from the University of Minnesota concluded.

When I was working at a power facility by the Delaware Bay, I would take a quick walk by the water when I felt stressed out. I’d listen to the seagulls and watch the ripples from the small waves. It always helped me to feel calm. Wherever you work or live, I hope you’ll take time to let your senses inspire you!

This article represents the views of the author and should not be construed as a National Safety Council endorsement.

Richard Hawk helps companies around the world create more vibrant safety cultures by showing them how to make safety fun. As a professional speaker, author and musician, he also inspires employees to focus better and enlightens safety leaders about ways to increase their influence. To learn more about Richard, visit


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