Mindfulness is a popular term to describe the act of being present in the here and now. This is similar to the term grounding, which is more often used by psychologists to describe the method of returning our thoughts to our experience in the present moment. Mindfulness practices include meditation and yoga, but can also include coping methods such as identifying your feelings, acknowledging your emotions without judgment, and, generally speaking, practicing kindness for yourself and how you feel.
How does mindfulness help with depression and anxiety?
Rumination, or thinking constantly about the past or future, is a common symptom for individuals experiencing depression and anxiety. When ruminating, a person with depression or anxiety will become fixated on a thought or feeling. Often, doing so can increase his or her anxiety and further deepen his or her depression.
This is where mindfulness practices and grounding techniques can come in handy.
By learning how to practice mindfulness for depression, you learn to stop your negative thoughts, take a step back to breathe, and reassess your situation with a calmer, more focused mind. Below are three simple mindfulness practices and grounding techniques that you can incorporate into your daily life.
Three mindfulness and grounding exercises for depression and anxiety
Mindful breathing technique
Practicing mindfulness exercises begins with the breath. Anxiety and panic caused by unwanted or unpleasant thoughts can cause short, labored breaths. Anxious breathing occurs in the chest, while deeper breathing occurs in the belly. Practicing mindful breathing and grounding techniques can slow your breath, return your heart rate to a more steady pace, and, in turn, reduce feelings of anxiety resulting from unpleasant thoughts.
When you are feeling panicked or anxious, practice this mindful breathing technique to help ground you in the present moment.
Before you begin, find a quiet place where you are free from distractions and you can just focus on your breathing. Take a seat or stand up straight, with your head over your heart, and your heart over your pelvis. You may opt to close your eyes before you begin if you need deeper relaxation.
- Inhale through the nose for four seconds. Take a slow, even inhale rather than a big gulp of air. Do not rush.
- Pause at the top of your breath and hold for one second.
- Exhale slowly through the nose for four seconds. Rather than releasing your breath all at once, exhale with intention for all four seconds.
- Pause at the end of your exhale for one second before repeating.
- Inhale again through the nose, and repeat the steps above.
- Continue breathing this way until you can notice a change in the way your body and mind feels.
The 5-senses grounding technique
Before beginning this exercise, practice the mindful breathing technique above two or three times to begin calming your body and your mind.
- Look around your immediate environment.
- Name five things you can see. This can be as simple as a bird, a table, or a pencil.
- Name four things you can touch. This can be something like your hair, the grass, or a pillow.
- Name three things you can hear. Be sure to name external sounds, like a dog barking or a car passing by.
- Name two things you can smell. For example, your perfume or flowers and plants nearby.
- Name one thing you can taste. Maybe it’s gum, or coffee.
Creating a grounding statement
When we get caught in a cycle of ruminating or repetitive thoughts, or, in the case of PTSD, find ourselves mentally traveling back to moments of trauma, having a grounding statement handy can help you be mindful and ground yourself back to the present moment.
If you’re writing a grounding statement, remember to touch on the following points:
- Where are you and what day is it?
- Remind yourself that you are safe in the present moment.
- What is different now, compared to the past?
- End your grounding statement with words of affirmation.
Here are examples of effective grounding statements:
- “Today is Monday and I am in my office. I am safe here. I am remembering trauma that happened in the past. These are just memories; they cannot hurt me.”
- “It is 2017 and I am safe. I am older than I am in my memories of trauma, so I know that I have survived. I am surrounded by friends who love me.”
You can write your grounding statement on a piece of paper and keep it in your pocket or on your desk. Whenever you are feeling anxiety or panic, you can refer to your statement to help calm you.
Mindfulness and grounding are techniques that can help you cope with feelings of depression and anxiety. When coupled with counseling and medication, practicing mindfulness and grounding techniques daily can help decrease the rate of relapse. Our mental health counselors can help you recover from trauma, depression and anxiety. We have mental health counselors in Central Florida that offer individual, group, family, and child therapy. Our mental health counselors in Chattanooga specialize in family and play therapy, as well as individual therapy for anxiety and depression.
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