Wonder what being grounded means? A belief is “grounded in reality.” A fact is “grounded in science.” What is a grounded person?
Being grounded means you feel at home with yourself. You are present and at peace in your own skin.
In psychotherapy grounding techniques are “any techniques which are used to bring a person back in contact with the present moment” says Psychology Tools. That’s not a medical definition, but it’s a good place to start.
What Being Grounded Mentally Means
Being able to keep your awareness on the here-and-now is a powerful mental health skill. We all need to “keep our wits” to function. Being present to yourself allows you to calm yourself when you’re upset. You need to be present for friendship and intimacy.
When you’re immersed in nature — smelling the roses, touching the soft petals, hearing the wind in the leaves — you are grounded. Being grounded is the basis of self-control, self-expression, and feeling alive.
Life is so painful when you’re not grounded. Symptoms like feeling triggered, flooded, reactive, off-kilter, in fight, flight or freeze mode — these are signs a person is feeling ungrounded.
15 Signs You Are Not Grounded and Centered
Signs that grounding techniques may help you include:
- You have paralysis of analysis; you hesitate because something bad might happen either way
- People describe you as “highly sensitive”
- You struggle to make decisions, often losing out because you can’t respond in time
- Your mind is racing, you lose focus, you’re spaced out
- Conversations jump around
- You keep forgetting details about people, places, events
- Your breath is shallow and fast; muscles tense
- Sometimes you feel frozen: mind is foggy, body slow, no energy
- You seek numbing activities
- You try to join something that looks like fun but you’re too anxious to enjoy it
- Arguments seem to escalate too easily out of control, and you “lose your mind”
- You feel consumed with worry if someone or something does not arrive when expected
- Certain memories keep returning on their own in flashbacks
- You have “shame flashbacks” — you berate yourself out loud when no one is around
- Involuntary scary or bad thoughts come up and undermine your daily life
Grounding is Part of Treating Trauma, Anxiety, and PTSD
Grounding techniques are especially important for people who suffer from anxiety, trauma or PTSD. The ability to stay in the present is key to coping when emotions or memories threaten a person’s sense of safety and self-control.
Trauma therapy expert Dr. Janina Fisher describes grounding as “a set of skills for use whenever a patient is feeling any level of distress, particularly when she is overwhelmed or dissociating or experiencing escalating anxiety.”
“All of us need activities in our lives that help us to stay centered and grounded and present in our bodies,” explains Dr. Fisher. “Grounding techniques are about ‘coming back into the present’ when something in the present triggers the past.”
3 Grounding Techniques
Here are 3 grounding exercises to help bring your mind and body back to the present.
- Trace Your Breathing
- Close your eyes and notice the sensations of breathing. Inhale and notice what the air feels like moving through your nose or mouth.
- Exhale and feel the new sensations. Notice the air move from your chest through your throat, nose and mouth.
- Let your body relax. Breathe in and out naturally.
- Try to do this for one minute. With practice see if you can do this calmly for 10 minutes.
- Grounding Exercise in a Chair
- Sit in a chair with a back. Place both feet on the floor. Sit deep enough to rest your back and seat comfortably.
- Notice the feeling in your back and your legs where they contact the chair.
- Cross your arms and place a hand on each shoulder. Alternate tapping each shoulder gently.
- Try to do this for a few minutes. To be less obvious, rest your hands in your lap and tap each leg alternating between each leg.
(adopted from Dr. Stephanie Cordes, ND)
- Grounded Walking Meditation
Health experts are taking new interest in earthing: the benefits of direct contact with the earth’s surface.
Emerging evidence shows that contact with the Earth—whether being outside barefoot or indoors connected to grounded conductive systems—may be a simple, natural, and yet profoundly effective environmental strategy against chronic stress, ANS dysfunction, inflammation, pain, poor sleep, disturbed HRV, hypercoagulable blood, and many common health disorders, including cardiovascular disease.
More simply, contact with the earth appears to improve your health. It helps lower stress, reduce inflammation, and reduce pain.
- Find a natural environment, like a nature trail, a beach or a grassy area
- Remove your shoes and socks and find a comfortable place to stand.
- Sense the texture of the earth against your feet. Feel the contact with your heels, arches, toes, and spaces in between.
- Relax and let your breath become slow and regular.
- When you are ready, step forward with one foot and slowly move your weight onto it.
- Walk slowly, noticing the sensations in your feet. This is about calming your body, not exercise.
- Breathe in time with each step. Breathe in with your left stride, breath out with the right, for example
(Adopted from How to Practice Earthing with Walking Meditation from the Chopra Center)
Being Grounded Can Help Improve Relationships
Use grounding techniques any time you want to feel more calm and aware. This is a powerful way to become more emotionally present in your relationships.
Mindfulness helps you become aware of your emotions, and helps you notice your partner’s inner world. This awareness is the kind that can deepen your relationship.
If you find that painful memories or emotions keep getting the better of you, working with a good trauma therapist is often an important step in healing.
When you’re well grounded you have more freedom to make your own choices. You can experience life more fully, deepen your relationships and feel your emotions without becoming overwhelmed by them.