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Mental Grounding

This first exercise is uses mental grounding methods. Start by reminding yourself that you are safe. You are here, in this moment. Now, try to imagine putting a buffer between you and all of your negative feelings. Imagine that your feelings are bundled up and put in a container. Next, think of something you can put between you and that container of negative feelings. Perhaps it’s a wall, a suit of armor, or a big open field in the country. Anything that creates safe distance between you and your negative feelings. Good!


Now let’s focus on the room. Look around the room. Name as many colors as you can. Good. Now name as many objects as you can. How many chairs are there? How many windows? If you can, look outside the window-what is the weather outside? Good. Are there paintings or posters? If so choose one and describe it. Not judging it, just describing everything you can about it: colors, shapes, content. Excellent! How many doors are there? How many lights are there? What color is the carpet or floor? Do you see any words printed anywhere in the room. On a poster or book jacket? If so, read each letter backward. The reason we we read it backward is that you want to notice the letters themselves-as if you're seeing these letters for the very first time. Terrific!

Next we'll try naming some facts. Tell me the names of cities-as many cities as you can name. Wonderful! Now try naming t.v. shows and movies-if you prefer name as many books as you can. Now name as many animals as you can. Excellent. Now take the number 100; subtract 5 from that and notice the new number; subtract 5 again and notice the number. Keep going for a bit, subtracting 5 and noticing the new number. Don't worry if you can't get the math-just let it go.


Other suggestions for mental grounding include:

  • Look outside. Count the number of trees and street signs.
  • If you're on a busy street-count how the number of blue cars.
  • Listen carefully and name all the sounds you can hear.
  • Sudoku or other puzzles could be used.

Physical Grounding

Now we're going to try physical grounding methods. Notice your feet on the floor. They are literally grounded, connected to the floor. Wiggle your toes inside your shoes. Dig your heels gently into the floor to ground yourself even more. Good. Now touch your chair (or whatever you are sitting in). Name everything you can about it. What material is it made of? What kind of texture does it have? Is it hard or soft? Hot or cold? What color is it? Now touch a table, desk or another surface. What is it made of? Is it colder or warmer than the chair? What kind of texture does it have? Is it hard or soft? What color is it? Good. Now, find any object that's near you-perhaps a pen or your keys. Pick it up and hold it and say everything you can about it: What is it made of? How heavy is it? Is it warm or cold? What color is it? Describe it in as much detail as you can. Now clench your fists; notice the tension in your hands as you do that. Now release your fists. Good. Let's do that one more time.Clench your fists; notice the tension in your hands as you do that. Now release your fists. Now press your palms together, with elbows to the side; press as tightly as you can. Focus all of your attention on your palms. Now let go. Excellent! Let's do that one more time. Press your palms together, with elbows to the side; press as tightly as you can. Focus all of your attention on your palms. Now let go.

Other methods of physical grounding include:

  • Progressive muscle relaxation
  • Take a shower/bath. Notice the sensations of the water.
  • Hold an ice cube in your hand and notice the sensation of the cold.
  • Rub scented lotion on your hands. Pay attention to how it feels and how it smells
  • Pet a dog (or a cat) and really pay attention to how it feels.
  • Use a coloring book. Really focus on the smell of the crayons, the sensation of the crayon in your hand and the feel of coloring.

Soothing Grounding

Now we're going to try soothing grounding. Let's start with favorites. Think of your favorite color. What color is it? Good. Think of your favorite animal. What animal is it? Good. Think of your favorite flower. What flower is it? Think of your favorite t.v. show, movie or book. Think of your favorite activity. What activity is it? Good. Now, think of your favorite season of the year. What season is it? Think of your favorite day of the week. What day of the week is it? Think of your favorite time of the day. What time of day is it? Now think of a favorite person. It can be someone you know or it could be a famous person or even a fictional character. Picture that person. Good! If you want to, think of a favorite, upbeat song and try to remember the tune and the words. (give them at least a minute here).

Now try to think of a safe place. Still keeping your eyes open, think of a place that is very safe, soothing and calming for you. Maybe the beach, the mountains, a walk in the city, a favorite room or a park. It can be somewhere you've been or an imaginary place. If you can't think of a safe place, that's okay too-just let yourself notice this room, since you're safe here. Good. Now try to notice everything you can about your safe place. Notice everything you love about it-the colors, the textures, the shapes, the smells and the sounds. Notice the safety and calm of the place. Good.


Other examples of soothing ground are:

  • Put together a folder of photo's that make you happy on your phone.
  • Put a positive image on the lock screen of your phone
  • Music is powerful! Make yourself a playlist of positive songs
  • Watch that favorite movie that always makes you smile.
  • Print out and fill out the ABC's of Gratitude worksheet

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Adapted from ‘Seeking Safety: A treatment manual for PTSD and substance abuse’, Najavits (2002)


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