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Grounding Techniques and Why They Are Important

Looking to help your patient work through their mental health struggles using Grounding? Then read this short guide to learn about the different kinds of Grounding techniques that you can have them do!

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Grounding Techniques
Grounding Techniques

Hello! If you have stumbled upon this guide, then it’s quite likely you are looking to include the skill known as Grounding as part of your therapeutic work! Or, you are just interested in what Grounding is all about and believe that it might help you whenever you are experiencing emotional distress!

Do note that this particular guide is all about specific Grounding exercises you can do. While we will discuss Grounding in general for a little bit after this preamble, we do have a guide that’s all about discussing Grounding in general, including the general types of Grounding techniques that a person can do depending on their needs and the challenges that they face. You can read that if you want to get a better sense of what this skill is all about.

If you are already familiar with what Grounding is and are here to learn about specific Grounding techniques, then keep reading! We hope you find what suits your patient or yourself!

What are Grounding Techniques?

Before we discuss what Grounding Techniques are, let’s talk about Grounding in general for the benefit of those who have not read our guide about the skill.

Grounding is a useful therapeutic skill in which a person tries to anchor themselves in the present moment to better focus on their physical sensations, emotions, and immediate surroundings whenever they are experiencing anxiety, panic, emotional distress, or dissociation. It’s a skill that can help boost emotional resilience and teach patients how to better manage their emotions to attain healthy mental well-being.

Now, how do people practice Grounding anyway? They can do so by doing Grounding Techniques!

Grounding Techniques (also known as Grounding Exercises) can help reframe a person’s thoughts and emotions, especially if they are all over the place because of anxiety, stress, or other mental health issues. Here are the different types of Grounding Techniques that a person can do:

  1. Physical Grounding - This type is all about the physical sensations that a person is currently feeling. These can simply be the feeling of their hands resting on the arms of a chair, the aches and tension in their muscles, a clamping feeling in their ankle, etc.
  1. Mental and Emotional Grounding - This type is similar to Physical Grounding, but instead of focusing on the physical sensations they feel, this one is all about focusing on their emotions and feelings.
  1. Sensory Grounding - This type of Grounding is where people practice techniques that take advantage of our five senses. What people usually do with this type of Grounding exercise is focus on what they can feel based on their five senses. Doing so will help them focus on the present moment and their immediate environment.
  1. Social and Spiritual Grounding - This type focuses on helping them find a support system, specifically someone, a group of people, or something that they can lean on whenever they are dealing with something emotionally distressing.

Why are these Grounding Techniques helpful?

These Grounding Techniques are helpful for several reasons! Besides helping people anchor themselves to the present moment, grounding exercises can benefit them in numerous ways, depending on what they are dealing with and what particular grounding technique type they are doing. Here are other reasons why they are helpful:

  1. Physical Grounding exercises can help people become more aware of their physical sensations and help them identify what is causing them. If the person is dealing with anxiety, stress, or panic, they might feel a number of things, like their skin suddenly feeling cold, having migraines, palpitations, or even suddenly having shortness of breath. By becoming more aware of their physical sensations, they have the opportunity to know what exactly happens to them when they are distressed, and by knowing what happens to them, they can find ways to better manage themselves during their bouts with anxiety, stress, or panic.
  1. Same thing with Mental and Emotional Grounding techniques! By becoming more aware of their negative emotions and their mental health issues, they can acknowledge what contributes to these problems, and they can find ways to work through said problems, or they can develop healthy coping habits to better manage these negative emotions and mental health issues and improve their emotional resilience.
  1. As for Social and Spiritual Grounding techniques, these are helpful because they can help people get rid of their feelings of loneliness and isolation through companionship with loved ones, friends, or just their immediate community, whether it’s the neighborhood, the workplace, or some organization that does fun things or good work. They can also help encourage goal setting. By setting goals and focusing on attaining them, it’s possible for a person to anchor themselves whenever they are troubled by negative thoughts and emotions because they have something to work toward, especially if they know that it will benefit them in the long run.

What is the 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Technique?

The 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Exercise is not what you might think at first glance. While it does involve counting, you’re not counting down for something exactly. The numbers are for identifying things.

For this Sensory Grounding exercise, the person will rely on their five senses. They will be using these senses to engage their immediate environment and the present moment in a deliberate manner. Here are the things that they need to do:

  • First, they need to take a deep breath and be aware of their surroundings. They need to notice where they are and what is happening around them.
  • 5 - After taking a deep breath, they have to identify five things in their immediate environment that they see. They can identify just about anything! It can be a poster on their wall, a picture on their desk, or even their dog running around the yard.
  • 4 - Next, the person practicing this Grounding technique must touch four things. They can touch and feel the texture of their shirt, lean their back and feel the wall behind them, and even pet their dog or cat to feel their fur.
  • 3 - After touching things, they need to identify three things they can hear. This can be the sound of the rain on the roof, the gentle hum of an air conditioning unit, and their next-door neighbors breaking up through the paper-thin walls of their apartment.
  • 2 - Second to the last, they need to identify two things that they can smell. This can be the freshly cooked food their mother whipped up and the smell of perfume wafting around the house.
  • 1 - Last, they simply need to taste something. Anything. Hopefully something delicious. So it’s best that they have a snack, a whole meal, or chewing gum available. 

