Updated: Apr 13
Have you ever felt disconnected from your surroundings, like your body is sitting on the chair but your mind is elsewhere?
Have you ever finished a day of work (read: a day of back to back Zoom calls) and thought to yourself, "I think my brain is about to explode!"
Well, there's a very good chance it is!
The COVID-19 pandemic showed us how versatile we can be as a species, adapting to isolation protocols by moving our work online, however, it also showed us the power of technology. That is, how great of an influence it has on us; our bodies, souls, and minds.
Don't get me wrong, I love my technology! Especially when it connects me to those I love most. BUT, I really noticed my health decline when forced to use it for school and work. Unfortunately, I also noticed my health decline while working 8+ hour days from 8am-5 or even 6pm, for a large company that pushed me to take on a caseload I could not manage.
Thankfully, I have ventured into private practice since then, and have more time and energy to spend with clients like YOU!
Since switching to the private world, I have also had the flexibility to explore topics of interest to me, such as the benefits of spending time in nature, the importance of mindful movement, and the value in spending time on leisure activities and social pursuits.
In starting gOT Direction, I have had the opportunity to explore the world around me more often, and I have brought my love for nature to as many people around me as possible! Along this journey, I have started running group nature therapy walks, and guiding participants through various therapeutic activities such as the one I am sharing with you today, the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding exercise!
You may have heard of this exercise before, but I hope that the way I explain it provides you with greater insight into its benefits, and how you can practice it yourself. If you have trouble doing so, or just want to get out for a walk, I would love to have you join me on one of my nature therapy walks this spring/summer!
Okay, let's get on with it! Here's the gist of 5-4-3-2-1...
Basically, the goal of this exercise is to help you bring your focus to the present moment using your 5 senses: vision, hearing, taste, touch, and smell. The reason why we use the sense to do so, is because when we attend to the stimuli in our environment (e.g., the blue bird off in the distance, or the smell of freshly baked cookies), it makes it difficult for our mind to be elsewhere. That is, when we take in the world around us, we feel more connected to it, and grounded in our current experience.
To do this exercise, you can find a nice spot outdoors (I like to walk to one of my "sitting spots" by the river, or lay in a park like the Legislature grounds), or you can practice it with your daily activities (e.g., making and drinking coffee, sweeping the floor, brushing your teeth, etc.). Regardless of which way you practice it, the idea is to continually return your focus to one or more of your 5 senses when you notice your thoughts drifting.
For example, if you're laying in a field and you start thinking about all the stressful things you have to do for work, close your eyes and try to notice all the sounds you hear. Can you notice any insect, animal, or people sounds? How about sounds from technology, automobiles, or airplanes? Can you hear the wind, rain, thunder, or snowfall? What about the rushing river, a gentle stream, or crashing ocean waves?
If you're practicing mindfulness while completing an activity, can you notice your body movements, the temperature of items you're touching, or the tastes and smells around you? What does it feel like to brush your teeth? Can you notice the coarseness of your toothbrush, and the minty-ness of the toothpaste? How about the weight of the vacuum, or the humming noise it makes?
When practicing mindfulness, you may notice that some of the stimuli in your environment make you anxious, while others make you feel relaxed. Can you identify which are which, and can you direct your focus to the ones that bring a greater sense of calm?
Being mindful isn't a personality trait, nor is it a destination. Instead, it's an ongoing practice and state of consciousness that is intentional and requires determination. If at first you find mindfulness challenging- you are not alone! I go through phases of being "better" at mindfulness, and phases where it is really difficult for me to do. However, I remind myself that it's not how well I do it that matters, it's that I keep on trying!
I hope you enjoyed this blog post, and I look forward to hearing about how practicing mindfulness went for you! If you are having difficulty practicing it alone, or just want to get out for a walk, stay tuned for more information on this year's community nature therapy walks!
You can follow me on Instagram @gotdirectionot or send me a message to keep up to date with times and locations of walks I will be holding throughout the spring, summer, and fall! Okay, and MAYBE winter, so long as it's not -40 again.
Sending you infinite amounts of peace and love.