5-4-3-2-1 Mindfulness Technique: Reducing Anxiety and Stress

By Sarah Earles, MS, LPC, NCC | May 17, 2024

Anxiety can hit in a moment. Overwhelming emotions can come in like a flood. What can a person do to stay grounded? A person can do many things, but one of the simplest things is to practice 5-4-3-2-1 mindfulness.

What is 5-4-3-2-1 mindfulness? 5-4-3-2-1 mindfulness is a form of grounding, or practiced awareness, that uses the five senses. It involves looking around and naming five things that are seen, four things that can be touched, three things that can be heard, two things that can be smelled, and one thing that can be tasted (Smith, 2018). The practice can be adjusted as needed depending on the environment (Cam’s Kids, n.d.). In cases where there are not immediate smells or tastes, it can be helpful to find some scented items (such as candles or room sprays) and strong-tasting items (such as minty or sour candies). Some individuals even choose to build a mindfulness kit which they can use for this exercise.
Why does it work? 5-4-3-2-1 mindfulness may be simple, but it works! Why? Attention to the five senses in mindfulness helps attune an individual to the current moment (Smith, 2018). It helps ground a person and shift attention to the immediate environment, and away from whatever is troubling the person at the time (Mayo Clinic, 2020). Sometimes it takes a few tries to attune the mind to the present moment, but usually, it works (Cam’s Kids, n.d.). When focused on the present moment, it is easier to engage the thinking brain and process clearly (Marks, 2021). Mindfulness, in this way, is a regulatory technique.

Five senses mindfulness will not cure all ills. It can simply help reduce overwhelm and increase coping capacity. Try it and see if it works for you!

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Anxiety can hit in a moment. Overwhelming emotions can come in like a flood. What can a person do to stay grounded? A person can do many things, but one of the simplest things is to practice 5-4-3-2-1 mindfulness.

What is 5-4-3-2-1 mindfulness? 5-4-3-2-1 mindfulness is a form of grounding, or practiced awareness, that uses the five senses. It involves looking around and naming five things that are seen, four things that can be touched, three things that can be heard, two things that can be smelled, and one thing that can be tasted (Smith, 2018). The practice can be adjusted as needed depending on the environment (Cam’s Kids, n.d.). In cases where there are not immediate smells or tastes, it can be helpful to find some scented items (such as candles or room sprays) and strong-tasting items (such as minty or sour candies). Some individuals even choose to build a mindfulness kit which they can use for this exercise.
Why does it work? 5-4-3-2-1 mindfulness may be simple, but it works! Why? Attention to the five senses in mindfulness helps attune an individual to the current moment (Smith, 2018). It helps ground a person and shift attention to the immediate environment, and away from whatever is troubling the person at the time (Mayo Clinic, 2020). Sometimes it takes a few tries to attune the mind to the present moment, but usually, it works (Cam’s Kids, n.d.). When focused on the present moment, it is easier to engage the thinking brain and process clearly (Marks, 2021). Mindfulness, in this way, is a regulatory technique.

Five senses mindfulness will not cure all ills. It can simply help reduce overwhelm and increase coping capacity. Try it and see if it works for you!

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References

Cam’s Kids. (n.d.). 5,4, 3,2,1 Grounding Technique. https://www.camskids.com/tipsandtools/54321-grounding-technique/

Marks, J. (2021, October 8). Ground exercises: Using your 5 senses for anxiety relief. Psych Central. https://psychcentral.com/anxiety/using-the-five-senses-for-anxiety-relief

Mayo Clinic. (2020, June 6). 5, 4, 3, 2, 1: Countdown to make anxiety blast off. https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/5-4-3-2-1-countdown-to-make-anxiety-blast-off

Smith, S. (2018, April 10). 5-4-3-2-1 Coping technique for anxiety. University of Rochester Medical Center. https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/behavioral-health-partners/bhp-blog/april-2018/5-4-3-2-1-coping-technique-for-anxiety.aspx

References

Cam’s Kids. (n.d.). 5,4, 3,2,1 Grounding Technique. https://www.camskids.com/tipsandtools/ 54321-grounding-technique/

Marks, J. (2021, October 8). Ground exercises: Using your 5 senses for anxiety relief. Psych Central. https://psychcentral.com/anxiety/using-the-five-senses-for-anxiety-relief

Mayo Clinic. (2020, June 6). 5, 4, 3, 2, 1: Countdown to make anxiety blast off. https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/ hometown-health/speaking-of-health/5-4-3-2-1-countdown-to-make-anxiety-blast-off

Smith, S. (2018, April 10). 5-4-3-2-1 Coping technique for anxiety. University of Rochester Medical Center. https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/ behavioral-health-partners/bhp-blog/april-2018/5-4-3-2-1-coping-technique-for-anxiety.aspx