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54321 Grounding Technique

Feeling stuck in your head?

In this post, I’m going to share one of the first mindfulness strategies I teach to my therapy clients: the 54321 grounding technique. It’s simple, takes as little as 60 seconds, and can be used anywhere at any time — whether you’re transitioning into or out of a demanding work day, cuddling up with your kiddo, or finally getting a chance to connect with your partner. If you have a hard time getting out of your head and into the present moment, the 54321 grounding technique can help.

Here’s how to use the 54321 grounding technique.

Notice how present you’re feeling.

First, notice how present you’re currently feeling on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being “I am completely distracted by thoughts about the past or future” and 10 being “I am completely focused on the present moment.” We’re going to treat this exercise like an experiment, with the hope that it helps you bump that number up at least a little bit.

Take a nice deep breath. Next, we’re going to see what you can notice with each of your five senses.

Describe 5 things you can see.

For example, when I look around, I can see a big blue sky outside my window, a few clouds that are bright and light and fluffy today, some trees swaying in the breeze, small white flowers that are blossoming on some of those trees, and all of my work tech here on my desk.

What are 5 things that you can see, and what do you notice about them?

Describe 4 things you can touch or feel.

For example, I can reach out and touch my mug of tea and notice it feels warm. I can touch the surface of my desk and notice it feels smooth and cool. I can touch the chair I’m sitting on and notice how it feels soft and supportive. And though I’m not touching it with my hands in the same way, I can feel the general temperature in the room and notice that it’s not too hot and not too cold.

What are 4 things you can touch or feel, and what do you notice about them?

Describe 3 things you can hear.

When I listen, I can hear the sound of my fan buzzing close by. I can hear birds chirping outside and, even though I don’t know how they’re feeling, I like to imagine those are happy sounds they’re making. I hear the sound of those trees rustling just a bit.

What are 3 things you can hear, and what do you notice about them?

Describe 2 things you can smell.

If your space doesn’t have an obvious scent, see if you can find something specific to smell. For example, if I smell my sweater, I notice a slight lavender scent from my laundry detergent. My hair smells like my coconut conditioner.

What are 2 things you can smell, and what do you notice about them?

Describe 1 thing you can taste.

You may notice something right away (like the lingering taste of your toothpaste or the aftertaste of a recent meal). Like with smells, if you don’t sense anything obvious, you can find something specific to taste. I’ll take a sip of my tea and notice a hint of honey.

What is 1 thing you can taste, and what do you notice about it?

Notice how present you’re feeling now.

Take another deep breath. Again, notice how present you’re currently feeling on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being “I am completely distracted by thoughts about the past or future” and 10 being “I am completely focused on the present moment.”

Consider making the 54321 grounding technique a part of your routine.

Hopefully, this exercise helped you feel at least a little bit more present. Ideally, it’ll help you slow down, connect with your surroundings, and redirect your attention to what’s in front of you. If you like this exercise, consider making it a part of your routine to help you be more present for the moments you don’t want to miss.

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