Grounding Techniques

Grounding is a technique that helps keep someone in the present. I first became familiar with grounding techniques as a yoga teacher trainee in my early twenties. We were taught that, particularly in the high-stress city of Washington D.C., where I lived at the time, people came to yoga class to ground themselves. To put it simply, after a long, frenzied day at work, they came to us to chill out.

Managing stress and anxiety, in my experience, is one of the main reasons people seek grounding techniques. But grounding can also help people dealing with PTSD, trouble sleeping, or people who just want to live more mindfully. Everyone can benefit from grounding because it helps reorient the mind to the here-and-now and minimize negative thoughts about the past or fear of and worries about the future.

Here are some popular grounding techniques to help you focus your mind on the present moment:

  • Follow Your Breath: Sometimes the simplest things can be the most effective. When you start to feel imbalanced or stressed, just close your eyes and focus on your next inhale, and then your next exhale. Try to make your exhale either equal to or greater than your inhales. This will help you focus and relieve tension.
  • Ask Yourself Questions: Asking yourself questions can help you remind yourself of who you are right now and can help you ground yourself in the present. Ask yourself – What is your name? What is the current date? What season is it? Where are you right now?
  • 54321 Game: There are many exercises out there designed to draw your attention away from the thoughts and worries in your head and into the present moment. One of the most popular exercises is the 54321 Game. In this game, you first name 5 things you can see in the room with you, then 4 things you can feel, then 3 things you can hear right at that moment, then 2 things you can smell, and finally 1 good thing about yourself.
  • Get Up and Move: When the brain start to perceive stress, our amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for our emotional responses, goes into action. It releases stress hormones and adrenaline that, while they may be helpful in an actual emergency, do little to serve you when there is no real threat. Try channeling that adrenaline into a powerful cardio session, a brisk walk around the neighborhood, or even a living room dance party.
  • Call a Loved One: Talking to someone you know very well can be a great way to touch base with yourself. Not only will talking about your own life help to get unnecessary worries off your chest, present, but listening to a family member or close friend can help re-orient yourself to the here-and-now.
  • Develop a Meditation Practice: Perhaps the most literal example of grounding is meditation because, at least in my mind, meditation is grounding and grounding is meditation. They are one and the same. Meditation can be very intimidating to some people, but it’s really nothing to be afraid of. There are many free apps and YouTube videos that can help guide you through your meditation practice, and many are designed for beginners.
  • Distract Your Mind: When all else fails, just distract yourself. One technique suggested by psychologist Dr. Sarah Allen is to pick a color, let’s say blue, and look around at the room around and try to count all the blue items you can see. Another popular technique, and one that may sound familiar to those who have sought help falling asleep, is counting backwards by 7, starting at 100. Still feeling stressed? Do it again, but try it by 6.

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