Stressed out?

Can’t stop worrying or thinking about something?

Can’t focus?

Feeling upset?

Sometimes we feel like we’re caught in a tornado of thoughts and emotions.

The exercise below is a quick and easy method for feeling more centered on a tough day. It’s also great to practice at times when you’re not as stressed so you know exactly how to use it when you need it the most.

If you notice troubling or distracting thoughts coming to mind, that is COMPLETELY normal. Our brains are designed to be alert to multiple senses at once, but we can learn to refocus our attention. Take this as an opportunity to be kind to yourself and not judge. Just notice that you are having these thoughts, then, redirect your attention back to the present moment.

  1. Sit in a comfortable, upright position with your feet planted flat on the ground. Rest your hands on your thighs or on your desk.
  2. Notice your breath. Bring attention to each part of your breath – the inhale, exhale and the space in between.
  3. Bring awareness to each of your five senses. One at a time, for about one minute each, focus on each of your five senses.
  • See: What do you see? Do you notice any new details you weren’t paying attention to before?  How is the lighting in your environment? Pay attention to the colors in the room/area.
  • Hear: Begin to notice all of the sounds around you. Try not to judge the sounds – just notice them. They are not good or bad; they just are. Sounds might be internal, like breathing or digestion. Sounds might be close by or more distant like the sound of traffic. Are you now hearing more than you were before you started? You may begin to notice subtle sounds you did not hear before. Can you hear them now?
  • Smell: Shift your attention to notice the smells of your environment. Maybe you smell food. You might become aware of the smell of trees or plants if you are outside. You might notice the smell of books or paper. Sometimes closing your eyes can help sharpen your attention.
  • Taste: You can do this one even if you have no food in your mouth. You may notice an aftertaste of a previous drink or meal. You may notice your tongue in your mouth, your saliva and your breath as you exhale. We have tastes in our mouth that often go unnoticed. You can run your tongue over your teeth and cheeks to help you become more aware.
  • Touch: Bring your attention to the sensations of skin contact with your chair, clothing and feet on the floor. You can notice the pressure between your feet and the floor or between your body and the chair. You can observe temperature, like the warmth or coolness of your hands or feet. You might take time to feel the textures that you noticed by gently wiggling your toes in your socks or shoes, for example.

The point here is to focus on the present moment and how each sense is being activated in that moment. The order in which you pay attention to each sense does not matter.