Grounding techniques are strategies that can help a person deal with their traumatic memories or strong emotions.
The purpose of grounding techniques is to allow a person to move away from negative thoughts or flashbacks. Techniques such as these can reduce the intensity of a person’s feelings or trauma by using the five senses to distract them.
Focusing on what they are observing in the current environment can help a person move on from the past.
This article explores various types of grounding techniques.
Different experts suggest different grounding techniques. The following sections describe how to do them.
Health care providers can guide people through grounding techniques, or one person can guide themselves through the practice.
A publication from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration describes an approach to using grounding techniques.
Although this approach is suitable for doctors to carry out for patients, a person can also use this technique for themselves or with someone else.
To follow this grounding technique, a person should:
- Place your feet firmly on the floor.
- Enter the date and time.
- Breathe slowly and deeply.
- State what they can observe in their current environment.
- Remind yourself that they’re in a safe place right now.
- Observe their immediate surroundings and describe objects in the room or the surrounding area.
To reduce the intensity of their feelings, a person can use visualization exercises or sensory diffusers. Some techniques include:
- Imagine them turning down an emotional dial
- , clench their fist to hold on to their feelings and then let them go when they release their fist
- Visualize a safe location through guided images
- And yourself
In order to be distracted by memories of the past, various strategies can be tried out. A few examples include:
- Focus on current or future events, such as a to-do list for the day, the
- remembers their current security
- Touch a chair or wiggle your toes to remember the current reality
- to count or recite something in order to refocus on the present
The five senses
When practicing grounding techniques, people can focus on the five senses: sight, touch, hearing, taste, and smell.
One useful grounding technique that people with bipolar disorder have reported is the 5-4-3-2-1 technique. Some people suggest that this technique may help them with a panic attack.
Technology uses the five senses. A person should:
- Look for five things they can see
- Look for four things that they can touch
- Look for three things they can hear
- Look for two things that they can smell
- Look for something that they taste good
Other sensory grounding techniques may include:
- Eat or smell flowers
- who hold an object such as a stone or a leaf in their hands
- Listen to music or the noise of traffic outside
Some people may prefer to practice grounding techniques outside as there is more to see, hear, touch, and smell outdoors. There is also more freedom of movement than indoors.
Concentrating on breathing by consciously inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth is an effective strategy for returning to the present tense.
A person can improve the focus of these breathing exercises by placing their hands on their stomach and watching them move up and down with their breath.
Some people may need a combination of grounding strategies to get back to the present, especially if their thoughts and feelings are very intense.
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When to use it
Experts suggest that grounding techniques are useful for people who suffer from panic or dream flashbacks. Behavioral health care providers can use these techniques to calm a person down.
Grounding techniques are particularly useful for people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), dissociation, panic attacks, or anxiety.
Other calming techniques
Some experts call grounding techniques “grounding.” Like grounding techniques, grounding can help bring body and mind back into contact with the earth.
A study in the journal Psychological Reports examined whether grounding can affect mood or not.
The researchers worked with 40 participants who were either grounded or unfounded. All participants sat in a comfortable recliner for 1 hour.
The grounded participants had a conductive pillow, mat, and plaster to connect them to the ground. In the unfounded group, the participants were not connected to Earth.
In this small study, the researchers observed that the grounded participants experienced an improvement in their mood compared to the ungrounded participants. However, further research is needed to confirm the effectiveness of grounding.
When should you see a doctor?
People who have suffered trauma as a result of previous events may need medical attention. Some people may also need medication. This is because traumatic memories can affect a person’s daily activities and relationships.
Grounding techniques may work for some people, but validated treatments such as cognitive-behavioral therapy may be more effective for others.
People should avoid self-diagnosing and self-treating mental illnesses. If a person thinks they have a mental illness, they should see a doctor for diagnosis. With the help of a doctor, a person can work out the most effective treatment plan for managing their mental health.
Grounding techniques can help people with anxiety or PTSD. The purpose of grounding techniques is to bring the person back to reality during a panic attack or traumatic flashback. By focusing on the current environment, a person can become more aware of their certain reality and feel calmer.
Grounding techniques usually involve using the five senses to become aware of the current environment. For example, hearing traffic noises or touching a plant can help people connect with the environment and free themselves from disturbing memories or emotions.
Although grounding techniques may work for some people, doctors have not set clear guidelines for their use.
People should see a doctor if they think they have a mental illness. Together with a doctor, a person can develop an effective treatment plan.