In an age where everything moves with a sense of urgency, it has become more important than ever to learn how to ground yourself. I’m not talking about lying on the grass (although that is delightful), I mean being your own center of gravity despite what happens around you.
Being grounded is to have a sense of emotional stability and composure, regardless of what’s happening in your life. It is to be centered in your body, present with your current experience, and to remain level-headed.
Luckily, there’s a whole arsenal of helpful practices that will take you out of your head, and into your body. That’s exactly what we’re going to look at here.
Improve the quality of your life by being grounded
Groundedness is such a valuable characteristic that is exceedingly necessary in this day and age. There’s so much happening in our lives all the time, that it’s easy to get swept away in all the commotion. The mind can be a tormenting place, and the only real thing you can do to navigate these challenges is to bring yourself back to the here and now.
Personally, groundedness has been a huge pillar of my well‐being. As a nomadic traveler, nothing in my life is stable. I’m constantly living in different countries, in different situations, with different people, doing different things.
Next minute, heartbreak. My job changes. Something unexpected happens ‐ sending my life into yet another whirlwind. As soon as I’m back on my feet, the cage is rattled once again. Cultivating this ability to stay level-headed allows me to come right back down to Earth, and realize that it’s all going to be okay.
There’s a constant flow of change which can really be hard to keep on top of sometimes. But through all the commotion, I’ve learned to center myself, and work with what I’m given. I don’t get swept away in coulds, woulds, and shoulds. I don’t excessively worry or panic. I deal with the situation at hand in a practical way.
Besides keeping your feet on the ground and centering yourself when life hits with all its might, being grounded also helps you manage your mental health. This is especially important if you feel generally lost, or tend to get stuck in your head. Below are a couple of complementary articles that can help.
Common traits of grounded people
We’ve briefly talked about why it’s good to be grounded, but let’s get into the specifics. Here are common traits of grounded people, and reasons why cultivating groundedness will improve the quality of your life.
- Centered: People who are grounded are not easily shaken from their course. They have the ability to keep a level head in most situations and don’t stress about the little things.
- Emotionally stable: People who are grounded tend to be more emotionally stable. They have a grip over their emotions, and they’re not blown out of proportion.
- Rational: People who are grounded are rational. This means they’re generally realistic, as they’re more concerned about what needs to happen to move forward with the situation.
- Well-tempered: When people are grounded, they are generally quite calm. This means they’re not as likely to get triggered or agitated. Things that are seen as a big deal to some people aren’t so much to them.
- Mindful: Someone who is grounded is generally rooted in the here and now. This means they don’t spend much time dwelling on the past or future, and aren’t too concerned with hypotheticals.
- Embodied: Someone who is grounded is more connected to their physical body and attentive to what it’s telling them.
You're human, relax!
From a more human perspective, being grounded is to recognize that you’re an animal. You have emotions that need to be expressed, needs to be fulfilled. You’ll make mistakes and sometimes you’ll go through painful experiences, and that’s okay!
Instead of thinking that you’re above it all, groundedness is the embodiment that you’re a strange, messy, irrational creature called a human, and there’s nothing at all wrong with that. Stop trying to be something you’re not, and instead take solace in the fact that you’re not perfect, and this will get you far.
What happens when you're not grounded?
Being ungrounded means that you’re disembodied (floating in the clouds or caught in your head). This can result in a cluttered mind, stress, worry, and being generally disconnected from the reality of the situation. This tends to lead to irrational decisions, mistakes, and poor life choices.
People who aren’t grounded can come across as airy. Instability and incessant thinking happen when you’re not grounded, which can exacerbate emotional upsets. They often overvalue concepts and ideas instead of what’s measurable.
As a quality of groundedness is to keep a cool head in difficult situations, it’s often the other way around when people aren’t. Ungrounded people are more affected by trivial matters such as what other people think of them, or how much money they make. Here are some common symptoms of being ungrounded:
- Disconnection from the physical
- Having a scattered mind
- Feeling overstimulated
- Feeling flustered or overwhelmed with too much happening at once
- Stressing over little things that really have no tangible impact on your life
- Loss of productivity
- Loss of clarity due to white noise
- Incessant daydreaming, wandering mind, and loss of focus
- Inability to think clearly
- Minor disassociation or feeling like you’re in a bubble
- Erratic choices or decisions
- Exhaustion and burnout
What causes you to be less grounded?
- Overstimulating yourself
- Juggling too many things at the same time
- Emotional instability and mood swings
- spending too much time watching TV
- Playing too many video games
- Spending too much time on social media
- Basing values around meaningless constructs (such as being liked by people, or being popular)
- Disconnecting from the natural world through the excessive use of technology
- Staying cooped up in the same environments
- Overworking without taking time for yourself
- Excessive thinking, worrying, fantasizing, etc.
