Grounding and Mental Health
“Grounding” is a term you may associate with electrical wiring, i.e. a backup pathway that provides an alternating route for current to flow back into the ground in a faulty wiring system.
So when we use the term grounding to discuss mental health, it’s no coincidence that grounding techniques work for human beings in almost the same way they work for electrical circuits.
The Basics Of Grounding
Grounding strategies are helpful in situations when you feel overwhelmed by negative or distressing feelings or thoughts. Suppose you realize you’re getting caught up in strong emotions like anxiety, anger, or engaging in circling thoughts - even waking up from a nightmare with a pounding heartbeat. In that case, grounding exercises can help calm those unwanted feelings and thoughts and bring you back into the present moment.
Because of its focus on being present in the moment, grounding is also considered a form of mindfulness.
For those who live with anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder, grounding techniques are a way to redirect attention from the trigger that may be causing stress, thus decreasing those unwanted feelings of panic or anxiety.
While there are many valuable examples of physical and mental grounding techniques, it may take some practice before you discover technique(s) that work best for you. You may also find that not all techniques work every time you need them. Try not to be discouraged! Open and clear communication with your therapist is key to finding the most effective tools for your unique circumstances.
As you hone in on your grounding practice, it may be helpful to carry a small list of techniques that work for you. You will then have them available when you find yourself in a challenging situation where grounding can help.
Physical Grounding Techniques
The ability to focus on a non-threatening physical experience, instead of the unpleasant triggers causing unwanted anxieties, can redirect your thoughts and help put you in more control. Examples of physical grounding exercises include holding an ice cube, smelling a strong aroma like lavender or mint, chewing on a lemon or lime wedge, or touching something with a well-defined texture.
Mental Grounding Techniques
Sometimes, you may find yourself in a situation where physical grounding techniques are impossible or inappropriate. Mental grounding techniques are all exercises in the mind and can be used in conjunction with or as an alternative to physical grounding techniques.
Some examples of mental grounding techniques include exercises like the Rainbow Exercise, where you identify colors in your environment that match the colors of the rainbow, e.g. “I see a red pen. On my desk is a blue folder. My blouse is purple.”
The alphabet game is another popular mental grounding exercise. Like the memory game you likely played as a child, the object is to match letters of the alphabet to an animal or even a vegetable. For example, “A is for antelope. B is for buffalo.”
By focusing on these exercises and rerouting your thoughts, you’ll be able to ground yourself in the moment without enabling those unwanted thoughts and feelings to dominate.
Some grounding techniques are short and quick, like taking three deep breaths. Others may be longer, like a meditation session. The important thing to remember is that there is no right or wrong way to ground yourself. The technique that works best for you may not work for someone else, and that’s ok.
Grounding is a beneficial technique that can help you reroute your brain from distressing thoughts and feelings to the present moment.
Like most effective therapies, grounding is a practice that may require some trial and error. Successful use of grounding techniques takes practice, but will likely become easier over time. The ultimate goal is to find ways to help yourself live in the present moment and not allow your thoughts to drift into unwanted spaces or feelings.
We often incorporate nature into our therapy practice in beautiful Boulder, Colorado to help our clients reconnect with the earth, which serves as an alternative to the technology fixation so prevalent in our culture. We believe this reconnection is an important way to build confidence, well-being, and acceptance of oneself.
At Connected Roots in Boulder, we believe grounding is an effective tool for managing anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. It’s important to remember that grounding techniques only ease the effects of these conditions, and do not treat the underlying causes. Pairing these tools with therapy and self-reflection is the formula towards recovery and maximizing your overall satisfaction in life.
We are here in a safe space to allow you the authentic expression of yourself with the support of a group and our surrounding natural environment. We can do this together! Contact us today for a free consultation.