Grounding (or “earthing” as it’s sometimes known) is a term referring to centring your body as it reconnects with the earth when your bare feet touch the ground.
Grounding is a practice that can help you pull away from flashbacks, unwanted memories, and negative or challenging emotions. Grounding techniques help someone to come back into their body and the present moment when they are feeling overwhelmed with distress. When clients have trauma memories, have panic attacks, or feel overcome by strong emotions, I find that grounding can be an essential tool for helping them to take control of their mind and emotions.
There are some techniques that may help distract you from what you’re experiencing and refocus on what’s happening in the present moment.
Here are some of my favourite grounding techniques to teach my clients:
- Five Senses or 54321 – Working backward from 5, use your senses to list things you notice around you. For example, you might start by listing five things you hear, then four things you see, then three things you can touch from where you’re sitting, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste.
- Body Scan – [My personal favorite] Literally ground yourself. Lay on the floor. Do a quick body scan and notice each part of your body where the floor touches you, and focus on that sensation, the pressure, the texture, the temperature. Notice any vibrations in the house or building. You can also listen to music with the speaker on the floor, and feel the vibrations of the sounds.
- Breathe – 4-7-8 breathing: Breathe in slowly, counting to 4 seconds while you inhale. Then, hold your breath for 7 seconds. Finally, breathe out slowly and softly, counting 8 seconds while you exhale. Repeat as many times as feels comfortable. (Note: Everyone has different body sizes and lung capacities, so if this particular combo feels uncomfortable you can adjust the numbers to whatever feels good to you. The point is just having a pattern to follow and slowing your breath.)
- Self-Soothing – Take a shower or bath. Focus on each step of preparing the bath or shower, noticing every small detail–what does your hand feel like as it touches the doorknob, the faucet? Where do you turn the faucet to, how do you get the right temperature? Notice the sensation of the water on your body, paying attention to the warmth, the sounds, how your muscles feel.
- Observe Your Surroundings – Walk slowly through the space you are in, and practice noticing each step as your feet touch the ground. Notice which part of your foot touches the ground first, and where you notice the pressure. Notice your feet leaving the ground, and the moment where you are balancing on one foot as you take the next step.