- Stressing over hypothetical situations that haven’t yet happened (and probably never will)
- Entertaining false concepts such as baseless conspiracies (don’t get me wrong here, I’m all for critical thinking and believe many ideas that are presented as conspiracies are indeed real, but it’s also important not to get too caught up in them. Concern yourself with the objective information, and draw a line between reality and fiction)
- Escapism from your issues or emotions
- Wearing a mask and not being authentic to yourself
- Using mind-altering substances
Anything that takes you out of your body and into your mind makes you less grounded. Spending too much time on social media or playing video games are examples of activities that bring you into an artificial headspace, causing you to be less connected to the here and now.
When it comes to lifestyle choices and values, seeking validation or chasing social status can cause you to become less grounded, as you’re revolving your life around a concept, instead of being centered within yourself. This creates dependency on something outside of yourself which isn’t what you need.
Otherwise, overthinking can also cause you to become ungrounded, as you’re taking yourself away from the present, to occupy a space that doesn’t really exist right now. Worrying about how you look, or meeting someone is just going to stir the pot, so it’s best to be as present as you can, instead of playing these meaningless mental games. Here are some things that cause you to become ungrounded:
Why you need to be grounded in reality
Especially nowadays where there are no solid lines between what’s true and false, it’s important to be grounded in reality. Let’s face it, there’s a lot happening in the world. There are many theories that may be true, and many hypotheticals that we concern ourselves with. It’s increasingly easy to get caught in your mind, in ideas, or in the future, but look around you.
The world isn’t falling apart right beneath your feet. You still have food, water, and shelter. Being grounded in reality is to step out of the realm of mind, and be present with the experience that you have right now. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t think about the future or prepare for the worst because you don’t want to stick your head in the sand either, but you want to pause for a moment and realize, that for now at least, everything is okay.
Therefore concern yourself with the tangible objective reality, rather than becoming too focused on ideas and concepts that don’t really concern you. We can speculate many things that will happen, but if we become too disconnected from the reality of the situation, then we can end up sabotaging ourselves or making poor life choices.
Times when it's especially important to be grounded
Essentially, it’s critical to be grounded when you’re going through a turbulent patch in your life. Whether you’re struggling with a breakup, you’re in a difficult financial position, or in the middle of a social dispute, many situations in life require this quality to navigate them smoothly. Let’s look at a few examples of being grounded in different situations.
Being grounded during a breakup
If you go through a breakup or divorce, you’re going to feel lost for some time. By being grounded, you won’t waste away your time with what ifs, or by fantasizing over a different outcome. You will acknowledge your pain, listen to what your body is telling you, and do what’s within your power now.
Being grounded during a breakup will allow you to think rationally, which might mean giving the person a call and talking about the situation while taking steps to heal it, or letting the person go completely because they’re not good for you. Due to your ability to be reasonable instead of dramatizing the situation, you’re more likely to see the silver lining, and understand that it’s not the end of the world.
Being grounded during a difficult situation
There have been times when I’ve been backpacking in a foreign country, and suddenly things looked down. I was stranded without a place to sleep, and nothing was open (or I was too remote to be around accommodation). What would you do?
If you’re grounded, you’re going to think critically about the situation and the steps you need to take. Instead of getting caught up in your head which creates needless stress, you will see things for how they really are instead of making out the situation to be more severe than it is.
By being grounded in this situation, you will think, is this a potentially life-threatening situation? Can I find shelter, do I have enough warm clothes? If not, what can I do to make myself warmer? Do I need food or water to get me through the night, how can I secure it?
You might try looking for help. If that fails, you might look for a safe place to spend the night, where you have a better chance of getting back in the daylight. Let’s put it into perspective, staying up a whole night isn’t ideal, but it’s certainly not the end of the world.
Being grounded during a social dispute
Imagine that a coworker got triggered and took it out on you. While someone who isn’t grounded might get caught up in the dispute, you on the other hand won’t let it affect you personally. You won’t let the person shake you off your feet, being such a trivial matter.
By being grounded, you aren’t reactive. You are most likely to keep your cool and calmly diffuse the situation without getting triggered yourself. In saying that, you also won’t care much about gossip, or what other people think of you.
As a grounded person, you know that there’s no point getting caught in the drama because there’s really no upside to it, and that it won’t last long. So you let it roll off your shoulders while remaining confident. You don’t let this person affect you. On another note, you can learn more about triggers here.
