Mindful Moment: 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Strategy
By Michelle Harrell, NCMA Director of Education
Mindfulness and Art
Developing mindful practices into your life can help you and those you care for cope with feelings of anxiety and being overwhelmed. Spending time with works of art can help you slow down and focus on the present moment. Self-management or regulation is one of the five core competencies in Social Emotional Learning (SEL). Learning how to cope with feelings is an important part of controlling one’s temper and managing stress. Introducing coping skills, like deep breathing or doodling, can help young children regulate their impulses and feelings. The activity below introduces a coping strategy by discussing a work of art that activates the senses.
Modeling it with Children
Use the following directions to introduce the 54321 coping strategy using Garden Parasol:
- Begin by having students settle into a comfortable chair and take several long, slow, deep breaths inhaling fully and exhaling fully. You may want to have them close their eyes and practice this until you feel students are focused.
- Explain that we’re going to use a strategy we can use anytime we may be feeling overwhelmed and need to ground ourselves in the present moment. We will use our five senses for this strategy. Ask students to identify their five senses.
- Model the 5-4-3-2-1 method yourself as you introduce it:
- Name 5 things you can see. For instance, I see the stairs, my coffee mug, my light, my pen, and my phone.
- Name 4 things you can touch. For instance, I touch the wood of my desk, the fabric of my pants, the rough texture on the wall, and my face.
- Name 3 things you can hear. For instance, I hear the hum of the computer, the breathing of people in the room, and the rustle of fabric.
- Name 2 things you can smell. For instance, I can smell the disinfectant and my coffee.
- Name 1 thing you can taste. For instance, I can taste the sweet creamer of my coffee.
- Explain that we will practice this strategy with a work of art. I’ve chosen The Garden Parasol but any work of art that evokes all five senses would work well. You may want to have students write their responses in a journal or this handout prior to sharing them with the class. Tell them to imagine they are inside the painting. Say, since you can only use your sense of sight, you have to use your imagination for the other four senses.
- Guide students in looking and responding to each sense. Have students share responses with the class.
Additional Resources for Parents and Teachers
Watch the short video below to experience this strategy for yourself or see it modeled with a live audience of children in this 20 minute video with Tin Can Kids.