How to ease anxiety at night with the ‘54321’ mindfulness trick

Overcome anxiety by relying on your senses 

Chelsea Ritschel
New York
Monday 21 March 2022 05:49 GMT

When anxiety threatens our peace of mind, it can be difficult to stay in the moment - especially if the feeling overcomes us when it’s time for bed.

But one mindfulness tool used by multiple psychologists has the potential to pull our brains free from the anxiety, and hopefully put a stop to the midnight anxiety spiral, by grounding us in the present.

The “5-4-3-2-1” tool is a simple yet effective method for regaining control of your mind when anxiety threatens to take over - and it consists of more than counting backwards from five.

Rather, the hack helps bring us back to the present by relying on our five senses - sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste.

The first step encourages those suffering in a moment of anxiety to look around at their surroundings and identify five things they can see at the moment.

Next, identify four things you can hear, three things you can feel - which can be anything from your feet in your socks to a ring on your finger, then two things you can smell.

And finally, one thing you can taste - which can even be your tongue as long as you can taste it.

The steps can be done quickly - and the effectiveness of the tool has been widely backed.

Ellen Hendriksen, a clinical psychologist and the author of the book: "How To Be Yourself," told Vice: “Bringing our attention to our senses grounds us in the present and counting the items interrupts the spinning of our thoughts.”

And the Mayo Clinic Health System also suggests trying out the exercise to minimise the feelings of anxiety - as the exercise can “shift your focus to your surroundings in the present moment and away from what is causing you to feel anxious. It can help interrupt unhealthy thought patterns.”

The trick, which relies on sensory awareness, is rooted in mindfulness - and apart from anxiety, it can help treat depression, addiction disorders, lower blood pressure, and relieve stress, according to Harvard University's

So the next time you are feeling anxious, focus on what you can see, feel, and touch - and ignore the insecurities that only exist inside your head.

This article was originally published in February 2018. The 5-4-3-2-1 exercise is the copyright of SOAR Inc Fear of Flying program.

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