My Favorite Relaxation Technique


Mindfulness, mediation, and relaxation are excellent tools for dealing with trauma, anxiety, depression, sleeplessness, and other struggles. These skills are foundational for achieving better mental health and increasing focus and productivity. I'm going to share my favorite technique with you right here.


Years ago in graduate school, I had the privilege of attending a workshop by Yvonne Dolan who is one of the founders of Solution-Focused Brief Therapy. She taught and demonstrated this one technique that I use myself and teach my clients to use. I love it because you don't have to memorize a script or use an elaborate scenario. It's simple to use, and can fit into any busy schedule. It's called the 5-4-3-2-1 technique, and this is how it goes.

You begin by sitting or laying in a comfortable position, preferable with your arms and legged uncrossed. Take deep breaths. Name things as written below, taking one deep breath for each item. You can name these things out loud or in your mind, depending on your circumstances.


Name 5 things you see. (Example: "I see the chair.")


Name 5 things you hear. (Example: "I hear the humming of the air conditioner," or "I hear the silence.")


Name 5 things you physically feel. (Example: "I feel my feet on the floor." Not emotions.)

Repeat the sequence naming 4 things you see, hear, feel. Repeat naming 3 things each. Repeat naming 2 things each. Repeat naming 1 thing each.

Don't worry about making mistakes or repeating things. The idea is to get your mind to slow down and focus on something less anxiety-provoking. So if you accidentally say the wrong thing, or switch up the order, it doesn't matter. This isn't a test of your attention to detail. This is a way for you to train your body to relax and help your mind feel de-cluttered and grounded. Mistakes are no big deal!

By the end of the sequence you may feel quite relaxed, maybe bored, and maybe even tired. You can then enjoy this relaxed state for as long as you wish. If you still don't feel calm, you can repeat this sequence again.

The more you practice this, the more trained your body will be to relax. Depending on your situation, you could start by doing this technique 1-5 times per day. With practice, your body will begin to respond to these cues more quickly, and you will be able to feel a state of calmness and relaxation more easily.

I like to use this when I'm having trouble falling asleep. In that case, I am laying down in my bed, closing my eyes. I will say, "I see the darkness" over and over for the "see" part. It still works! Sometimes I will have to repeat the whole process two or three times. What relaxation techniques do you like to use?

#skills #relaxation #meditation #mindfulness #anxiety #trauma #depression

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