How the practice of Grounding can help calm your mind
Close your eyes for just a moment, and see what sounds you hear. Pick the one sound you think might be farthest away from you. Imagine that when you hear that sound, your consciousness actually extends that far away. Imagine that there is a field of energy around your brain, and with each thought and perception, this energy field moves and grows. So, if you are thinking about a person, the energy field of your brain tries to reach all the way to them. Now imagine the energy extending not only away from you in space, but in time as well. Your mind's energy is shooting off into the past, or spiraling out into the future.
This is just a visual exercise, but it can be helpful in conceptualizing anxiety. We can think of the anxious mind as having a large and chaotic energy field, extending in all sorts of directions, and feeling out of control. Stress, overwhelm, and scattered thoughts can make you feel disconnected from your body, and from the present. And sometimes our mind spirals out in so many directions, or fills with so many worries, that we actually feel paralyzed.
Whether you are feeling unfocused and scattered, or frozen and unable to move, grounding can be an incredibly helpful skill to learn if you suffer from these types of anxiety.
So, what is grounding?
If you like dogs, imagine the feeling that you would get if a large dog peacefully laid across your lap. Or, if dogs are not your thing, imagine the feeling of being under a heavy blanket on a cold day, or a big, warm hug from a strong, calm friend. These are some things that make our energies feel settled. The term "grounding" suggests planting your feet firmly on the ground. Pulling your attention into your body and out of our cloud of worry. Settling your self into the present.
There are physical practices that we can do that will help us feel grounded, the most obvious one being to get on the ground. The next time you are feeling overwhelmed with anxiety, sit or lie directly on the ground. Once you are there, take three deep breaths and and try to pay attention to the feeling of gravity, weight and heaviness. Focus on the feeling of being on the ground. It may sound strange if you are not used to it, but it will immediately shift your perspective. If you can, take a moment to go outside. Grounding directly into the Earth is even better. Try placing your hands on a large tree and feeling it's rooted strength. Or try removing your shoes and feeling the earth beneath your bare feet. The idea is to pull our mind's energy closer to us in space, and time.
Another practice involves eating grounding foods. In Ayurveda, as well as Chinese medicine, grounding foods include things that grow in the ground. For example, root vegetables like carrots, turnips, radishes, ginger, garlic and sweet potatoes. They are energetically grounding. Also foods that are warming, like stews, soups and curries can make us feel more stable, and help to calm our nerves. Certain smells are also considered grounding, such as sandalwood, frankincense and patchouli.
Another very important way to ground ourselves, especially if we need something right now, and can't stop to make a stew or go outside, is to do a grounding meditation, or visualization. An easy one that only takes a minute is the 5-4-3-2-1 exercise:
Stop what you are doing, close your eyes and take a deep breath.
Open your eyes and name FIVE things you can SEE
Name FOUR things you can FEEL
Name THREE things you can HEAR
Name TWO things you can SMELL
Name ONE thing you LOVE about yourself