Anxious thoughts? – Try doing “5-4-3-2-1”

When I was studying hypnotherapy there was a simple but effective “induction” for self hypnosis.  A variation can be used to help “ground” your brain in the here and now and redirect your attention from racing, non-productive or anxiety-provoking thoughts to the present moment by intentionally engaging your five senses: 

 5-4-3-2-1, in which you pay attention to:  Five things that you can see around you, four things that you can touch, three things you can hear, two things that you can smell, and one thing that you can taste in your mouth.  

You can repeat the same thing more than once as it matters less what you sense and matters more that you simply pay attention to what your are sensing in the present moment.

Nor does it matter how you identify each.  You can:

  • Write these things down,
  • Say them aloud,
  • Mentally make note of them

For example, since I’m writing this post when I do the exercise now, I type them:

Sight 5 – I see my computer. I see my hands on the keyboard. I see the blue shirt I’m wearing.  I see the veins in my hands.  I see the lamp across the room.  

Touch 4 – I feel the my laptop on my legs. I feel the floor under my bare feet. I feel pain in my knee. I feel the keys under my fingers.

Hearing 3 – I hear birds, I hear the air conditioner, I hear my fingers tap on the keyboard.

Smell 2 – I smell coffee.  I smell the air in the room.

Taste 1 – I taste nothing.



This exercise roots you firmly into the here and now.  It can also help to take a deep breath before you identify each sensory item