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Grounding: 5-4-3-2-1 featuring Where's Waldo

Posted on March 17, 2020 at 10:45 PM

Grounding is a coping strategy designed to pull focus toward present moment identifiers and immediately connect to the here and now. Sensory based, grounding techniques help control symptoms associated with diagnoses such as Anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Depression, and ADHD as well as more specific symptoms to include dissociation, flashbacks, hypervigilance, emotional dysregulation and altered focus. Exercises in grounding can be viewed as distractions, but more beneficially, are mechanisms to calm high running emotions and interrupt negative thought patterns. Grounding is an effective way to re-center one’s emotional experience, recalibrate discordant thoughts and abstain from outburst behaviors.


5-4-3-2-1 is a grounding technique that uses all five senses to explore the world around. This technique asks participants to identify 5 things on can see, 4 things one can hear, 3 things one can touch (actually touch), 2 things one can smell and 1 thing one can taste. With regard connecting to the present moment, 5-4-3-2-1 shifts focus towards an active sensory search rather than continuing to engage in the unpleasant circumstance fueling high emotions, negative thinking patterns and outburst behaviors.


Let’s try! Below is picture a Where’s Waldo picture. I challenge you to place yourself in this scene and explore it with your senses. Please comment:


5 things you can see

4 things you can hear

3 things you can touch

2 things you can smell

1 Waldo



Now, let’s try it in your environment. Step out onto your front porch, stand out in your back yard, have a seat near a big window or go for a walk around the neighborhood and open your senses to the world around. I challenge you to complete 3 cycles of 5-4-3-2-1, each time searching and identifying a collection of sensory discoveries different from the cycle before.  Come back and share your experience!

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