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Sensual Awareness Inventory

Description of a Psychological Mapping Exercise to Get in Touch with Sensual Awareness

James Neill
Last updated:
26 Jan 2011

Sensual Awareness Activity

  • This exercise is derived from the eco-therapy approach by George Burns in "Nature-guided therapy: Brief integrative strategies for health and well-being".

  • Surprisingly simple, insightful, and practical.

  • Invite participants to create 5 columns on a piece of paper.  Label each with one of the 5 senses: touch, taste, smell, sight, sound.

  • Ask participants to write down as many examples as they can of how they receive pleasure, comfort or enjoyment for each of their 5 senses. (Allow 10-15 minutes)

  • Share and discuss.

  • e.g., Invite people to find a partner and explain to one another how they gain pleasure through each of their senses - or discuss as larger group what people noticed about their lists.

  • Possible questions:

    • Were people surprised by their lists?

    • Are the lists long or short?

    • Are the lists even or uneven?

    • Tick the items that you do each day - could you do more?

    • What if a person committed to experiencing at least one source of sensual pleasure from each sense each day?  (This can be a practical, homework, assignment, to do this for a week and report back to the group).

  • Burns notes in his book that depressed people tend to have the shortest lists; the healthiest, happiest people tend to have long lists.  After therapy, or even as part of therapy, people tend to develop longer lists.

  • Burns also discusses that many of the pleasures people describe are nature-based.

Equipment: each person needs a piece of paper and a pen/pencil

Time: ~45 mins

Brief description:

An eco-therapy exercise adapted for a group setting.  Participants identify what experiences give them pleasure through each of their five senses, then share and discuss this with the group.