Site icon

5,4,3,2,1: A quick, effective and versatile grounding technique

What are grounding techniques?

Grounding techniques (aka stabilisation techniques) are useful when we feel distressed and anxious. Situations when our minds have wandered to unpleasant memories or worries about how future events may play out. When this happens, we can find ourselves endlessly wrestling with difficult thoughts, in an attempt to rid them from our minds. This process is reflected in an old metaphor of a fish who wrestles to free itself from a fishing hook. The more that fish wrestles with the hook, the more embedded that hook becomes. We can visualise our negative thoughts as if they were these fishing hooks passing through our minds, trying to catch our attention, make us bite, and reel us in to unpleasant territories of our minds.

Grounding techniques can help protect us from these thought hooks. Grounding techniques are like anchors that drag our wandering minds out of the past or future, right into to the present moment, to the world around us. They help us direct our attention away from those fish hooks, allowing them to pass by without the need for us to grapple with them all of the time. This is one of the key principles of mindfulness.

There are hundreds of grounding techniques out there, such as those that involve breathing exercises, body scans, music, art, nature, and soothing objects. When working with a client, I find it’s usually a case of ‘trial and error’. We practice several different grounding techniques until we identify one or two that work best for the client. However, there’s been one grounding technique that comes up as a favourite, time and time again – the 5,4,3,2,1.

How to do the 5,4,3,2,1

I’ve found the 5,4,3,2,1 to be one of the most simple, effective and versatile grounding technique there is. And here’s how it works:

Make yourself comfortable and get into ‘the zone’ by taking a few slow and deep breaths. Focus on your breathing for a moment, then take your time in following these 5 Steps.

5– First, take some time to notice five things you can see around you. Be curious.  Focus in on the detail. Explore with your eyes the various patterns, colours and textures.

4– Now try to identify four things you can feel in the connection your body is making with the world around you. You don’t need to be moving for this. For example, this could be feeling your feet on the ground, a chair supporting your weight, your posture, the wind in your face, the temperature on your skin. Spend some time tuning in to these sensations.

3– Next, take some time to notice three things you can hear. Listen carefully. If you can’t detect three sounds, take some time to observe the silence or listen to the sound of your breath. Notice the sounds you may not usually pay attention to.

2–  Now notice two things you can either smell or taste. You may need to interact with what’s around you for this one.

1– Finally, think about 1 positive thing about yourself. This could be a compliment you have received from someone you care about, or an act of kindness you have made. Take a moment to accept it, feel it, and believe in it.

Tips for using the 5,4,3,2,1

Written by Dr Sam Cooley | @samjoecooley

Exit mobile version