What is Grounding?
Describing what grounding means exactly can differ from person to person. But, mostly everyone can agree that feeling grounded comes down to a feeling. At the centre of this feeling is calmness and being content.
You are completely aware of your surroundings, you are present, feeling connected to the earth and at peace with your thoughts.
So, chances are this feeling sounds very familiar, and it’s because it can happen when you’re not really thinking about it. How long it lasts can’t really be determined, but there are ways to create this feeling on demand, and we'll look at some in the rest of this article.
Essentially, Grounding, as therapy in mental health, is a type of coping strategy that connects a person with the present moment. There are various Grounding techniques - for instance, we often use the five senses (sight, touch, sound, smell, and taste), and breathing techniques - both which are effective for coping with flashbacks (PTSD), dissociation (feeling disconnected from what’s going on around you), triggers, intrusive thoughts, and feelings of being out of control or lost, or simply activating the relaxation response in the nervous system.
When stressed, we can get caught up with negative or unwanted thoughts, whether a past difficult experience or interaction, or the fear of a future situation happening. Now think of the last time you felt caught up in a distressing emotion. Your body may have felt tense, your mind in the past, re-experiencing previous thing or in the future, or worrying about what’s to come. You might even feel afraid or uncomfortable being in your body with distressing emotions and have developed strategies to escape it, such as binge eating, drinking or other addictions, sleeping, dissociating.
This is where you can catch yourself in a loop or cycle where,
You’re in the same situation, and we have thoughts about the facts of that situation; those thoughts trigger feelings, and based on those feelings we engage in behaviours which in turn impact the situation (either positively or negatively), and the cycle continues.
So by grounding you allow yourself a gap in that loop to gain more clarity on thoughts, feelings and behaviour, while becoming present and calm in the moment.
Why we do grounding exercises?
They are used to help bring us back into the present moment. The techniques can be used in many different situations, like when we’re feeling “spacey”, anxious, depressed, confused, overwhelmed or when you sense there is an imbalance.
They can be used when we are distracted by unhelpful or distressing thoughts, memories or impulses. Or if we’re experiencing difficult or strong emotions like anger, shame or sadness. The best time to ground is when you feel you need it, so there’s no rules as to when you should use this natural gift. - its a knowing.
The main aim of grounding exercises are to bring an awareness to the safety of the here and now, and to encourage our body and mind to connect and work together.
Grounding, or mindfulness, techniques aim to counter the flight/flight freeze response by activating your parasympathetic response (Relaxation) to bring you back to the present moment and into balance.
As mentioned there are many ways of grounding ourselves. What works varies from person to person. What works for you now, may also be different to what works for you next week. This is why you can approach this topic like an experiment. Try a technique, then try something else and just see what you notice.
Becoming Present in the body
We can start of with a seated exercise to become more present in the body:
Seated cat cow,
Inhale, lift chin, open shoulders and if you want, open arms.
Exhale chin to chest, rounding back, closing arms.
Feeling the movement of breath combined with movement.
Next, we will lift the arms and hands in front of us
moving up, a little above your head…inhale through nose with this movement
coming down on the sides, slowly, feeling gravity pulling your arms and hands down towards the earth. Exhale slowly through nose/ or mouth with this movement.
bring them back to centre and move up again. Keeping your hands and arms loose.. gentle movements.
feeling the gentle sensations in your hands, feeling your body calming down.
5 rounds or so…
Keeping eyes closed…Focus on how your body feels from head to toe, noticing each part.
Connect to your body with kindness, compassion and curiosity
Can you feel the hair on your head? Is your jaw tight or relaxed? Feeling of clothes on your skin? How is your posture? Can you feel your heartbeat? Is it calm or anxious? Are your feet on the floor? How does the floor feel against your feet?
Coming to the sensation of breath…
Know that your breath is always there, it is your birthright. Know that you can always ground yourself back in the present moment with your breath - it is always in reach as your anchor.
Become aware of the breath .. feel sensations of breath moving. Through the nostrils.. down the throat.. does it feel restricted or moving freely? The belly and chest moving in rhythm to breath.
Noticing what feeling is present, what emotion you are feeling..
Enjoying the sensation of breath moving in and out of your body.
As we watch our breath we can start to feel that change starts happening as soon as we drop our agenda to change anything, do anything, or make something happen.
As you become more fully present with yourself and tune into the feelings, sensations, and subtle feedback from within your body and breath - energy will begin to move spontaneously.
Moving to the breath...
1. Breath in through the nose.
2. When you breath out, open your mouth and let the air
out so you hear the sound of the air releasing, a soft
3. As you let the air out, relax your shoulders, neck and
other muscles and let go, like you’re melting.
Do it again…
Triangular breath - seated
Start with an inhale of 3 counts, hold the breath for 3 counts, then exhale for 3 counts.
In and out through the nose.
Let’s continue for 3 rounds.
Feel belly and lower ribs expanding on inhale as your breathe into this area…
We will now extend the counts to 4 seconds… for 4 rounds.
If you take a second or so after the exhale, that is totally fine.
(Maybe go to 5 seconds)
Just sit with the sensations you feel. A feeling of grounded-ness in the body.
When you practice on your own, feel free to continue up to 8 counts on all sides. Also feel free to try out the variation, box breath if that resonates with you more.
I hope that you find this article and the techniques helpful in times when you need some grounding!