In times of uncertainty, the mind can easily veer toward doom and gloom. Projections into the future or ruminations about the past are natural and normal, but not always helpful. To bring the mind back, mindfulness exercises that root you in the present can be a saving grace.
In order to bring ourselves into present moment awareness, we can use the tools that are always available to us: our breath, our heartbeat, and our five senses. Tuning into our body takes attention away from intrusive thoughts, which can ultimately loosen the grip that those thoughts have on us.
This simple exercise prompts the body to tune into the five senses, and it works for any age, in any setting, at any time. The next time you want to quickly get present in the here and now, just remember: 5-4-3-2-1.
5. What Do You See?
First, look around and notice five things you can see. Be quick and spontaneous about it, taking note of the first five things that catch your eye. Speak them out loud.
4. What Do You Hear?
Next, listen for four things you can hear. Again, just go with the first four things that come up. If you happen to be somewhere really quiet, you may need to make a little noise: Tap on the desk, hum, listen to the sound of your breath.
3. What Can You Touch?
Now, explore three things you can touch. It could simply be the feeling in your hands at this moment. Are they warm or cold? You may notice the sensation of your clothes against your skin or your shoes on your feet. Reach out and gently touch something in your immediate surroundings, deeply investigating its texture.
2. What Can You Smell?
Next, home in on two different things you can smell. This one isn’t always easy, depending on where you are. You might need to smell your hand lotion or hair if there aren’t strong enough smells in your environment. Or, you may want to purposely keep some essential oils nearby for regular five-senses breaks.
1. And Lastly, What Can You Taste?
Finally, notice one taste that lingers in your mouth, perhaps from your last meal, cup of tea, or toothpaste from brushing your teeth. Move your tongue around your mouth, smack your lips together, and focus on the sensation of taste.
This quick five-senses exercise is a great way to get present, which is what mindfulness is all about. While we can never be sure what will happen in the future—or change what’s happened in the past—we can always access the power of the present moment.