Identify 5 things you can see, 4 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste. This can help get you out of your head and into the present moment.
- Increases present moment awareness.
- More mindfulness.
- Can help break you out of unwanted thought loops.
If you’re stuck in a mental thought loop, a common way to break out of it is to bring your attention to the present moment. There are many ways you can do this, but they all involve bringing your attention to your conscious experience right here, right now.
But this is easier said than done! The contents of the mind are extremely compelling, addictive even. The 5-4-3-2-1 exercise is a simple tool you can use to break out of thought loops and return to the present.
How to do it
- Look. Take a few glances around you. Identify 5 things that you can see. Any 5 things at all.
- Feel. Bring your attention to your body. Identify 4 different physical sensations. If you struggle with this, try bringing your attention to your hands, then your feet, then your stomach, then your neck and shoulders. If you still can’t feel anything, try adding some gentle movement, for example clenching and releasing your fists a few times.
- Listen. Try to identify 3 distinct sounds. Can you hear any cars, the wind, people, or animals? If you’re indoors, can you hear music, the sounds of any mechanical or electrical equipment? If you can’t hear anything, can you make any sound? Can you clap your hands, click your fingers, or tap your feet (might want to only do this last part if you’re alone…).
- Smell. Are there any odours in the air? Can you smell the rain, pollution, or someone’s perfume or deodourant? Can you smell yourself?
- Taste. If you have any food or drink nearby, take a sip or a nibble of something. Focus fully on the taste. If you don’t have anything to eat or drink handy, are there any tastes in your mouth right now?
Smell and taste can sometimes be tricky. But remember, this isn’t a challenge – the simple act of trying to bring these experiences into your conscious awareness is what matters. Why? Because you need to be in the present moment to know whether you can perceive any smells or tastes or not! So don’t worry if you don’t reach each target, it’s the attempt that counts.
Do this anytime you need more present moment awareness. You might do it regularly throughout the day, to intersperse your day with additional mindfulness. Or you might do it when you notice you’re mentally replaying some difficult experience in your head, like an argument, and you don’t want to do that any more. Or maybe you’re feeling a little nervous about something perhaps a job interview, a date, or sky diving, and you want to bring more mindfulness to your experience in order to help with your nerves.
Why it works
In order to complete the exercise, you must be in the present moment.
It’s pretty much as simple as that!