What is Grounding and Why is it Good for You?
Grounding. You may have heard of it? Well today we’re going to take a look at grounding, whether you've heard of it or not, and we'll take a closer look at why this mindful practise might be beneficial to you.
Before we do that though, let me preface this practise with...you're different.
You don’t need anyone to tell you that you’re different, but here it goes anyway …you’re different.
I mean that in the nicest possible way. For just as you are different, I also, am different. We’re all different. We’ve all been born into different families with different DNA, had different experiences and also different relationships. All these things have shaped us and contributed to our differences.
Just as we’re all different there isn’t a “one size fits all”, when it comes to mindfulness practises, because all of our minds are different too.
Grounding is no exception. Some of you reading this will find this such a helpful practise, whereas for others, it might just be a bit “blahhhh” – not much of anything, really. If you’re in the latter category I do still encourage you to try this a few times. You just never know if there is a hidden need to ground to explore deep within you.
So what is grounding?
In a nutshell ground is a practise that is used to re-connect you with your body.
For some of us we have spent a great deal of time stuck in our head. Our minds have become our reality. Our thinking rules us. Our thoughts are where we spend most of our time. Thinking about "the List", about what might happen, about what has happened, what "they" might think, about your worth or value. The thoughts that occupy our minds are endless.
Some of us are simply born this way. For others it has occurred due to some sort of trauma or PTSD. For others, it’s just this way due to stress, anxiety, worrying or a chronic physical pain and for other it’s this way because… well, it just is this way.
When we do a grounding practice we pay focussed attention to various parts of our body.
We usually start off with several slow, deep breaths then follow with one, or more, of the following:
You might do a body-scan – just as it sounds, a “scan” of your body, a check-in, if you like, on how each part of your body is feeling.
Paying attention to the pressure of your body against a chair or the floor. Where your feet touch your shoes and the floor. The sensation of what your hands are touching. Checking-in to how your muscles feel – are they clenched and tight or supple and relaxed? This isn’t about changing anything, purely about noticing.
Or perhaps you focus for several minutes simply on deep-breathing and how the air feels as it passes through your nostrils – in, hold, out, hold – as it fills your lungs and expands your diaphragm. Or focussing on a particular part of the breathing that you find pleasant, like the rise and fall of your abdomen.
Or you might like to visually ground – taking particular note of the smallest detail of something directly in your line of vision.
5, 4, 3, 2, 1
Here is a simple way to remember one particular grounding practise using 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.
But first, take 5 slow, deep breaths. Really paying attention to the whole process of the breathing. The more focus, the more you’ll ground. If you can slow your breathing down even further with a few seconds pause holding the inward breath, then another few seconds holding the exhaled breath.
Don't skip this part. With each breath you're sending a message to the brain of "I'm safe. I'm OK". This will lay the foundation for the grounding process.
Then move onto:
- 5 things to see - look around you and choose 5 things to focus on. Note every detail as if you were to explain what you see to another person (eg, that clock has a white face, gold hands, gold rim, Century Gothic font numbers - yep, my kitchen clock!).
- 4 things to feel - You might like to close your eyes for this one, if that's comfortable. Take note of what your hands can feel – your skin, your trousers, the chair, table, etc. What do your feet feel like in your shoes or slippers or bare feet on the ground, what’s the surface like? Does the skin on my face notice anything, temperature, air movement?
- 3 things to hear – traffic, aircon, fridge, your breathing, etc..
- 2 things to smell - Can you smell anything? Take note of 2 of the smallest, or not small, smells – toothpaste? Perfume? Soap?
- 1 thing to taste - What can you taste? Is there any residue in your mouth from your last meal or snack or coffee?
You will discover that you most probably have calmed down considerably well before you reach #5.
Once you’re calm your brain will then move back into the “thinking, wise” part of the brain, your pre-frontal cortex. This will enable you to think clearly again and evaluate your situation wisely, without panic, fear, anxiety or concern.
A powerful exercise
I’ve seen first-hand how powerful grounding can be in the teenagers I have counselled through the years. It is by far one of the most impactful exercises I’ve taught highly anxious clients. I’ve literally seen students come to me in a panicked-tear-filled-frenzy, due to an exam they need to attend, only to leave my office 5 minutes later calm and able to engage in the exam successfully. It really works that effectively!
So next time you are highly stressed, anxious or worried, pause for a moment and ground yourself. Step out of your hectic mind and re-connect with your body.
This really is one of those things that the more you do it the better you’ll be at it.
Do some grounding when you’re calm so that the neurological pathways start to form. That way, the brain will recognise the process the moment you start grounding, with 'calm' happening quicker each time you practise.
Think of it like push-ups for the brain.
Build that grounding muscle so that when you need to do some ‘heavy lifting’ the muscles are there to support you.
Fit grounding into your morning routine - a couple of minutes as you prepare for the day ahead will provide your mind with more 'space' and clarity.
These are just a few grounding exercises, go explore and discover others that you can connect your body and mind with, create some of your own (be sure to let me know these!), and see how grounding benefits both your mind and your body.