By focusing on what they can feel using their five senses, they can bring their attention to the present moment instead of indulging their negative thoughts. The 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Technique is an effective way to anchor a person to the now. It can benefit a person by reducing the feeling of being overwhelmed by negative thoughts and feelings and by helping them relax.

Physical Grounding Techniques You Can Do

Now, just to reiterate, Physical Grounding is all about the person focusing on the physical sensations they are currently feeling. These sensations can be as simple as feeling your hands resting on the arms of a cold steel chair, feeling the marble floor or a rickety wooden floor with your feet, or rubbing the fur of an adorable pet.

Here are some grounding techniques under this type that you can do:

  • Splash cold or warm water on your face.
  • Turn on a faucet and run cold or warm water over your hands.
  • Grab the arms of your chair (if it has arms) tightly.
  • Clench your fists as tight as you can, then release them.
  • Stretch your arms.
  • Stretch your legs.
  • Touch several objects around you. You can practice part of the 5-4-3-2-1 exercise, specifically 5, which is all about you focusing on the physical sensation of touching five objects near you. You can touch any object you want. Just make sure it’s not sharp. You don’t have to bleed to feel something, friend
  • Jump up and down. Enjoy the sensation that you get whenever you land on your feet.
  • Deep breathing exercise. Hyperfocus on your inhales and exhales. Do it slowly, so you can properly feel how you inhale and exhale.
  • Enjoy food! Order something from a restaurant, or eat something that was prepared for you by your parents or by yourself. Savor the experience of eating by enjoying what the food looks like before you devour it first. Smell the food. Then when you taste the food, tell yourself about the texture of the food and what it tastes like.
  • Hug a pillow or stuffed toy. If your pet loves being hugged, hug your pet!
  • Squeeze a stress ball.
  • Take a cold or warm shower.
  • Roll your shoulders forward and/or backward.
  • Shake your head. Nod your head. And turn it in a clockwise and then counter-clockwise motion.

These exercises are a great way to learn how to pay attention to physical sensations. If a person is aware of physical sensations, then they have the opportunity to be aware of what’s causing them. Remember that whenever a person experiences anxiety, stress, or panic, they might experience physical sensations, such as shaking, shortness of breath, migraines, etc. By becoming more aware of these sensations, they will be able to identify and realize what exactly happens to them whenever they are distressed. By knowing these, they can find ways to manage their experiences with anxiety, stress, or panic.

Mental Grounding Techniques You Can Do

Similar to physical grounding exercises, metal grounding techniques are all about identifying negative emotions, feelings, beliefs, and thoughts! Once you identify and acknowledge these, the goal is to shift your attention to something else that is more positive and exciting for you to ward off the negativity.

Here are some mental grounding techniques that you can do to combat negative thoughts and feelings:

  • Say the alphabet backward! Do it slowly.
  • Count backward from 100 to 1 at a reasonable pace.
  • If you have a knack for memorizing poems and song lyrics, recite them to yourself, especially if the poems and songs are inspiring. If you can sing, sing it! Music has a cathartic effect on most people, so it’s best that you sing and see how it goes for you. Of course, if you are in distress because of, let’s say, a breakup, then don’t recite poems or sing songs that remind you of the person.
  • Indulge your sense of humor. If you are plagued by terrible thoughts, perhaps a laugh or two can help you out, if only for a while. Watch a stand-up comedy set or maybe a comedy movie (like the ones directed by Adam McKay, like Talladega Nights or The Other Guys), or recall a funny situation involving you or one you have observed. While the adage “laughter is the best medicine” should only be taken figuratively, it does help.
  • Play a letter game! Like, recite all animal species that start with the letter C. Or, think of dishes that begin with the letter P. Or, name bands with names that start with the letter S.
  • Practice Mindfulness. Mindfulness is actually a type of therapy that Grounding draws inspiration from since it is also about focusing on the present moment. In the case of Mindfulness, it asks practitioners to let their thoughts and feelings just flow, and they watch them in their heads like a movie without criticism or judgment.

Skeptics might say that such practices are akin to avoiding negative thoughts instead of confronting them. To the skeptics we say, well, not everyone has the emotional resilience to confront these negative emotions. Sometimes, it’s best to distract yourself because can you really even run away from things that plague your mind? If anything, people learn to live with their inner problems. Learning to live with them means you can manage them without hurting yourself, so Mental Grounding techniques are helpful and non-self-destructive ways of coping.

Commonly asked questions

Just how many Grounding Techniques are there?

Too many to count. If you notice, some of these things you can do every day, like spending time with family. If an activity can help anchor you into the present moment and helps you ward off negative thoughts, emotions, etc., then it should count as a Grounding exercise. Of course, if you want to be sure, discuss things with your therapist. They should be able to provide suggestions, should you need them.

