Mindfulness Grounding Exercises

Let’s start this blog by doing some grounding exercises. Grounding is a way to escape from your ruminating thoughts and painful emotions and focus for a moment on things outside of your brain. You can focus on the environment, or you can focus on your physical body sensations.

When doing grounding exercises, you are not focusing on your emotions. No talking about negative emotions or journal writing. You want to distract away from negative emotions, instead of  getting in touch with them. This is different from those times when you want to analyze the emotions and focus on where they are coming from and what is causing them. This is for emergency situations when you need space from your emotions so that you can more clearly react with wisdom and kindness.

Exercise #1: Describe your environment in detail, using all your senses.

Sight–the walls are tannish brown. One wall is a block wall. The ceiling is beige and white tiles with that older style metal frame, there is a white baseboard, two red chairs, 1 green chair. The lamp has a brown and white base (think like an artist or a photographer).

Sounds–the computer is clickety-clacking, the furnace is running, a door shut somewhere, someone said “good morning” down the hall.

Smell–perfumy room freshener, plus an organic green smell from somewhere, possibly that plant by the window.

Skin–the temperature is comfortable, slightly chilly, no breeze or fans.

Exercise #2:  Body scan.

My feet are flat on the floor. These chukka boots put pressure on the left lateral foot. My ankles feel a little stiff (from barefoot running two days ago), as I sit I seem to be leaning more to the left. My left elbow is touching the soft armrest, my right elbow is on the desk.

I feel my breath through my nose. My eyes are a little itchy and dry. Shoulders are relaxed.

Exercise #3:  Focus on an everyday activity.

I enjoy doing this when making tea. Pour water into the kettle. Listen to the sound as it heats up and finally boils raucously. Open the box with tea. Did you smell that when you opened the box? What does the tea bag feel like between your fingers? What cup are you using today? What color is it? How does it feel in your hand? Put the tea into the cup. What is the sound as you pour the water over the tea? Is there steam coming out? What does the tea taste like? Smell like? Look like?

Exercise #4:  Play a video game.

Seriously. Something like Candy Crush, or Words With Friends, or Tetris.

Exercise #5  Barefoot walking meditation.

This is the best “physical grounding” activity. Walk slowly, feeling the texture of whatever you are walking on. What is the temperature? Feel your feet. Feel your breath. Notice your inhale and exhale. Notice each step.

Exercise #6  Play an instrument.

Try banging on a drum. Play slowly at first. I do this when I am practicing the banjo. Finger picking is a complex, confusing thing that takes a lot of coordination and focus. When I practice the banjo, I have to focus on my right hand picking the five strings in the correct sequence. 

Experiment with these exercises. Try different variations. Try them at high speed for just a minute or so. Try them slow and long, for 30 minutes or more.

I hope that you find benefit from these basic mindfulness exercises. Let me know how it goes! Post questions and comments, or send me an email.


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