Sight. Sound. Touch, Smell. Taste. Most of us go about our days not even aware that we are using the senses we’ve been given to experience the world around us. Focusing our attention on our senses can be a way to cultivate a deeper appreciation for the world around us. And for someone experiencing anxiety, depression, or panic attacks, our senses are tools we can use to restore our mental health. It’s as simple as just noticing.
Micah Reimer believes so strongly in the power of using one’s senses as a mental wellness tool that he’s incorporated it into his business card. Micah is a community mental health worker with Communitas Supportive Care Society, supporting people living with mental health challenges as they journey towards wellness. He knows first-hand what it is like to live with these challenges and how powerful it is to harness one’s senses.
“I first learned about grounding techniques when I was in college,” he says. “I stumbled upon them by accident when trying to rid myself of some awful days filled with anxiety, depression, and crippling panic attacks. That was when I discovered the power of ‘just noticing’.”
The concept is incredibly simple. To “just notice” is to do exactly that: to stop in the middle of a mental health challenge and use your five senses to focus your awareness and help you feel grounded. You begin with sight, and count your way through each sense, taking notice of what is around you:
By following these simple steps you halt the thoughts and chatter going on in your mind, helping you to become grounded in reality.
“The purpose of grounding is to use all your senses to fully immerse yourself in the here and now,” Micah explains. “It brings you away from unwanted thoughts and distressing feelings into the present moment by focusing on the present.”
One doesn’t have to wait for a moment of crisis to practice this. In fact, Micah says it is something we should cultivate on a daily basis. He says it’s best experienced when it’s paired with a walk in nature.
“Grounding is great when you’re ‘forest bathing’,” he says, referring to a Japanese concept of shinrin-yoku, immersing oneself in the forest atmosphere and experiencing it through one’s senses.
Micah has used this practice for fifteen years and says that it’s important to develop this tool so that it becomes a natural response when those moments of anxiety arise.
“The goal is to have it be an automatic response, like accessing an emergency blanket,” he says. “I’ve used it as a mental health first aid tool for panic attacks but I also use it when feeling totally well. It has benefits for all of us, even if we don’t associate ourselves with having mental health challenges.”
That’s one of the reasons he’s put the symbols on the back of his business card. It’s an easy reference for anyone wanting to practice grounding oneself, no matter what situation they find themselves in.
“It’s such a powerful tool and it’s so easy,” Micah says. “Just notice.”