Early on in the COVID pandemic, BDI’s resident counselor, Emily Lawyer, advised the team on techniques to calm our stress and anxiety. One of those was called the “3-3-3”. Like many of us, I was too caught up in survival mode to step back and reflect on this technique and its value. But now as the waters settle just a bit, I want to share the amazing potential each of us has within our 5 (or more!) senses.

So first, the “3-3-3” is this: when you notice your stress and anxiety (maybe it’s racing thoughts, shallow breaths, a knot in your stomach, headache, etc) use your senses to create a shift. Identify 3 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear, and 3 things you can see.

For myself (Anna Fiore, DPT, OCS, and BDI Physical Therapist) by doing the “3-3-3” and noticing the reflection of my mental stress in my physical body, I found moments of groundedness. I was amazed by the power I had to use my senses to affect my mind and body. I realized we all probably have these moments all the time without clocking their value! The first sniff of spring flowers in the air, a soft blanket, beach sand between your toes, the voice of your loved one. These sensations can give us a moment of pause or a breath to come out of our busy minds and into our bodies. 

As a physical therapist, I see this every day— mental and emotional stress impacts the physical well-being of my clients. Sometimes these factors even inhibit the rehabilitation process. So I’ve been wondering, what other ways can we tap into our senses for better health?


  • Turn your phone to grayscale; it makes it much less enticing to waste time scrolling.
  • Pick up a coloring book at the end of the work day. Bright colors are cheery, and the act of coloring takes just enough focus.
  • Have you noticed all the amazing art in BDI’s clinic? Much of it is from our very own Mr. Everything, Mario Gamboa. Some other pieces we owe to our teammate Genna. Stop and observe the next time you are in. 


  • Can you think of a strong scent memory? Remember it and then compare to today’s version of the scent. Recently I found a perfume that smells exactly like my mom, mostly rose notes. Nice to experience and remember.
  • Something icky distracting you from your task? Take a moment to tackle that stench and focus your mind.
  • We hope you associate the waft of baked goods from the Happy Tart next door with our clinic especially if you are a Morning Mover.


  • Try to avoid multitasking while eating meals. Stay present with the smell, taste, and feel of your nourishment. 
  • If you are wondering how to make your healthy meal plan more vibrant to your senses, ask our nutritional therapist, Chip.
  • While at Body Dynamics, please don’t lick your clinician or the equipment.  🙂


  • Blast your favorite song and sing (bonus for noticing the vibrato sensation from your voice)!
  • Take a dance class set to music
  • Listen to the silence. What sort of background noises are present? What movement do you think would make such a sound? This is the sort of exercise you might find in Anna’s Thursday night Guided Creative Movement class. 


  • Splash some cold water on your face. Have an ice-cold drink. Polar plunge!
  • Shake out your limbs to emit some nervous energy.
  • Snuggle up with your pet or a stuffed toy (say hi to Giselle the Gazelle, our BDI mascot!)
  • Massage therapy, manual therapy, and contact corrections with your clinician at BDI can be so helpful for developing a sense of physical awareness outside of a painful state

By the way, there are certainly medical reasons to stay in touch with your senses as well! We know sensory losses correlate with a whole host of negative effects. Decreased sensitivity to smell can indicate the development of memory issues (Albers, 2014). Vision and hearing impairments both correlate with a decline in cognitive function, mental status, and memory in middle-aged and older adults (Zhao, 2021.) Declines in many of the senses are also associated with declines in mobility and functional independence and an increase in the risk of mortality (Pinto, 2017.) Treat your senses well with regular checkups and exercises; as the adage goes, use it or lose it!

Can you think of any sensory-based activity that relieves your stress or gets you grounded in your body? We’d love to know. 


Pinto: https://www.healthinaging.org/blog/problems-with-senses-hearing-vision-smell-touch-and-taste-may-predict-older-adults-overall-health-and-ability-to-function/

Zhao: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8684796/

Albers: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25022540/ 

Blog inspired by Gretchen Rubin’s new book: Life in Five Senses