Live Life Better: A journey through the senses with Bompas & Parr

In our new series of the Live Life Better podcast, Melissa Hemsley is taking us on a journey of discovery through the senses.

In this sensory teaser episode Melissa invited Bompas & Parr co-founder Sam Bompas into the studio, where he explained the different ways that all of our senses work together to create experiences that improve our lives. Have a listen below and read on for four things we learnt from this episode…

Sight is the fastest sense

It’ll come as no surprise that the things we look at have the potential to affect our mood – in fact, according to Sam, sight works 10 times faster than our other senses. So how does he go out of his way to create visually pleasing experiences for everyone on an everyday basis?

“One I like doing is having tremendous amounts of pattern [in my outfit].” Sam says, explaining that it helps cover up any splatters of food or drink he may encounter in his day to day job. “But the thing that I’ve found from doing that is that total strangers come up and speak to me – they may not say anything very nice but at least you’re breaking down those awkward barriers to communication and it takes you all sorts of places.”

And in terms of what we can all do to make the world a nice place to look at? Wear yellow, Sam says. “You’re seeing a lot of people this winter going to yellows for their jackets, thank god we can put pink behind us. But yellow is a colour that I can fully endorse and fully get behind, and of course it’s the colour of happiness as well.”

Sam Bompas and Melissa Hemsley in conversation on the Live Life Better podcast

Music can affect the heart rate

Sam admits that he’s “obsessed with sound at the moment”. He says: “I’m deaf in one ear, which is completely self-inflicted so it means I really value the ear that’s still working.

“Sound and music can have a very profound impact on your heart rate,” Sam explains. “One of the studies that I really love was done by psychologists up at UCL, Professor Joe Devlin. What he did is he was investigating what happens to people when they watch a musical. And apparently if you go see a piece of musical theatre, your heart rate changes so dramatically it’s almost as if you’ve been playing sport. So it’s a whole work out just by going to see a musical. What’s also really interesting that they didn’t anticipate at all, while they’ve wired everyone up and they’re watching My Fair Lady, I believe, they found that everyone’s heart rate in the audience actually synchronised.”

Interpersonal touch can have a significant impact

Some people might find touching others awkward or feel like they’re having their personal space invaded when someone else touches them. But Sam says that interpersonal touch is “really crucial”.

He says: “You see that sports teams that touch each other a lot, whether it’s like fist bumping, they win more. The more you touch other people the better it is. But you have to gauge the length of time that you’re touching other people.

“There’s one wonderful study that shows that waiters that touch their guests very lightly on the arm for less than three seconds – and less than three seconds is really crucial – get much, much bigger tips than waiters that don’t touch their customers at all.”

Sam Bompas on the Live Life Better podcast

Smell can be very powerful

Smell is often touted as the most powerful of our senses – and Melissa would certainly agree with its influence. She says: “I had a dance teacher when I was younger and he had a really strong perfume and I couldn’t remember my steps when I was smelling it because I found it over-intoxicating. It was a nice smell but maybe because I was especially sensitive.”

Sam agrees that smell can be powerful – but says that as we get older, we become less sensitive to stimuli. “You lose all your senses as you grow up. It doesn’t matter which sense, they all dull down as you grow up,” he says. “And you’ll see it with kids who are covering their ears at things that aren’t particularly noisy for us. For example going on the tube might be completely overwhelming. A lot of that could be because initially a lot of our senses are warning senses so they’re telling us when something’s about to poison us or damage us potentially.”



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