Grounding techniques, or grounding exercises, help to bring your mind to the present moment. They are tried and tested methods that help someone who is feeling overwhelmed by distressing feelings, memories or thoughts.
These techniques can range from a few very simple exercises such as deep, controlled breathing, to the more advanced ones, such as meditation. Grounding techniques can be helpful to alleviate stress, anxiety, panic attacks, anger outbursts, PTSD, short-wired decisions and actions, and much more.
For people who experience negative flashbacks, or find themselves reliving traumatic memories such as childhood abuse or sexual assault, grounding techniques can help them bring their minds to the present moment instead.
These exercises can vary from individual to individual, and what works for one person might not be effective for another. Finding the method that works for you can help you get through tough times more effectively and with greater ease.
Grounding exercises help you focus on the “here and now” and rewire your focus on the present moment. This way, you’ll be able to avoid going down the path of the negative experiences and physical sensations that these emotions bring.
The goal of grounding exercises is to bring you to the present moment when you’re experiencing flashbacks, negative memories, unwanted emotions, and panic attacks.
Sometimes, the grounding techniques are as simple as deep, conscious breathing, while they can also be slightly more complex and require deep cognitive abilities and self-awareness.
Having a grounding chair, for example, is helpful for some, as it’s a spot where they bring themselves to the present moment and connect themselves with the physical, inanimate world around them.
For others, having cold showers or just washing their hands with cold water can do the trick. Here, the sensation of the cold water making direct contact with their skin ‘grounds’ their mind into receiving the sensation of that physical action.
Picking up objects can also help, with the individual focusing all of their energy and thoughts into that single, solid inanimate object.
But remember that techniques vary depending on the circumstances and individual, and deep breathing, for example, might not be effective for people who experience strong emotions and very negative flashbacks. In these situations, more intense and consciously challenging methods might be needed.
Grounding can make your life much easier by bringing your mind to the present moment and prevent it from wandering into a negative state. These exercises can improve the quality of mental and emotional health, but they are also crucial for your career, familial relationships, social life, and all other aspects of your life.
For those who often experience uncomfortable feelings, negative memories, or PTSD flashbacks in social situations or when at work, knowing how to ground oneself effectively is crucial. Luckily, there are many grounding exercises for you to try. Putting your feet on the ground and connecting with the earth does work for many.
Additionally, objects around you can be helpful; for example, you can try to name the objects around you to bring your mind to the current moment. These exercises are viable not only for those who experience mild panic attacks but for those who suffer from severe cases of PTSD and trauma too.
Finding the right techniques for you can be achieved through trial and error – but it’s important to remember that patience is key, and the proven techniques that we discuss below ought to be practised a few times before deciding if they’re right for you.
One of the best exercises that helps many people bring themselves back to earth is the 5-4-3-2-1 technique. This method is all about engaging all five of your senses to concentrate and bring your mind to the here and now.
By focusing on each point of the body, this method slowly brings you back to earth, sense by sense. This technique works for anxiety, PTSD flashbacks, panic attacks, and other mental health issues.
You might find this technique incredibly helpful, and its simplicity means you can use it anywhere, in every day, life hassle-free. Here’s how to do it.
First, focus on your breathing; take a few deep breaths and then start building an awareness of what’s around you.
It can be something as simple as your clothes; the desk you’re sitting behind; the walls around you; or simply the colours you notice. Remember this step is simple and effective
Touch can be incredibly helpful to bring yourself to the present moment. It can be the texture of the desk; your cotton shirt; the feeling of a book or a magazine; any inanimate object you find around you. Notice how they feel on your skin when you touch the items. Are they hot or cold, rough or smooth?
It can be the birds singing outside; the sound of traffic on the streets; or people talking next door. Don’t judge the noises, just listen to them and acknowledge them
Smell the fragrance you put on in the morning or the smell of the air around you. Can you smell hot tarmac or a nearby building sight? Is there a cafe or a food joint nearby that is setting off aromas?
For example, the taste of coffee you just had, or the taste of the toothpaste you used to wash your teeth.
Engaging your senses can help you come back to the present. If this technique doesn’t work after the first attempt, do it again in a different surrounding, or multiple times until the desired effect is achieved. This is, according to experts, the best effective grounding method for most people.
While the 5-4-3-2-1 technique is the most tried and tested grounding method in modern anxiety therapy, there are many other ways to help bring you to the present moment. These include:
Another useful technique to become present is to have a chair that you’ll use to bring your mind back to here and now. This can be any chair; in your office, at home, in the kitchen. Make sure your feet can touch the ground, too.
