Grounding exercises


It is useful for all of us, whatever our life experiences, to have access to a range of breathing and grounding exercises that can assist us to settle and calm ourselves, to help anchor us in the present moment.  You might make us of quick breathing exercises (like taking three deep “belly breaths”) or longer, more formal exercises (like mindfulness meditation).  

Different strategies work for different people at different times, and there is no “wrong” way to ground yourself.  

Along with the Breathing and Grounding Exercises listed below that you might trial, we encourage you to check out the Mindfulness Exercises and Relaxation Exercises.    

There are many ways of grounding yourself in the here and now: next time you have a cup of tea or coffee, pause and notice how you hold the cup, feel the heat, smell the aroma, savour the taste and feel the liquid make its way down, notice whether you are sting or standing and what you are seeing or hearing around you.    

Grounding exercises as reset and anchor 

Grounding exercises can be a useful reset button.  They can be helpful in situations where you find yourself becoming overwhelmed or distracted by distressing memories, thoughts or feelings. If you find yourself becoming caught up in strong emotions like anxiety or anger, or if you catch yourself engaging in circular or locked in thinking, it can be useful to settle and anchor yourself with breathing exercises.  

People who have experienced childhood sexual abuse or profound trauma can sometimes feel disconnected or become overwhelmed by triggers, flashbacks or intense memories, to the point that they are feel as if they are back there, re-living the abuse all over again.  Grounding exercises can help reconnect mind and body and bring us more fully into the present.  

Build a collection 

It is helpful to have a selection of grounding exercises that you can draw upon. Just as no one technique works for all people, we find that not all techniques work at all times.  You might look over some lists of grounding exercises and write down all the ones you think might work. Be prepared for a little trial run to work out what works for you personally.   


It is helpful to:  

  • Practice exercises when you are not feeling stressed, to become familiar with them;  
  • Put aside judgement or assigning value to what you are thinking, feeling, doing, seeing or hearing – ‘It is what it is’ 
  • Check in with yourself and maybe rate your stress between 1 and 10 before and after practicing the exercise 
  • Continue to practice a breathing exercises or alternative grounding exercise, if you notice that you are still carrying high levels of stress in your breath or body. 

Create your own 

Create your own personal list of grounding techniques.  Then, when you find yourself needing to reset, pick out a strategy for that particular situation.   

Breathing exercises

It is worth introducing one or two simple breathing exercises into your everyday life, be it first thing in the morning, during the day or last thing at nightBy making breathing exercises part of your everyday routine, they become more familiar and effective in calming your nervous system. Below are some examples of breathing exercises, worth checking out: 

Take a deep breath. 3 minute breathing exercise from Calm. 

  • Breathe in 
  • Rest 
  • Breathe out 

Box breathing exercise from Conscious works 

  • Breathe in 
  • Hold 
  • Breathe out 

  • 4-6 Breathing technique (8 minute video) 
  • 4 seconds – Breathe in 
  • 6 seconds – Breathe out   

  • 4-7-8 Breathing technique, the Live, love, laugh foundation 
  • 4 seconds – Breathe in  
  • 7 seconds – Hold   
  • 8 seconds – Breathe out 

How the breathing technique, ‘the physiological sigh, can help reduce stress, explained by Dr Andrew Huberman 

List of grounding exercises 

The following grounding exercises are just suggestion, you might have trialled or prefer others. Grounding exercises are about becoming aware of and using our senses – sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch – to calm and reconnect our mind and body in the present.  

