The grounding techniques that help relax you when feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and anxious can be transformative and healing. You can do countless activities that ground you using the world around you. From deep breathing to gardening, we’ll be sharing some of the most effective techniques for grounding yourself. So, let’s… dig in (pun intended).
17 Grounding Techniques to Improve Your Mental Health
1. Deep Breathing Meditation
Deep breathing meditation is a ground technique you can do to deal with panic attacks and other forms of anxiety. When we become overwhelmed with something, our breathing and heart rates increase rapidly. However, by breathing deeply, we naturally breathe slower to regulate our breathing.
A little trick for slowing your breathing is to hug a relaxed person at the moment. For example, if you’re feeling anxious but a family member is calm. Hugging that person tightly for a few minutes will help to regulate your breathing as your breathing will begin to synchronize.
If you’re alone, no worries, though. You can follow along to a guided meditation for grounding. Following along to the video, you can practice deep breathing with the prompts given by a guide. You’ll be able to calm the mind and replace negative thoughts or even ruminating thoughts with happy thoughts.
2. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Technique
Another grounding technique popularized in cognitive-behavioral therapy is the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 technique. Ultimately, it’s a challenge to our senses to look for five things you see, four things you touch, three things you hear, two things you smell, and one thing you taste.
For the things you see, you might notice plants, tissue boxes, wall art, moving clouds, or even cars driving by. As for the things you touch, it could be the keys on your keyboard, a drinking glass, a pile of papers, or even your phone. The three things you hear could include music, the sound of cars driving by, animals such as birds chirping, people talking, or even the air conditioner working. When it comes down to the two things you smell, it could be the soap in the bathroom, a fragrance in the air from a candle, or even the smell of juice or coffee in your cup. Lastly, the thing you taste could include chewing gum or mint, the feeling of a deep breath in, or of a drink you have nearby.
By challenging yourself to connect with your senses, you shift back from the past or future and into the present moment. You ground yourself in reality by becoming aware of your surroundings and senses. This technique works well at reducing anxiety and stress to prevent you from thinking about ‘what if’ and focus your attention on the world around you.
3. Hold a meditation coin in your hand
The “Be Mindful” coin is a meditation coin you can carry with you everywhere you go. Typically, people keep them in their pockets. Whenever they reach into their pocket, they remember to be mindful of their actions.
However, the medallion can also be used to help people with anxiety. For example, if you regularly suffer from panic attacks, having the coin in your pocket can be used to help ground you. You can use it as something you “touch” for the 5,4,3,2,1 technique. There are ridges on the coin that you can thoroughly touch to help you get rid of your anxiety.
Keeping the coin in a safe place like your pocket or placed on your work desk can allow you to have easy access to it. You can also use it to fidget with when feeling restless to help ground yourself again.
4. Go on a mindful walk
You can follow along to a guided meditation for mindful walking as a grounding technique. When you don’t have a guide following you along, you often end up alone with your thoughts, making it more likely to experience ruminating thoughts. However, when you’re following along to a guided meditation, you have prompts that show up before your mind wanders, so you can always be attentive and mindful.
When going on a mindful walk, take note of all your surroundings. Notice the distance between yourself and cars driving by. Stop and look up around the sky. Are there birds flying by? Are there lost items thrown up on electrical lines? Have the street lights turned on yet? Then, shift your attention straight ahead. Is the sidewalk or ground flat or angled? Consider challenging yourself to spot a specific animal, tree, or plant.
As you walk by, name all the things you see. Have you ever noticed those things you’ve passed by before, likely multiple times? Become the observer of your surroundings. Use this grounding technique to connect with nature and recognize her beauty.
5. Mindfully eat a meal
When you’re feeling anxious about eating alone, a grounding technique is to practice mindful eating. When eating with others, most people will spend the evening chatting with others. They’ll quickly eat their meal, not realizing what it tasted like.
Mindful eating changes that. The grounding technique of mindful eating requires you to chew your food for at least thirty bites per mouthful. As you thoroughly chew your food, you’ll notice that the taste and texture of the food will drastically change. You might even discover that the foods you eat all the time you don’t enjoy the taste of.
6. Do a body scan meditation
Body scan meditations are a great grounding technique to help you bring awareness to your physical body. For example, in a body scan meditation, you’ll notice the sensations you feel across your body, either starting at the top or bottom of your body. You’ll slowly work through every body part to notice sensations. As you progress through this meditation, you’ll begin to see that the anxiety you were feeling before doing it started to dissipate.
The most common things to experience in a body scan meditation are the rumbling of the stomach, an itch you want to scratch, a ringing in your ears, the temperature on your skin such as heat or cold, pressure or tightness from anxiety, the feeling of butterflies in your stomach, tingles or even buzzing.
7. Take a cold shower
When we’re feeling anxious, taking a nice, hot shower sounds like a relaxing thing to do. However, either before or after your hot shower, change the temperature to the coldest setting for a couple of minutes (though you can stay in it for less if it becomes too much).
