an young Indian woman smiles slightly as she stands with her hands pressed to her chest, illustrating how grounding techniques for depression can help her manage symptoms and improve daily life
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4 Grounding Techniques for Depression

Grounding techniques are methods of shifting attention away from depressed feelings and negative overthinking by focusing on our physical bodies and environment.


They can help when we feel overwhelmed, perhaps like we’re sinking or spiraling, or swallowed by a wave of negative thoughts and feelings. They act as a lifeline, helping us reconnect with the here and now and offering a sense of stability when we feel lost.


What is grounding?

Grounding is the act of bringing our attention to our immediate surroundings and physical sensations. The word refers to connection with the physical ground – imagine standing barefoot on cool grass, feeling the blades press against your soles and grit between your toes.


This simple act of connecting with a physical sensation is a form of grounding. Grounding techniques are ways of disengaging from ruminating thoughts and intense emotions. They offer temporary relief from the storm within.


Does grounding help with depression?

Yes. Depression often involves feeling disconnected from yourself and the world around you.


This disconnection may feel like being adrift and helpless within your own negative thoughts and feelings. Or disconnection may take the form of depersonalisation – the sense that you’re not real, or not connected to your body; some people describe depersonalisation as a disembodied feeling, as feeling as though they’re watching a movie of their life.


Or depressed disconnection may feel like derealisation – the sense that the people and world around you isn’t real or is distorted; some people describe this as like living in a dream, or like a glass wall separates them from everything else.


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By grounding – that is, by focusing on our senses and present moment experiences – we can interrupt negative thought patterns and emotional spirals. This shift in focus can create a sense of calm and control, allowing you to feel less overwhelmed and more connected, and approach challenges with a clearer head.


This isn’t just theory. Research shows that grounding techniques for depression activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which calms the body’s stress response. So grounding can be particularly helpful for anyone experiencing depression, since depression is a form of stress on the body and mind.


Grounding techniques for depression that can be done anywhere

Here are a few grounding techniques for depression that you can easily incorporate into your daily life:


The five senses technique

This technique focuses our attention on our senses to bring us into our body, surroundings, and the present moment.


To use the five senses grounding technique, find a quiet place where you can sit comfortably. Take a few deep breaths, inhaling through your nose deep into your belly, and exhaling slowly through your mouth. Then:


  • Identify 5 things you can see. Look around and name five objects or details in your surroundings. For example, “I see a blue pen on the desk.”
  • Acknowledge 4 things you can touch. Pay attention to the sensation of touch. Describe how objects around you feel. “I feel the smooth texture of the table.”
  • Notice 3 things you can hear. Listen actively to the sounds in your environment. It could be the hum of a computer or the rustling of leaves outside.
  • Name 2 things you can smell. Engage your sense of smell. Breathe deeply and notice any scents present, like coffee or fresh air.
  • Focus on 1 thing you can taste. If possible, take a sip of a beverage or a bite of food. Pay attention to its taste, texture, and temperature.

By taking a sensory inventory of your surroundings, you gently pull your attention away from negative thoughts and feelings, and back to the present moment.


The cold water technique

Take a few slow sips of cold water, focusing on the wet chill of the water in your mouth and noticing the sensation as you swallow. Splash cold water on your face or dunk your hands in ice water.


The sudden coldness triggers your body’s fight-or-flight response, momentarily breaking you our of negative thoughts. It’s a quick reset button for managing depression’s emotional storms.


The special item technique

Keep a small item in your pocket (such as a stone) and hold the item. Bring your attention to the sensation of the item in your hand, including its weight and texture, whenever you feel overwhelmed by thoughts or feelings.


The (many) breathing techniques

Focused breathing is a powerful grounding technique that re-connects the mind with the body. A large body of research has proven various kinds of patterned breathing can help improve the mental health of people experiencing depression, anxiety, and other mental health struggles.


Start by finding a comfortable position. It’s best to sit or lie down in a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed, but you can stand if you need to. Close your eyes to shut out distractions that could keep you from focusing on your breath. Then:


  • Take slow, deep breaths: Inhale deeply through your nose, hold for a moment, and exhale slowly through your mouth. Repeat this process, focusing on the sensation of each breath’s air flowing into you and out of you.
  • Count your breaths: Concentrate on counting each step of the breath cycle ( breath cycle meaning: 1 inhalation + hold + exhalation + pause) up to five. This practice helps maintain concentration and mindfulness. For more specific guidance on how to use your breathing as a grounding technique for depression, read this article or follow along with the video below.
  • Repeat for at least 2 minutes or until you feel better. This style of breathing activates your parasympathetic nervous system, helping you to calm down, feel more in control, escape your mind, and return to your body.

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Grounding techniques are not a cure for depression, but they can be a powerful tool in our coping toolboxes. Experiment with different techniques to find what works best for you. The key is to practise grounding techniques regularly, even when you’re feeling well. This way, when difficult emotions arise, you’ll immediately turn to the skills you’re familiar with to navigate the storm and find your footing once again.


If you are struggling with depression, it’s important to seek professional help. Therapy – whether one-one-one or digital – can support you through recovery. Don’t hesitate to reach out for help – you are not alone in this journey.




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