Grounding Techniques

Grounding Techniques

WHY DO GROUNDING? When we are overwhelmed, shut down, anxious, reacting, defensive, triggered, not present, or dissociating, we are not grounded. If you have expereienced Traumatic events in your life you may experience overwhelming emotions, flashbacks, dissociation, etc. It is important for healing that you become grounded again.


When you are overwhelmed with emotional pain, you need a way to detach from the emotions so that you can gain control over your feelings and stay safe. This is not the same as avoiding. Grounding “anchors” you to the present and to reality. The goal is to attain a balance between consciousness of reality and the ability to tolerate it. Remember that pain is a feeling; it is not who you are. When you get caught up in it, it feels like you are your pain, and that is all that exists. But it is only one part of your experience-the other parts of your experience are hidden and can be found again through grounding.


There are many ways we can become grounded again. Any sensory modality can be used to become grounded. Focusing on the here and now, rather than the past or future brings us present. The best way is the way that works for you. What is listed below are various strategies that focus on thinking, bodily sensations or external objects. You can also think of it as “centering,” creating a “a safe place,” “looking outward,” or “healthy detachment.”

  • Grounding can be done any time, any place, anywhere, and no one has to know.
  • Use grounding when you are faced with a trigger, enraged, dissociating, having a craving, or whenever your emotional pain goes above 6 (on a 0-10 scale). Grounding puts healthy distance between you and these negative feelings.
  • Keep your eyes open, scan the room, and turn the light on to stay in touch with the present. Make sure that your physical environment feels comfortable. Change your position in it or rearrange your furniture so that it feels right to you.
  • Rate your mood before and after grounding, to test whether it worked. Before grounding, rate your level of emotional pain (0-10, where 10 means “extreme pain”). Then re-rate it afterwards. Has it gone down?
  • Talking or journalling about negative feelings can keep us stuck in them-you want to distract away from negative feelings and thoughts not reinforce them. Though for some it can be helpful when as when it helps clarify actual emotions (vs. stories about them) or identifies triggers
  • Stay neutral; avoid judgments of “good” and “bad.” For example, instead of “The walls are blue; I dislike blue because it reminds me of depression,” simply say “The walls are blue and i can accept that” and move on.
  • Focus on the present, not the past or future.
  • Note that grounding is not the same as relaxation training. Grounding is much more active, focuses on distraction strategies, and is intended to help extreme negative feelings.

WAYS OF GROUNDING There are three major ways of grounding, mental, physical, and soothing. “Mental” means focusing your mind; “physical” means focusing on your senses (e.g., touch, hearing); and “soothing” means talking to yourself in a very kind way. You may find that one type works better for you, or all types may be helpful.

Mental Grounding

  • Describe your environment in detail, using all your senses-for example, “The walls are white; there are five pink chairs; there is a wooden bookshelf against the wall…”Describe objects, sounds, textures, colors, smells, shapes, numbers, and the temperature. You can do this anywhere.
  • Play a “categories” game with yourself. Try to think of “types of dogs,” “jazz musicians,” “states that begin with A…”
  • Do an age progression. If you have regressed to a younger age (e.g., 8 years old), you can slowly work your way back up until you are back to your current age.
  • Describe an everyday activity in great detail. For example, describe the meal that you cook (e.g., “First I peel the potatoes and cut them into quarters…
  • Imagine. Use an image: Glide along on skates away from your pain; change the TV channel to get to a better show; think of a wall as a buffer between you and your pain.
  • Say a safety statement. “My name is ______; I am safe right now. I am in the present, not in the past.” This is often known as practicing dual awareness in the case of PTSD. "This is not happening rignt now, these are past memories, right now i am here and nothing bad is happening to me."
  • Read something, saying each word to yourself. Or read each letter backward so that you focus on the letters and not on the meaning of the words.
  • Use humor. Think of something funny to jolt yourself out of your mood.
  • Solve puzzles or math problems.
  • Count or say the alphabet, very s…l…o…w…l…y.
  • Name objects around you and describe them factually.

Physical Grounding

  • Breathing can never be overstated. There are many strategies regarding breathing. Breath slowly in the belly taking long deep breathes.
  • Run cool or warm water over your hands.
  • Grab tightly onto your chair as hard as you can.
  • Slowly touch various objects around you while you name them: a pen, keys, my shirt, the wall….
  • Focus your eyes on something pleasant to look at. Do not dart your eyes but take in as much as you can visually: notice the colours, various shades, shapes and textures allowing yourself to experience them. Very slowly move your eyes to take in more information on what you are focused on.
  • Dig your heels into the floor-literally “grounding” them! Notice the tension centered in your heels as you do this. Remind yourself you are connected to the ground.
  • Push your hands against each other with lots of pressure, or rub them together quickly.
  • Carry a grounding object in your pocket, which you can touch whenever you feel triggered. Somthing you associate with positive experiences.
  • Balance on a wobble board
  • Notice your body: the weight of your body in the chair; the feel of your chair against your back, allow your body to be held by the chair …
  • Gently move your toes in your socks feelign the sensation or rock your feet back and forth in a way that others would barely notice
  • Stretch. Roll your head around; extend your fingers…
  • Clench and release your fists slowly allowing yourself to feel the sensations.
  • Walk slowly; notice each footstep, saying “left or “right”… Feel the sensations of walking in your feet.
  • Eat something, describing the flavors in detail to yourself.
  • Drink ice cold water or splash it on your face.
  • Have a warm bath with candles and epsom salts (magnesium in the salts relaxes our muscles)
  • Jump on a trampoline or jump up and down on the floor.
  • Play catch with someone alternating right and left hands
  • Squeeze and massage your arms and legs (moderate tightness)
  • Yoga, Tai Chi, Chi Gong, dance, etc. Any movement that is gentle is helfpul when we feel the sensations in our body.
  • Pleasant (non-chemical) fragrances, essential oils, smelling a cup of tea etc
  • Focus on as many sounds you can possibly hear. Notice sounds in the room you are in, outside the room, outside your building etc, giving yourself time to experience the sounds

Soothing Grounding

  • Say kind statements, as if you were talking to a small child-for example, “you are a good person going through a hard time. You’ll get through this.”
  • Think of favourites. Think of your favourite colour, animal, season, food, time of day…
  • Picture people you care about (e.g., your children), look at a photograph.
  • Remember the words to an inspiring song, quote, or poem.
  • Remember a safe place. Describe the place with as much detail as you can.
  • Say a coping statement: “I can handle this.”
  • Plan a safe treat for yourself, such as a certain dessert or a much desired activity
  • Think of things you are looking forward to in the next week-perhaps time with a friend, going to a movie.
  • Go inside of yourself and bring compassion, kindness and love to yourself. This can be a challenging skill to learn.
  • Think of things you are grateful to have in your life. Reflect on what you have done to bring them into your life.
  • Think of gifts that others have given you or that life has brought to you and inwardly give them thanks.

What if grounding does not work? That means there is something else going on because grounding does work. You just need to find the way that works for you. We would strongly recommend you enlist the help of a competent therapist to aid you in this if you are unable to do it on your own. Like any other skill, you need to practice.

Find the one thing that works and keep doing it. Practice often and especially when you don’t need it. This helps create neural pathways that are easier to access.
Try grounding for a loooooonnnnnnngggggg time (20-30 minutes).
Notice which methods you like best.
Create your own methods of grounding.
Start grounding early in a negative mood cycle.
Make up index cards.
Have others assist you in grounding.
Prepare in advance.
Create a tape of a grounding message.
Think about why grounding works.