Health And Wellness

How To Practice Mindfulness With Each Of The 5 Senses

Photo: getty images
young woman laying in flowers

Mindfulness is a state of mind that brings your attention to the present moment. One of the keys to learning how to practice mindfulness in your everyday life is through the grounding technique.

Grounding anchors you to your environment by making you acutely aware of your surroundings, and one of the best ways to be more mindful and present is by incorporating all of your five senses.

We all have moments where we feel overwhelmed or stressed out. These feelings can come from numerous sources, sometimes the main culprit is just getting stuck in our own heads. Mindfulness exercises bring your attention back to the present which calms and centers you.

When you practice mindfulness you can better deal with stress and anxiety, and you can learn how to stop pesky ruminating thoughts. It’s hard to stop a train of thought once it starts running seemingly out of your control, but mindfulness puts you back in control.

How to practice mindfulness

RELATED: 5 Easy Ways To Practice Mindfulness Every Day (No Matter How Busy Your Schedule May Be)

These mindfulness exercises can be done anytime and anywhere, and no one will even know you’re doing them!

Read on to see how each of the five senses can help ground you and practice mindfulness.

1. Sight

The first technique is called mindful seeing. All you need are your eyes.

Look around the space you’re in, you could even go to a window if you prefer. Single out objects in your view without any labeling or judging. Focus on what things look like rather than what they are or how you feel about them.

For example, I see a door, but for this exercise, I wouldn’t just think “door” and move on. I’d look at the door and say or think things like white, rectangular, tall, brass, round. These observations make you slow down and really notice your environment.

It is completely normal and okay for your mind to wander while attempting this exercise. When you notice your thoughts, accept them, then go back to the exercise. The physical space is your anchor.

2. Sound

Mindful listening can be practiced alone, but it can also make you a better communicator when well-practiced.

Pick a song and close your eyes to avoid drawing your focus. Don’t think about any judgments you have of the song based on who the musician is or the time in your life when you first heard it — none of that!

Instead, really listen and pick apart each layer. Find the vocals in the song, the bass, the guitar, try to name each sound at play. Listen to it fade in and out, how it fills the silence as well as the pauses that welcome the silence back.

This exercise could also be done without music by listening to the natural noises around you — the traffic, the TV in the next room, the air in the vents, and again, don’t forget about the silences. 

3. Touch

This exercise is called finger tracing. Using the tip of your finger, trace the outline of your hand running your finger along each finger of the hand you’re tracing.

This sensation alone is very calming, but you can also take this exercise one step further by including intentional breathing. Breathe in while your finger moves upwards and breathe out when it moves down. You control the speed at which you trace, but the slower you go the calmer you'll likely feel.

You can use this technique at any time and place. Any onlookers would perceive this as a normal fidget. You probably won’t draw any attention doing this in the first place. It is discrete and effective if you’re ever feeling overwhelmed throughout your day.

RELATED: 5 Mindfulness Techniques To Find Inner Peace Amid Panic & Chaos

4. Smell

Mindful smelling could be done with something tangible to smell or an imagined thing.

The best sort of thing to smell would be something cooked or baked so that there are several ingredients contributing to the overall smell. Then pick apart those ingredients, try to smell each and every one. Close your eyes to increase your focus on the scent.

For example, let’s say you have a muffin. What flavor is it? Can you smell the blueberries, the cinnamon, the nuts?

While you should be observing without judgments, picking something that you enjoy will make this experience more pleasant.

5. Taste

Mindful eating can be one of the most enjoyable of these exercises, and it can be done even with a stick of gum.

Choose something that you enjoy the taste of. Take a deep breath before each bite. Then, while you’re chewing, think of all the parts of the taste that you enjoy including flavors and textures.

Let’s run with the stick of gum example. Think about the flavors. If you’re a fruity gum kind of person, try to taste each of the fruity flavors like strawberry, orange, grape, etc. If you’re a mint gum kind of person think about how cool it feels in your mouth and detect the sweetness or the sharpness. Think about the texture. Think about how the gum sticks and stretches with each chomp. How does it feel to blow a bubble?

This exercise is good for grounding, but it also makes you enjoy your food more.

All 5 senses

This mindfulness technique uses all five senses to ground you in the current moment. It centers your mind and body pulling you out of any cerebral rabbit holes.

This technique is also called the 5-4-3-2-1 exercise. You start by finding five things you can see around you. Pick them out and name them. Then you name four things that you can hear.

Next, you feel three things. These can be things you’re touching or just sensations you currently feel on your body, like the socks on your feet, the hair on your face, or pain in your back.

Remember, these sensations don’t need to be positive or negative, just recognize what you are currently experiencing without judgment.

After touch, name two smells that you’re smelling. Finally, name one thing you taste. Unless you’re currently eating, the taste could be your own breath or even your tongue.

This last exercise is a holistic grounding technique in that you are using every sense; you’re paying attention to each part of your physical existence in that moment.

RELATED: 6 Mindfulness Tips To Use When You're Upset About Everything Going On In Your Life 

Colleen Fogarty is a writer who covers self-care, astrology, and relationship topics.