Connecting to the Earth
Within somatic (body-centered) psychology, grounding refers to our ability to experience ourselves as embodied. Grounding refers to your ability to sense your body, feel your feet on the earth, and as a result calm your nervous system.
Grounding is a key resource for trauma recovery and can help with emotional overwhelm. A simple way to ground is to literally stand outside with bare feet and tune into how you feel. You can imagine the earth is like a sponge and allow any tension to release in a downward direction out of your body. Clint Ober refers to this process as Earthing and his research suggests that grounding reduces inflammation, pain, and stress.
“Grounding invites you to sense your body, notice your tension patterns, and surrender the weight of your physical body into gravity to feel the support of the earth. As a resource for trauma recovery, grounding can help you reclaim a sense of safety, feel rooted in the present moment, and strengthen your resilience.”
-Dr. Arielle Schwartz
Grounding into the Senses
Your senses (hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting, touching) can help you anchor yourself in the present moment. One simple practice involves naming 5 things you see, 4 things you hear, 3 things you can touch, 2 things you can smell, and taking 1 deep slow breath. You can mindfully increase your awareness by enhancing your sensory experience. For example, slowly and mindfully eat a slice of a tart apple and notice the texture, the flavor, and your sensations.
This next recording offers a basic description of why grounding is essential to stress management and trauma recovery.
You can access the guided grounding meditations for free here on Healbright.
Grounding into Gravity
Grounding exercises focus on the physical and emotional aspects of surrendering to gravity. You can practice lying down on the ground and releasing your weight into the points of contact with the floor beneath you. Notice how it feels to relax. Explore whether you feel safe. Make space for any emotions that arise in the process.
You can evolve your practice of grounding to practice surrendering your weight to gravity while standing, and eventually while walking, slowly and mindfully. Keep your knees soft and not locked. When you walk, feel your feet rise and fall with each step. Can you stay connected to your emotions and sensations while moving? If you feel disconnected, slow down and come back to yourself in stillness.
Grounding in Restorative Yoga
Restorative yoga can help you slow down and calm the nervous system. One classic practice is Yoga Nidra which is often referred to as “yogic sleep” or a meditation in relaxation. Yoga Nidra is the antidote to our stressful, modern lifestyle and offers an opportunity to restore body and mind through accessing the parasympathetic nervous system. Once you find a relaxing position lying on the floor, blanket, or yoga mat, cultivate awareness of your body and breath. Make space for whatever you are feeling, including any areas of tension, heaviness, or constriction. Allow yourself to remain still for 30 minutes for a deeply relaxing and nourishing experience.
Additionally, you can explore “Legs-up-the-Wall” pose, (Viparita Karani) as a reset for your mind and body. When you have been standing for long periods of time, lymph and other fluids contribute to swollen ankles and knees. By reversing your relationship to gravity you allow lymph to drain out of the legs towards your heart. This posture is known for stress reduction and it is a practice you can bring with you anywhere. To find Viparita Karani, choose a wall in a quiet space where you can rest. Place your hips on a folded blanket or yoga block next to the wall and extend your legs upward. Allow your body to let go and be receptive. Stay here for at least 5 minutes and up to 20 minutes for maximum relaxation benefits.
Grounding in Relationship
You have one more “sense” that is relevant to grounding; proprioception. This refers to your body’s ability to sense movement and where you are in space. Importantly, proprioception is learned and relies strongly upon your earliest relationships and experiences of trusting and receiving support. For example, an infant is being held lovingly will surrender into gravity. Your capacity to feel how gravity affects your body organizes your ability to move, crawl, sit upright, and learn to walk. Here we recognize that grounding is a relational experience.
When a parent soothes our anxieties or helps us grieve losses we literally surrender into the feeling of being contained and grounded. You might also experiment with grounding while in contact with another person that you feel safe with. Explore what it feels like to surrender into loving contact by asking your partner to gently support your head. Can you still feel yourself while in contact with another? Do you lose yourself? Again, if you lose yourself make an agreement with your partner to stop contact and come back home to yourself.
Grounding invites you to sense your body, notice your tension patterns, and surrender the weight of your physical body into gravity to feel the support of the earth. As a resource for trauma recovery, grounding can help you reclaim a sense of safety, feel rooted in the present moment, and strengthen your resilience.
Heal and Learn with Dr. Arielle Schwartz
Through the end of December 2018, you can order the EMDR Therapy and Somatic Psychology book directly from W. W. Norton at a 20% discount with free shipping. The coupon code is EMDRSP18 — Click here to order.
Want to learn more about healing complex PTSD?
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About Dr. Arielle Schwartz
Dr. Arielle Schwartz is a licensed clinical psychologist, wife, and mother in Boulder, CO. She offers trainings for therapists, maintains a private practice, and has passions for the outdoors, yoga, and writing. Dr. Schwartz is the author of The Complex PTSD Workbook: A Mind-Body Approach to Regaining Emotional Control and Becoming Whole (Althea press, 2016) and co-author of EMDR Therapy and Somatic Psychology: Interventions to Enhance Embodiment in Trauma Treatment (Norton, 2018). She is the developer of Resilience-Informed Therapy which applies research on trauma recovery to form a strength-based, trauma treatment model that includes Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), somatic (body-centered) psychology and time-tested relational psychotherapy. Like Dr. Arielle Schwartz on Facebook, follow her on Linkedin and sign up for email updates to stay up to date with all her posts.