Whether someone is having a panic attack, experiencing a high level of anxiety or is struggling to fall asleep, finding a way to ease the mind and return to a place of calmness and clarity can be extremely difficult to achieve. That’s why mindfulness/grounding techniques are so important, because they can help someone achieve just that – no matter their current mental state.
The 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 technique is a simple, yet powerful grounding technique, bringing quick relief by forcing you to be mindful of the environment around you. In order to recommend this technique to someone in your life, we feel it is important you give it a try yourself first. This way you will not only experience first-hand its effects, but you can feel more confident explaining it to someone else.
Now start by, identifying five things that you see. This does not have to be large objects. The smaller and more specific you can be the better.
Found them? Great! Now identify four things that you can touch. Once again, be as detailed as you can. Identify the texture of this object, the temperature, whether it’s wet or dry.
Starting to feel slightly more grounded? Let’s keep going! Now, we would like you to identify three things that you can hear. This can be external sounds like birds chirping or cars driving by. Or, this can be internal sounds, like your stomach rumbling or the sound of your breath.
Almost there! Time to identify two things that you can smell.
Alright, last one. Identify one thing you can taste. What was the last thing you ate or drank? Can you taste it? Is it sour/sweet, bitter/tart? Be specific.
Now this technique is most effective when repeated several times. We recommend a minimum of 3 repetitions, but sometimes it may take 5 or more; it simply depends on the person/situation. Please note that the exercise can also be adjusted as needed. For example, if someone is struggling to sleep and don’t want to turn on the lights, they can simply identify more things from the other senses and skip over vision.
What if you child is finding this activity difficult and can’t hear, feel or smell enough things?
We have two ways out of this: you can ask your child to name favourite things (e.g. “name 2 smells you like” instead of “name 2 things you can smell”) or provide the sensory input for them for example
FEEL / TOUCH – Ask your child to close their eyes and focus on what they are feeling. You may softly blow a bit of air on their face, apply soft pressure on one arm or run a finger through their hand to slightly tickle them.
HEAR- Open a window so if the house doesn’t provide enough inputs, you may hear birds, a dog barking or cars.
SMELL- Instead of asking your child to imagine a smell, why not provide that pleasant experience with a smell of an essential oil, a flower, some hand cream or a spice bottles from the kitchen cabinet.
TASTE – This can be as simple as giving them a drink of water, or a fingertip of salt, honey, lemon juice.
This is just one grounding technique, if you find this one isn’t working try another. Here is a list of 10 great ones
Source – Camskids (2021). 5,4,3,2,1 Grounding Technique retrieved from https://www.camskids.com/supportresources/54321-grounding-technique/