Sometimes, having objects around you can help you to become aware of your surroundings and come “back to Earth”. Pick up objects around you, and notice how they feel. Are they smooth or hard? Do they feel heavy or are they light? Warm or cool?
Also, take a moment to notice how they feel – the texture of the object. Keep your mind focused on the object for some time, and you’ll find yourself present.
This is an interesting technique that many find useful. Place your feet on the ground, and start imagining as if you are drawing around your foot with your preferred colours.
Then, do the same for your other foot, and you’ll notice that after some time, your mind will be focused on the present moment.
Quick mental exercises that you can do in your mind can be extremely helpful to focus on the present moment. By keeping your mind busy, you will be able to rewire your focus on the here and now anywhere and at any time.
Below we have listed some useful techniques to work through which will help keep you grounded. These are all based on physical awareness and include:
Earthing, or grounding, is another technique where you focus on connecting with the planet Earth. Mostly, it’s done by placing your feet on the ground and feel the energy of the Earth coming to you.
Take your shoes off and allow the energy to enter into your system; it’s been scientifically proven that the earth emits free-flowing electrons to the objects it comes into contact with.
Focus on finding this energy deep in your core, and sometimes, picturing the earth’s energy like a wave in your mind’s eye can help you feel its force too.
Some people have found earthing to be beneficial for their arthritis, inflammation, insomnia, and even depression and anxiety. Feel free to try this exercise at any time – though we would recommend doing so in a natural environment for maximum effect.
Grounding techniques can be vital for reducing cognitive or mental conditions. As you’re bringing your mind to the current moment, you’re not allowing it to wander to negative thoughts that are associated with anxiety and depression.
Grounding techniques help separate your mind from the mental or emotional distress you feel. These feelings are a subconscious result of the brain feels like the body is under threat from external forces, which then triggers the ‘fight or flight or freeze’ response in our central nervous system.
Grounding techniques allow the body to calm itself by sending messages to the brain that the threat is only perceived, not real.
Instead, take a few deep, mindful breaths and notice what’s happening at the moment. Notice the sounds, smells, and the objects around you and focus on the “right here, right now”.
Practising the ten techniques listed below have a proven impact on reducing stress and anxiety during addiction recovery by means of grounding oneself in the present.
Try the following:
If you’re having negative thoughts, or your mind wanders to alcohol again, be aware of that craving and ensure you register that. Acknowledge it’s happening, and bring your mind to the present moment where you are not consuming alcohol
If you’re struggling at the moment, it’s important to acknowledge that you’re not alone in this. Instead of saying “I’m suffering”, think of it as “we are suffering.” Take comfort in the collective nature of your addiction problem is a worldwide one
Take your shoes off and walk outside barefoot. You’ll notice a shift in how you’re feeling soon. Be receptive to the Earth’s energy and picture its positive natural vibrations flowing through you
Don’t rush with the things you find uncomfortable. For example, if you’re feeling the urge to drink again, slow down and be conscious of it. It’s important not to brush over it by keeping yourself busy
Focus on one thing, and do this one thing properly instead of transferring your focus on multiple things and doing them half-heartedly. Research has proven that multitasking is not actually effective in task-management, and most often only leads to increased stress and disorientation
Find a relaxing spot and listen to the sounds of nature, and breathe the fresh air. Scientists have acclaimed that being in nature releases serotonin into the brain, and helps us ground ourselves by returning to primal instincts (being able to differentiate between actual threats and perceived ones)
Focus exactly on the parts of your body where you feel tense, and try to relieve that tension as much as you can. This can involve a self-massage, such as rubbing the palms of your hands or balls of your feet or trying stretching or yoga routines for the back and neck
Take pride in the fact you are attempting to change your thought process, and that you are trying – and succeeding – to take control of your body. Every positive and calm thought is a step in the right direction.
Instead of thinking too much, trust your instinct from time to time and go where it wants to go. After all, grounding techniques are all about reconnecting with your inner self – so remember to do that
Tell yourself that this isn’t you who is suffering. Believe it is a temporary feeling inside your own head that will soon pass. Acknowledge you are a person, a separate entity to your cognitive turmoil. This will take your mind off your struggles and focus it somewhere else.
While grounding techniques can work wonders in helping rewire the brain, it is crucial to always be aware that using ‘distraction’ as a grounding method can sometimes lead to avoiding a certain problem.
If you find yourself using grounding techniques multiple times a day, it’s important that you later return to the problem or issue, and address it accordingly. Grounding can be seen as a ‘bookmark’ where you acknowledge your problems, and ‘save them for later.’
Other things to remember about grounding techniques are:
Rate your mood before and after these grounding techniques to establish their effectiveness, and to discover which method suits you best.
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