Our attention span is a major part of our cognitive abilities. When we are attentive and are able to focus, we not only grasp things around us but also live in the moment. How can you enjoy the finest moments of life when you’re not present in them mentally. People dealing with a lot of stress, overwhelming feelings or intense anxiety find it difficult to be oriented and are not in control of their cognition. Their senses get weak and even their cognitive functions may get impaired.
Here comes into play something called “Grounding techniques”. Grounding techniques are an act of refocussing your attention and thoughts to be in the present moment helping you turn off your autopilot to take control of your thoughts, thus reorienting you to the reality. In certain cases, the problem might not be serious and can be dealt easily. In such cases, this technique can help you to distract yourself from distress and refocus on the present moment.
People dealing from some trauma, PTSD or dissociation receive most benefits from this approach. These techniques employ a number of activities which can be either perceptual or cognitive. By Perceptual techniques, the power of our senses is used to ground our attention in the present moment while in Cognitive techniques the focus is on making an individual assured that he is safe in the moment. Cognitive techniques are used mostly for trauma cases.
As mentioned above, the 2 types of techniques are used based on the problem. Anxiety, Depression, Nightmares, PTSD etc. are the major concerns that employ these techniques though people with stress or overwhelming emotions can also benefit from it. It is advised to have a combination of grounding techniques. Moreover what benefits one may not benefit the other. So it’s important to try these techniques and select what works for you. We are going to talk about 6 perceptual and 6 cognitive techniques.
Perceptual Grounding Techniques
Putting Hands In Water
The sense of touch is used here. You need to put your hand in water and focus on the temperature of water and how it feels on your skin, on your palms or your fingertips.
Start this exercise with warm water and then move on to cold. Think about the differences that you felt in both temperatures.
This exercise calms the mind and focusses our attention on an immediate stimuli which is calming in nature.
Control your breathe. Inhale and exhale slowly, engaging your cognition too, thinking about each breath you take. You can also count your breathes or utter a specific word after each exhalation. Feel the air entering your lungs and then the air leaving them.
Using this method, we concentrate on a variety of things while calming ourselves with slow breathing.
A Stroll Or A Small Walk
Put on your walking shoes and go to your nearby park. While walking concentrate on your steps. You can count your total steps or the number of steps covered in each round. Notice the rhythm of your footsteps and how it feels when your feet touches the ground. Try walking with different paces. You can even try walking backwards if you’re on a soft ground.
This exercise engages not only your focus but your motor skills also.
Savor Your Favorite Delicacy
Order your favorite pizza or pasta or whatever you like. Focus on the aroma. Taste it by taking nibbles and let yourself savor each bite. Think about its taste and the flavors felt by your taste buds. Concentrate on the entire process from the point you take a bite till when you gulp it.
Here, the sense of taste is used and the cognitive process to identify the flavors using our mind is active.
Feel Your Body
Your physical body is the utmost reality till you’re alive. The sensation of physical being is a crucial tool of grounding techniques. You have to feel your body either by sitting or standing. Focus on each part of your body, from head to toe. Focus on the following things:
- The sensation of hair falling on your forehead and shoulders
- The weight of garment worn on your shoulders
- The sensation of the garment touching your skin
- The sensation of your feet touching the floor
- Your heartbeat and its rhythm
- Force exerted by your arms on your shoulder when they are still
- The sensation of skin touching when you sit cross legged
You can look for other sensations as well and find out new things.
The Number Game (5-4-3-2-1 Method)
This activity is the ultimate perceptual grounding techniques as it engages all five senses i.e. touching, hearing, smelling, seeing and tasting. The sensations experienced invoke a soothing effect. Here, we start with a certain sense and list 5 objects related to it and then move on to another sense with a decreased number:
- Name 5 things you see in your surroundings: it can be anything like pictures, greenery or art.
- Name 4 things you can feel: it can be anything like fidgeting with your own body, feeling the floor beneath your feet, your back leaned against chair, wall, etc.
- Name 3 things you can hear: Here the soothing sounds like your favorite music, downpour, fidget clicking, white noises etc. are considered.
- Name 2 things you can smell: soothing smells like hot meal, scented incense, aromatic lamps etc. are considered.
- Name 1 thing you can taste: Here anything that you like to eat is considered. It can be a cooked meal or your favorite candy.
Just bear in mind that you can employ whatever sense you like. There should not be any issues with the order you employ them in.
Cognitive Grounding Techniques
We all have learnt poems in our junior years at school and some of them we remember by heart. Think of those poems or any other literary piece. Recite it in your head. Then start reciting it out loud. Focus on the movement of your lips, the shapes it makes while speaking. When you recite the poem or passage, whether in mind or in real, visualize it. It should appear as if you’re reading it form somewhere.
Maths And Calculations
For this you don’t need to be a maths wizard. Just some basic level number operations and you’re good to go. Try the following techniques:
- Choose a number and keep adding a certain number to it.
- Count back from 100 till 50 and then start from 1 to 50 again.
- Run a table in your head.
- Divide even numbers and make a series.
Visualize Your Daily Favorite Activity
Anything that you like doing on a regular basis and enjoy is required here. Try to visualize the whole activity, step by step. All the process starting from its initiation to its completion should be imagined in complete detail.
For eg. You like baking. Think about how you’ll carefully add water to the flour and knead the dough. The pressure that your hands will exert should also be visualized. Think about making small balls of the dough and setting them in the tray for baking. Pulling out the baked bread, the aroma of it and its texture is of great importance here.
Visualize Leaving Pain Behind
All that you are suffering from makes it tough for you to function normally. Try visualizing all those emotions in physical form and getting rid of them. Try –
- Getting rid of those emotions as you pluck petals of a flower.
- Visualizing a soft object as pain and hitting it.
- Gathering emotions as strings, collecting them and throwing them away.
- Running and with each step, leaving a painful emotion behind.
Listening To Music
Grab your ipod, put on your favorite music and pretend that you’ve discovered this song just now. Focus on the lyrics and the composition. Focus on each note and the rhythm. Let yourself dive deep into the melody of the song and feel every part of it. Pay attention to the instrumental parts.
You have to memorize a picture or a photograph. Take a picture and observe it in great detail for 5 to 10 seconds and then put it upside down. Now based on the observation, try to recreate the picture in your mind in same detail. If it is difficult to recreate the picture., then try listing all the objects seen in the picture. Here, sequence is not important.
A Word From BeyondPsychub
Grounding techniques are specifically curated techniques to be used in combinations. Practicing a single technique won’t give any benefit. It’s upon the individual to find out techniques that work for him/her and stick to them. It’s not necessary to face distress as to start grounding. Constant practice beforehand makes it easy for you to cope with the problem when it arises. Each time you practice these techniques, try to measure the level of distress before and after. This activity will make it easier to select your set of techniques.