Grounding Exercises

picture of sand with a wave and the caption: getting grounded with grounding exercises
The image of water is often used with grounding because our bodies sync to natural sounds more easily. Waves on the shore can help with calm breathing.

Grounding Techniques for Stress & Relaxation

Let's talk about grounding. It's a bit of a buzzword in therapy and self-help circles, but what is it really?

Grounding is the practice of bringing your focus to the present moment through different strategies. This can be helpful when you experience distressing or negative feelings and can help to interrupt a flashback or bad memory. Shifting your focus to the present moment helps to get you out of your mind and emotions and into the safety of the physical space around you.


View all blogs about relaxation


Grounding is helpful for everyone and can be especially effective with:

  • stress reduction
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • dissociation
  • post-traumatic stress
  • the urge to self-harm
  • managing alcohol and substance urges

The following grounding exercises that are relatively accessible. Try some out the next time you experience stress, bad memories, or negative emotions.


Physical Grounding Exercises

  • Hold and pet a soft object
  • Play with clay or kinetic sand
  • Hold an ice cube or a cup of hot tea
  • Self massage
  • Savour a meal or a snack/treat
  • 54321 (identify and name 5 things you see, 4 textures/sensations you feel, 3 things you hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste)
  • Have a luxurious bath
  • Sit and just listen to your environment
  • Gently stretch your body or roll-out your muscles with a foam roller
  • Take 10 slow relaxing breaths
  • Practice box breathing
  • 5 finger breathing
  • Hum or whistle to stimulate the vagus nerve and calm your nervous system

Spiritual Grounding Exercises

  • Read an uplifting news story like Good News Network or Happy News
  • Play with an animal/pet or a child/family member
  • Practice the three minute breathing space (https://youtu.be/rOne1P0TKL8)
  • Try a meditation
  • Listen to a guided visualization
  • Do a walking meditation where you count your steps or listen to a guided meditation as you walk
Mental Grounding Exercises
  • Do a colouring or painting activity
  • Complete a word search
  • Craft a gift
  • Doodle a design
  • Draw something from memory
  • Imagine all the steps to a common task/chore in detail
  • Repeat a phrase or affirmation¬†
  • Count backwards from 100 by an odd number like 9, 7, or 3
  • Count the things you see around you like the amount of circles, squares, green objects, etc.
Emotional Grounding Exercises
  • Read uplifting quotes
  • Read a poem about nature
  • Re-read or listen to your favourite story
  • Practice grounding in the earth with shoes off your feet
  • Forest bathe (the practice of mindfully standing, walking, or sitting in a forest)
  • Embrace a loved one with a hug
  • Give yourself a hug
  • Talk to yourself in third person and give yourself a pep talk, advice, an affirmation, or a compliment
  • Put on a positive mood playlist (don't have one? find one!)
  • Watch some funny videos or a stand up comedy

Activities in these categories are completely arbitrary and made up! The point is to help you think about all the ways that you can relax. Using your senses, using your mind as a distraction, connecting with things outside yourself and connecting with your inner self can all help you to feel grounded in the moment.


Suggested reading:

Mental Health Apps That Are Therapist Approved
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Mental Health and Self-Care: A Therapist's Ongoing Journey