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The Sensaround Vision
Sensaround is passionate about finding ways for people to enhance their well-being through their senses.
We aim to do this by:
Offering quality assessment, education and advice.
Providing affordable, tailored, sensory solutions for individuals, groups, and services.
Promoting awareness of the connection between sensory needs and mental health.
Working with statutory services to provide cost-effective ways to enhance their offer in holistic and innovative ways.
Striving to develop the evidence base and further research in the field of sensory modulation.
Finding new ways to reach groups of people who are disadvantaged, or who have complex needs and struggle to engage with statutory services.
Sensaround follows a Social Enterprise model, which means that the profits are reinvested into the business, and the local community that it serves. We think that this model is the best way to build a sustainable business, whilst reaching the people that most need our services.
About Sensory Modulation
Our senses determine how we understand the world and respond to it. In fact, the only way we know anything about the world, and our own bodies, is through our senses!
Whether we are able to respond in a way that is helpful to us depends on whether our brain is able to take in the right amount of information, filter out the unimportant stuff, and put all the pieces of the puzzle together. This can affect our emotions, both positively and negatively.
Sometimes we can become overwhelmed by sensory information. When this happens, the limbic system takes control. This is the area of our brain responsible for basic, emotional responses and our survival instinct – the fight, flight, or freeze response. It can be very hard to function in this mode, and sometimes people use prescription medication, alcohol, or drugs to dampen down their over-responsive sensory systems.
Not having enough sensory information can be anxiety provoking too – how can we feel safe and respond to the world around us, if we don’t have enough information to make sense of it? Anxiety can lead to people avoiding situations they don’t feel able to manage, but unfortunately that can make things worse. In the absence of sensory information connected to movement, our other senses, particularly our vision and hearing, overcompensate, so can then become over-sensitive.
The potential for using our senses to improve our wellbeing is great - but it's difficult to unpick. That is why Sensaround was created.
We hope you find the information and resources here useful - we want to be as interactive as possible, so if there is something you would like to see, a story you would like to share, or a suggestion you would like to make - please get in touch!
The Sensory Systems
A Quick Guide To The Senses
When asked how many senses we have, most people would respond that we have 5 – touch, taste, smell, touch, and sight. In fact we have 7! Read on for more information:
Sensory receptors located in the inner ear let us know how our head is positioned, and contribute to our sense of balance, as well as our ability to make co-ordinated movements. Having the DSC_0204line artwrong amount of vestibular input – too little, or too much – means we can feel disoriented and unsafe. We can stimulate our vestibular system through activities such as using a rocking chair, dancing, swinging, or going on fairground rides.
Your joints have sensory receptors that register information whenever your muscles stretch or relax. Your brain uses this information to know how your needs to move – how much speed and force to use, and in what direction. This sense is called proprioception.
The awareness of our body in space can help us to feel ‘grounded’, and aid us in times of distress. In day to day life, people may get proprioceptive stimulation from a huge variety of activities including yoga, walking, lifting weights, swimming, or kneading bread. We can also get a lot of proprioceptive input from our mouths, for example by eating chewy or crunchy foods, sucking sweets, or chewing gum.
It’s well known that the skin is the largest organ in the body, and it provides us with a lot of information about the environment around us and how our bodies feel within it. Our bodies actually use two different pathways to process tactile information – light touch and deep pressure touch.
In general, we find touch that is light, quick, and on a small part of the body, to be alerting – think of splashing cold water on your face. Meanwhile, touch that is firm or heavy, and over a large surface area, is usually calming – think of a hug, or snuggling up under a blanket. The range of ways to stimulate the tactile sensory system is huge, and extends from fidget toys and heat packs, to massagers and weighted items. Plenty to explore!
Our sense of smell is closely linked to our memories, our basic emotions, such as fear or pleasure, and our drives, such as hunger. Supermarkets and spas know this, which is why the successful ones never smell unpleasant!
If you’ve ever felt pleasure at smelling a freshly opened jar of coffee, or nostalgia at the scent of a particular dish, you will understand the connection. A range of products can be used to simulate the olfactory system in order to enhance wellbeing, from scented candles and body lotions, to crushed herbs or spices.
You have 2000-5000 taste buds on your tongue, plus others inside your mouth and throat. Each one contains 50-100 taste receptors. These enable us to tell how sweet, sour, salty, bitter, or delicious something is.
In addition to the tactile and proprioceptive stimulation of chewing, different textures, and temperatures, it is no wonder that eating is considered a pleasurable activity by most people. Experiment by varying the sensory qualities of the food you eat – crunchy carrots or chewy muesli bars; salty pretzels or sour sweets; cold ice-lollies or hot herbal teas. Chocolate can be sweet, or bitter!
The visual sense is more than the ability to see – it can have a profound effect on our emotional and physical wellbeing. For example, some people find spending time in a room with harsh strip-lighting can make them feel tired or anxious, or give them headaches. There is a range of ways you can manage visual stimulation, including adjustable lighting, the use of colour, picture cues, or eye masks. Other ways that visual stimulation can be used, include light therapy for Seasonal Affective Disorder, and the increasing popularity of adult colouring for mindfulness.
Our ability to hear is thanks to our ears’ ability to sense air and sound waves. We can enhance our wellbeing using our favourite music, nature sounds, guided meditations on CD, or white noise.
Some people find they can only concentrate in silence, while others need background noise in order to stay alert. Whether you are overwhelmed by loud noises, or irritated by quiet noises, it can help to get to know how you respond to auditory input.
I am a qualified and registered Occupational Therapist based in the West Midlands. I have always been interested in the relationship between our sensory responses and our emotions. It was fascinating to learn how simple sensory activities can be used in acute psychiatric settings to vastly improve a person's ability to engage with activities and their surroundings, and made me determined to explore more about how sensory approaches can be used to help people with more common mental health difficulties.
I am always learning, and I hope you will join me on my journey to develop a sensational approach to mental health!
Because through our senses we learn and adapt to what is 'around' us. To me the word suggests the global, holistic picture I aim to build of my clients.
Also, two of my favourite bands are Manic Street Preachers and Super Furry Animals. Coincidentally, the word 'sensaround' (or 'sensurround', which is close enough), appears in songs by both bands - I recommend you look up Small Black Flowers that Grow in the Sky, and Hermann Loves Pauline.