Are Grounding Exercises harmful?

Grounding Exercises are normally safe, given that they should be activities that don’t involve anything harmful. But some Grounding Exercises may involve you thinking about the negative thoughts, feelings, and emotions that you might have, so if certain exercises trigger you, don’t do them. Try as many exercises as you can and see which ones work for you the most.

Can I use Grounding Techniques as a substitute for therapy?

No. Under no circumstance should you use this as a substitute for therapy. If you feel like this can benefit your mental health, feel free to practice them. But if you are experiencing anxiety, dissociation, depression, or any other mental health disorder, we recommend seeing a therapist. This is so you can get a second opinion as to whether or not Grounding should be the skill you use to help curb your disorder or issue.

Soothing Grounding Techniques You Can Do

Grounding techniques, in general, are technically soothing techniques, but not all of them necessarily make you feel better about yourself. Some are used as distractions or to help you focus on the present moment to curb negative thoughts, emotions, beliefs, etc.

For this section, we will discuss grounding exercises that are designed not just to make you focus on the present moment but also ones that were made to make you feel better about yourself, if only for a short while. Here are some soothing grounding techniques that you can do:

  • Practice self-compassion. Talk to yourself as if someone you love and trust is talking to you and providing you with affirmation.
  • “You can do this, my dude!”
  • “You’re a fantastic person, girl! We’re sure you will get through this trying time.” 
  • “You’re in a slump. So what? You have done great things before and just one mistake doesn’t necessarily undo every wonderful thing that you did. Keep your head up!”
  • Write in your journal. Write your thoughts and feelings that you experienced during the day. Once you close your journal, think of it as you shutting away your yesterday and that it’s a brand new day tomorrow. Things might look up the next day, and it’s good to look forward to something nice, even if it’s a surprise.
  • Listen to whatever counts as calming music. Or maybe try listening to something you’ve never listened to before. Ambient noise recordings (like the chirping of birds, rustling leaves, and crashing waves) can help transport you into an imaginative state where you feel like you’re in a beautiful natural area. Or maybe listen to death metal because the aggression of bands playing that genre might channel negative emotions out of you.
  • Spend time with your loved ones and friends. It can be something as simple as this. Being surrounded by people you love might eliminate your feelings of loneliness and isolation.
  • Think about the things you look forward to in the coming days, months, or years. Think about how those things will make you feel once you have them, do them, or experience them.
  • Remind yourself of your values and your goals. Think about how important these are for you and how following your values and working towards your goals will reward you. This should encourage goal setting and help you focus on those instead of your negative thoughts and emotions.

When is the best time to use Grounding Techniques?

Now that you know about the general Grounding Technique types and specific grounding exercises that you can do, you are probably wondering “When is the best time to do these things?”

The answer will depend on who is asking.

Are you a healthcare professional focusing on therapy work? Then the best time for you to introduce some of these grounding techniques to your patient is during your sessions with them, especially if you notice they are in emotional distress due to anxiety, depression, or dissociation.

One grounding exercise you can use during clinical sessions is the 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Exercise. Since this relies on the five senses, you can cover what they need to identify with just the things in your office. As for the smell and taste parts, ensure you have something prepared, like perfume, incense, a snack, a prepared meal, etc.

If you are a non-healthcare professional, you can definitely use any Grounding Technique whenever you feel like you need to, especially if you are overwhelmed by negative thoughts, if you are stressed out by something, or if you are feeling anxious or depressed. Many of the grounding exercises we listed above are things you can do on your own time, like reciting poems, singing songs, spending time with loved ones, etc.

How can Carepatron help with Grounding-related therapy?

If you are a healthcare professional who focuses on therapy-related work, then you’ll be delighted to know that Carepatron houses a massive treasure trove of resources. It’s filled to the brim with worksheets, assessments, surveys, general treatment plans, progress note templates, and much more that can streamline your work and cover more ground when gauging and treating your patients.

We have an abundance of resources for mental health-related therapy, some of which revolve around Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which Grounding draws inspiration from. An example of a resource you can download from us is the Decatastrophizing Worksheet, which is all about reassessing their negative thoughts regarding certain scenarios that haven’t even happened yet. These terrible scenarios can cause distress, so the Decatastrophizing exercise asks them to provide evidence to refute and support their negative thoughts and beliefs, plus nudge them to think about more positive thoughts and outcomes to work toward. Sounds like Grounding, right?

If Grounding is part of your therapeutic program, feel free to check out and download as many mental health resources as you want and need from us, all for free! You’re bound to find something that will fortify your Grounding work.

Besides having clinical resources to download, Carepatron also has a storage system that you can access! You can store all your clinical documents with us in a HIPAA-compliant manner! If you want to create backups of your Grounding-related work, store them with us! Storing them with us is the equivalent of creating backups of your files, so, just in case you lose your physical copies, you can download the files and print them again!

Not only will Carepatron help you streamline your workflow, but we can also help preserve your work by securing them!

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