“But, then, in those good hours, those sunshine hours in the yard, you could make them slow, you could pull them up like they were well-trained horses and you could turn an hour in the flower garden into half a day, because you were living in five dimensions and the dimensions were the things you were smelling and the things you could taste and touch and hear and the things you could see, things within things, small universes in the stamen of a flower, layers upon layers…”Boy Swallows Universe – Trent Dalton
I came across the above passage while reading Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton and loved the way it read. He’s got a fantastic way with words and it’s easy to see why the book has received so many accolades. If you’ve not read it, you can buy it here. Outside of the beautiful way it’s written (and whether Dalton did it on purpose or not) this passage describes the experience of Mindfulness Grounding; a technique that can help alleviate anxiety, stress, and spiralling thoughts. It’s a way to pause, breathe, settle, and prepare for what’s next.
By “slowing down time” this character was allowing himself to be present and enjoy the tiny wonders of the things he could see, smell, hear, taste and touch. By focusing on our senses we are immediately reconnected with our current reality; our sense of hearing tells us what we are hearing right now, not what we might hear tomorrow. It’s our brain that does the worrying about tomorrow’s sounds and by bringing our senses back to “now” our brain will naturally follow and becomes grounded and focused on the immediate moment. This means our thoughts slow down, allowing us to take time and stretch those seconds to relax, collect our thoughts and feelings before moving on with actions that will reward us and move us towards our goal.
So, how do we do it? Shukla (2020) outlines five recomendations for Mindfulness Grounding. There are different variations on these and you may only need a couple of these to take your own time, or you may need all. As always, it’s about what works for you but I would always recommend starting with a few deep breaths and then:
- Look at 5 things – notice the colours, shapes, patterns of 5 things you can see from where you are.
- Touch 4 things – this could be the feel of your clothes on your skin or maybe you can reach out and touch a wall, or a table. Notice the texture on your skin or the way your pen rolls in your fingers.
- Listen to 3 things – Notice 3 sounds one by one. Seperate them from the hub-bub. Can you hear a bird calling or the sound of one particular car going by? Focusing on them one at a time will allow you to listen to it until your attention is back in the present moment.
- Smell 2 things – Maybe you need to move from where you are to find something to smell. Smell is a powerful scent and quickly focuses our attention. Do you have a pack of mints you can smell or is there a flower nearby?
- Taste 1 thing – This one can be tricky and may not always be available. If you’ve got that packet of mints, can you pop one in your mouth? Move it around your tongue and notice the different tastes. If your due a meal take the time to eat it slowly and focus on each flavour of the meal you are tasting.
Taking time is important for our mental health. Too easily our mind can race forwards or fling backwards but investing energy in the future or past doesn’t pay off. Grounding ourself in the moment and investing our time and energy here is how we generate change.