Experiencing cold showers or even cold baths helps with body inflammation, calms muscles, cools you down quickly if you’ve taken steamy showers, helps reduce depression, and more.
One study found that people who had depressive symptoms (but weren’t formally diagnosed with depression) could alleviate their symptoms by taking a quick cold shower twice a day.
The cold shock helps alert you to the present moment where your coldness captures all your attention, making it a grounding technique if you have depressive or anxiety symptoms.
8. Watch nature
Another grounding technique you can try is to do some nature watching. When was the last time you simply sat in your yard and watched squirrels scurrying about, birds flocking to roofs or trees, or dogs trying to sneak into your backyard?
If the weather is too cold, stand outside for five minutes. Feel the cold breeze on your skin. Notice the movement of the wind on your face. Watch people run to their cars or wipe the snow off their windshields. Then, look for animals.
Watching nature can be a beautiful experience for those who don’t do it regularly. But, as the observer, you’ll notice that life goes on beautifully if you take a closer look.
9. Make a gratitude list
A gratitude list is a list of all the things you’re grateful for. Writing this list is a grounding technique that refocuses your attention on what’s good in your life. By reframing negative thoughts into happy thoughts, you can lower your anxiety, decrease depression, and learn how to be happy again.
10. Slide ice up and down your arm
Sliding ice up and down your arm is a grounding technique that brings you back to your senses. Some people recommend holding the ice in your hand. You can do that too.
Notice the cold sensation on your skin as you slide the ice around. Watch the ice melt and transform into liquid. Have a paper towel ready so you can dry off any water.
At what point does the ice go from feeling uncomfortably cold to just cold? Notice the exact moment and focus on it.
11. Snap a hairband on your wrist
Keeping a hairband on your wrist is not only convenient in case you need to tie it up, but it’s also helpful for those looking for an affordable and accessible grounding technique.
Whenever your mind begins to ruminate on negativity, snap the hairband on your wrist. You’ll notice a quick, sting of pain that draws your attention back to the present moment.
Doing this regularly will get you into the habit of controlling and becoming more aware of your thoughts as they arise.
12. Mindfully clean your home
One of the grounding techniques you can try at home is to clean your house mindfully. While cleaning isn’t usually on the top of anyone’s “want to do” list, it can be a relaxing experience that gets you in the present.
You can choose to play positive songs while you clean to change your energy levels. As you wash dishes, fold laundry, or dust your shelves, you can relish in the fact that your house will be clean. You can see the before and after of your home when cleaning.
Allow yourself to enjoy the process of cleaning. Focus on carefully washing each dish at a time. By focusing on the present act of cleaning, you won’t be swayed by negative thinking.
13. Play an instrument
There’s nothing that brings you back to the present faster than playing an instrument. A grounding technique that can help relax you is to learn a new song or even a new instrument.
When you don’t know how to play something, you become mentally stimulated, focusing more easily. When we play a new song or instrument, we get into a flow state as we immerse ourselves in this task. It’s hard to experience any negative emotion when experiencing this state.
14. Do acts of kindness
One of the grounding techniques you can do daily is a good deed every day. Doing acts of kindness can help ground you because it calms the toxic chatter in our heads and gets us to do positive action.
It’s hard to feel anxious, depressed, or any other negative emotional state when doing positive activities daily. Every day, look for opportunities to be kind, wow people, and make people happy. You can surprise people with a positive message explaining why you’re grateful for them in your life. For example, buying someone coffee or praising someone’s hard work won’t go unnoticed.
15. Splash water on your face
When you’re wondering, “what is wrong with me?” it’s normal to feel like you need to shake yourself back up. A quick way to wake yourself up and recharge your being is to splash water on your face. Cold water works best.
Splashing cold water on your face can help ground you to the moment. It can help wake you up from your thinking… or wake you up when feeling drowsy.
16. Take care of your garden
Gardening is a popular grounding technique that brings you into the earth. The act of digging holes in the soil and planting new life is an enriching experience that brings us back to our roots (pun intended).
Humans used the garden to plant their own food. So, the experience of gardening helps us connect with our ancestors. Feeling the soil on our skin makes us feel good. Walking barefoot in our garden connects us with nature on a deep level. Overall, gardening is an excellent activity to ground yourself (pun intended again).
17. Play with a pet
The connection between humans and animals has been around for centuries. When you need to ground yourself, playing with a pet can help. Whether you’re playing fetch or cuddling on the couch with them, having a pet can make you feel better when you’re feeling sad.
Pets can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. They’re also good for your heart, especially during those long walks outdoors. People with pets are mentally stronger than people without them. So, if you don’t have a pet, consider getting one to help you ground yourself. Playing with a pet is a grounding technique that can bring you so much joy.
You can try as many grounding techniques as you’d like. Doing a combination of them can be helpful during highly stressful situations to help you ease the mind and body. Whether you’re following along to a body scan meditation, holding a coin in your hand, or doing the 5,4,3,2,1, technique, you’ll be helping yourself through panic attacks, depression, and any other difficult situations. So, what’s the first grounding technique you’ll do first?