Personal Development

What’s Your Neglected Sense? | Gretchen Rubin

Introducing my new quiz: The Five-Senses Quiz: What’s Your Neglected Sense?

We’re all familiar with the five senses—what could be called the Aristotelian Senses or the Kindergarten Senses: seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching.

In recent times, researchers have identified many additional senses, such as proprioception, equilibrioception, and interoception. While every sense contributes to our experience, and is fascinating in its own right, these more subtle senses run in the background. Typically we notice them only when they break down.

We pay a lot of attention, however, to the Big Five.

However, even with the Big Five, I’ve noticed, many of us have foreground senses and background senses; we appreciate some senses, but neglect others.

With an appreciated sense, we pay attention; we seek new experiences; we enjoy talking and learning about that  sense.

With a neglected sense, we’re much less interested; we rarely turn to it for pleasure or comfort, we don’t spend time exploring or cultivating it. We may be more concerned with avoiding the negative than appreciating the positive.

One of my aims in writing my new book, Life in Five Senses, was to identify, and learn to appreciate, my own neglected sense.

It was very useful to get this insight into myself, because I was able to use this self-knowledge as a shortcut to a richer life.

Why identify your neglected sense?

By tapping into a neglected sense, I discovered a new source of comfort, calm, and creativity; I ventured on fresh experiences that delighted me, and perhaps most important, I found opportunities to engage with other people. 

I learned that identifying your neglected sense. . . 

  • Helps explain why you’re attracted to certain purchases, practices, and habits—and why you’re not attracted
  • Gives you clues about the types of activities that you might find or more or less appealing
  • Suggests new experiences you might enjoy 
  • Provides new ways to connect with others
  • Explains why you might experience conflict with other people—and suggest how you might resolve those conflicts
  • Gives you a new tool to add to your self-care toolbox

However, it’s not always easy to identify a neglected sense. To help you identify yours, I’ve created a free, quick quiz.

The quiz will identify your most neglected sense and provide a list of concrete ideas for tapping into this sense to have more fun, love, energy, and calm.

Take the Five-Senses Quiz: What’s Your Most Neglected Sense?

Now more than ever, it’s easy to get stuck in our heads or behind a screen, and forget to engage with the world around us. It’s also easy to fall into ruts of experience. Tapping into a neglected sense can awaken our mindfulness and revive our sense of excitement, connection, and wonder.

Of course, even apart from our different mix of appreciated and neglected senses, we all inhabit different sensory worlds.

We each live in our own body, the one assigned to us by fate and shaped by our history; each of us engages with the world through our own particular complement of senses, whatever those might be.

For some people, a sensation may feel overwhelming, while another barely registers. As writer Zora Neale Hurston observed, “Every man’s spice-box seasons his own food.”

Acknowledging that people experience sensations in different ways can help us all be more understanding—not to dismiss people’s objections to sights, sounds, smells, tastes, or touches, but instead to respect them so that we can create sensory environments in which everyone can feel comfortable.

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