In working through the below list of grounding exercises, you might find one or two in particular that work for you. Keep in mind to only to use the exercises that you feel comfortable with.  You might: 

  • Splash some water on your face. Notice how it feels. Notice how the towel feels as you dry. Use words in your mind to describe the sensations. 
  • Sip a cool drink of water. 
  • You might take a moment to look around you, to notice different five different colours and sounds, making a note to yourself, what colours you see and sounds you hear.   
  • Take ten slow deliberate breaths. Focus your attention fully on each breath, on the way in and on the way out. Say the number of the breath to yourself as you exhale. 
  • Hold a cold can or bottle of soft drink in your hands. Feel the coldness, and the wetness on the outside. Note the bubbles and taste as you drink. 
  • Put your hands in a sink of cold water, notice the temperature change.  
  • If you are sitting, feel the chair under you and the weight of your body and legs pressing down onto it. Notice the pressure of the chair, or floor, or table against your body and limbs. 
  • If you are lying down, feel the contact between your head, your body and your legs, as they touch the surface you are lying on. Starting from your head, notice how each part of your body feels, all the way down to your feet, on the soft or hard surface. 
  • Stop and listen. Notice and name what sounds you can hear nearby. Start with the closest or loudest sounds. Gradually move your awareness of sounds outward, so you are focusing on what you can hear in the distance. 
  • Hold a mug of tea in both hands and feel its warmth. Inhale its scent. Don’t rush drinking it; take small sips, and take your time tasting each mouthful. 
  • Look around you, notice what is front of you and to each side. Name and notice the qualities of large objects and then smaller ones. 
  • Remind yourself of who you are in the here and now. Say your name. Say your age now. Say where you are now. Say what you have done today. Say what you will do next. 
  • “My name is ________, and I am 54 years old. I am in my living room, in my home, in Woolloongabba, in Brisbane, in Queensland. I woke up early today. I had a shower and fed my dog. I just finished my coffee and toast. Soon I am going to walk to the train station and go in to work. I am going to walk down ______ street and then turn left at the bike shop. Then I am going to….” 
  • If you wake during the night, remind yourself who you are, and where you are. Tell yourself who you are and where you are. What year is it, what age are you now? Look around the room and notice familiar objects and name them. Feel the bed you are lying on, the warmth or coolness of the air, and notice any sounds you hear. 
  • Turn your attention to the clothes on your body, whether your arms and legs are covered or not, and the sensation of your clothes as you move in them. Notice how your feet feel to be encased in shoes or socks, or resting on the floor. 
  • If you are with other people, and you feel comfortable with them, concentrate closely on what they are saying and doing, and remind yourself why you are with them. 
  • Pick one interesting object in your field of vision. Trace its outline with your eyes, as if you were drawing its lines. 
  • Get up and walk around. Take your time to notice each step as you take one, then another. 
  • Stamp your feet, and notice the sensation and sound as you connect with the ground. 
  • Clap and rub your hands together. Hear the noise and feel the sensation in your hands and arms. 
  • Wear an elastic band on your wrist (not tight) and flick it gently, so that you feel it spring back on your wrist. 
  • If you can, step outside, notice the temperature of the air and how it is different or similar to where you have just come from. 
  • Stretch. 
  • Trial different types of gentle movement, where you can feel and pay attention to your different muscles stretching.  
  • Notice five things you can see, five things you can hear, and five things you can feel, taste, or smell. 
  • If you have a pet, spend some time with them. Notice what is special and different about them. 
  • Run your hands over something with an interesting texture. Describe it in your mind, as if you have never felt anything like it before. 
  • Get a sultana, a nut, or some seeds. Focus on how it looks, feels and smells. Put it in your mouth and roll it around, noticing how it feels. Chew it slowly and mindfully, before noticing how it feels to swallow. 
  • Play a piece of instrumental music. Give it all of your attention. 
  • Another option with music is to sit with a piece of paper and a pen. Start drawing a line as the music plays, representing it in the abstract on the page. Follow the music with the pen. 
  • If you have a garden or some plants, tend to them for a bit. Plants, and actual soil, can be an excellent “grounder!”
  • Take your shoes off, walk or stand barefoot, feel your feet making contact with the ground.  

Maybe you know of alternative breathing and grounding exercises that work for you?  

Ground exercises for a racing mind, calming meditation with Dora Kamau  

Pay attention to where you are and use your senses to list things you notice.  Take a moment to list  

  • 5 things you hear 
  • 4 things you see 
  • 3 things you can touch from 
  • 2 things you smell 
  • 1 thing you can taste