What is mindfulness? It is the state of being in the present moment instead of worried about the future or depressed about the past. It is noticing and fully enjoying every little moment that makes up your day, but it’s also about steering away from self-judgement and fostering an attitude of acceptance, gratefulness, and joy.
Grounding is one of the simplest and easiest ways I have found to be mindful. Grounding is an exercise that anchors you in the present moment by latching each of your five senses to what is going on around you. This helps bring your awareness and your thoughts to the present moment as well.
When the idea of grounding was first presented to me, I dismissed it. I thought surely a technique that simple couldn’t be effective. After all, it was just about using the five senses, not doing any deep work or using your mind to solve problems or getting in tune with your emotions. It seemed too basic . . . too easy to be effective.
Boy, was I wrong. Grounding is no magic pill, but it is much more helpful than I first thought. Sometimes my mind starts to wander, and instead of enjoying what I’m currently doing, I’m worrying about what I’m going to do next. Instead of enjoying a day at the park with my boyfriend, I wonder what we will make for dinner and where to buy the supplies. Do enough of that, and I end up an anxious mess, so jumpy I can never fully enjoy what’s going on around me because I’m always looking to the next moment, then the next, and the next. Grounding, however, inserts a pause into that tendency to look ahead—it’s like a deep, refreshing breath that allows me to refocus on and really appreciate what’s going on around me.
After grounding, I’m better able to cherish the sights, scents, tastes, feel, and sounds of the present moment. I find more joy, more stability and peace. Sometimes the effects last a couple minutes or even seconds—sometimes they help me refocus and shift gears completely. I find it most effective to use grounding with another technique, such as meditation, deep breathing, or saying mantras aloud.
The following grounding exercise has really helped me cut back and enjoy the little things as if I’m seeing them for the first time! It may not appear to work the first few tries (it didn’t for me), so be patient and notice how you feel during and after the exercise. Give it a try, and discover if it works for you!
Challenge!: You can do this anywhere and anytime! List to yourself, in your mind, five things you can feel in this moment. It could be anything from your clothing, your feet on the ground, your dog’s fur beneath your hand, wind on your face. Now list three things you can hear. Maybe that same wind is whistling in your ears, or you hear the steady sound of your dog sleeping. What are one or two things you can taste? It’s perfectly okay to answer simply with “saliva”! What are two things you can smell? Maybe your dog needs a bath or the breeze carries the scent of homemade BBQ or the light perfume of flowers. Finally, what are five things you can see? Is your dog twitching in its sleep? Can you see the colored notepads on your desk or appreciate the deep blue of your favorite T-Shirt? You can follow these steps in any order and at any time. Notice how you feel during and after the exercise. Try it once every day this week!