Many of us experience symptoms of depression and often have no idea what to do at that time to stay momentarily calm. In such situations, practising some grounding exercises is a good idea.
The purpose of grounding techniques is to allow a person to step away from negative thoughts or flashbacks. Techniques such as these can decrease the intensity of a person’s feelings or thoughts by distracting them using all the five senses. These techniques help a person shift their attention from disturbing events and thoughts to the present moment.
Here are some of the most common grounding techniques used for depression-
#1 5-4-3-2-1 Technique
Before starting this exercise, pay attention to your breathing. Slow, deep, long breaths can help you maintain a sense of calm or help you return to a calmer state. Once you find your breath, go through the following steps to help ground yourself:
5: Acknowledge FIVE things you see around you. It could be a pencil, a spot on your wall, anything in your surroundings.
4: Acknowledge FOUR things you can touch around you. It could be your cheek, a bedsheet, or the ground under your feet.
3: Acknowledge THREE things you hear. This could be any external sound. If you can hear your belly rumbling that counts! Focus on things you can hear outside of your body – Like birds, traffic etc.
2: Acknowledge TWO things you can smell. If you need to take a brief walk to find a scent you could smell soap in your bathroom, or nature outside.
1: Acknowledge ONE thing you can taste. What does the inside of your mouth taste like?
#2 Breathing Exercises
Focusing on your breath by consciously inhaling and exhaling is another effective grounding strategy.
A person can enhance the focus of these breathing exercises by placing their hands on their abdomen and watching them move up and down while inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth.
Doing these a few times, a day can help one calm themselves down, and return to the present moment.
#3 Step by Step Technique
To follow this grounding technique, a person should:
– Place the feet firmly on the ground.
– Take slow, deep breaths.
– State what they can observe in their present environment.
– Remind themselves that they are in a safe place right now.
– Observe their immediate surroundings and describe items in the room or environment.
#4 Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness is a mental state in which you focus your attention on the present moment and everything that is happening in the here and now.
Mindfulness has different aspects to it such as mindful eating (noticing what you’re eating, how it tastes, etc), mindful walking (taking a deep breath in as you put one foot out and vice versa) or mindful breathing (noticing your breath going in and noticing when it comes out).
This can also involve being mindful of how the muscles in your body are feeling and performing an exercise of tightening and loosening each group of muscles if they are feeling tense.
This simple exercise can help you put a pause to what you’re thinking and feeling and regulate your emotions.
#5 Mental Exercises
Practising some simple mental exercises such as counting back from 100 by 3s, describing the steps of an activity you know how to do well or spelling the names of a few people you know backwards can also be an efficient way of decreasing symptoms of anxiety and depression.
These activities will help you shift your focus and attention from negative thoughts and feelings to the present moment and elicit more positive emotions as well helping you think more clearly.
Though grounding techniques are simple and instant, they cannot be considered an alternative to regular therapy. You should definitely consider therapy as a treatment option in addition to these techniques if you feel your symptoms are alarming.
- Chevalier, G. (2015). The effect of grounding the human body on mood [Abstract]. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25748085