Simple steps to become more grounded
Being grounded provides a lot of advantages in life, and is something I highly suggest. You can’t be too grounded, as your sense of grounding resembles your connection to self, spirit, and Earth rather than mind and ego. With that said, here are some things you can do to become more grounded. I suggest you do these practices more when you’re going through something that is shaking your reality up.
Bring it back to the basics!
When you’re really getting caught in your head, you need to bring it back to what you have right now. Do you have fresh water? check. Do you have food? Check. Do you have shelter? Warmth? Family? Nature?
Stop cluttering yourself with thoughts. I know it’s easier said than done, but pay more attention to what you have right now (and what you need), and simplify. Cutting down the things you have can be a good way to declutter yourself, so I’ll link an article about that here.
Spend more time in nature
If you want to become more grounded, start spending more time in nature. Make a habit of getting out in nature daily, and soon enough it will become a sanctuary for you. Otherwise, spend time in your backyard when it’s sunny (if you have one). Go for walks in local nature reserves and try new outdoor activities like hiking, camping, or swimming in rivers or the ocean.
There are a million ways that you can connect with nature, and it’s one of the most satisfying things you can do. If you don’t have access to any nature, or it’s not possible for you to get out in it regularly, buy some plants for your home. That way you can always have a taste of nature, even when you’re inside.
Do more physical exercise
Exercise is great for bringing you into a present space where you can focus completely on your body. For this reason, exercise is grounding, so I suggest exercising more if you’re stuck in your head. When you exercise, focus on the sensations and your breath, and bring your awareness deeper into your body.
Go for runs in the streets or in a local nature reserve. Try playing sports with some friends. Perhaps go for regular swims within the area. If you don’t have access to sports clubs or places to swim, join a gym. Look for activities that you enjoy but also force you out of your mental space.
Practice being more mindful
Mindfulness is something you need to cultivate as it’s more of a lifestyle rather than an activity. Learning to be more mindful is about becoming aware of the present moment and sitting with it.
Being mindful occurs by paying more attention to whatever’s happening right now in your life, and concentrating fully on the task at hand. Stop multitasking so much and let yourself be unproductive at times.
You can practice mindfulness any time, with any activity. Next time you’re eating food, savor it. If you’re having a coffee, allow yourself to sit there and enjoy the moment. The more you build the practice of being mindful in any given situation, the more grounded you will become. Here are some resources that go deeper into this practice.
Elope yourself in something creative
Creative activities are meditative, because they allow you to really get into the moment. Whether it’s jamming with an instrument, dancing, or writing, start creating to become more grounded.
You’ll also find that practices like meditation and yoga cause a calming effect which helps you get out of your stressful headspace. If you do it enough, meditation will help ground you, especially when times are tough and you’re getting caught up in the trivial stresses of life.
Get off social media!
Social media has the opposite effect of grounding. These sorts of programs are designed to capture your attention, and they do a pretty damn good job of it. That’s why it’s important to cut back on the time you spend in cyberspace. Instead, think about what you can do within the physical space.
Pick up other fun activities to occupy your time such as reading, writing, making art, playing an instrument, and spending time outside. Designate certain periods of the day to use social media, and refrain from jumping on when you’re outside of those time slots. There’s more to life than worrying about your appearance, getting validation, or climbing the social ladder.
Focus on your breath
When you get caught up in your head, turn to your breath. Your breath is something you always have and can always utilize. I didn’t realize how powerful breathwork could be until I met a teacher in South America and started going to his workshops. And boy does it hit when you actually utilize your breath.
But you don’t need to know any fancy breathing techniques to ground yourself. You just need to be conscious about it. Focus on the energy coming in through your nose and circulating your body. Visualize it getting into every nook and cranny, and rejuvenating you too if you can. The more often you make an effort to consciously breathe, the easier it will be to tame your wild mind.
Get into the flow
When you get into the flow state, this causes a strong grounding effect. What I mean by the flow state is when you’re doing something you really enjoy, you completely forget about time, or anything outside of that activity really.
When I’m feeling the music, I’ll start dancing like a maniac and become completely immersed in it. I feel every little movement, and time just slips away because I’m so occupied with the motion of my body, and the rhythm it’s moving to. But that’s just me, you can get into the flow state with anything fun.
Physical activity such as playing sports, gardening, cooking, dancing, or singing can help you get into this state. So let yourself get into this flow and be present with the moment!
Reevaluate what's important to you
Pursuing superficial goals distracts you from what’s actually important. There’s a lot out there that begs for your attention, but discerning what matters to you determines what you will spend your energy on. What you focus on becomes a core part of your reality, so make it count!
Sometimes you just need to reevaluate your life. What are you going for? Are you just trying to be successful, or are you trying to find meaning in your life? Pay more attention to where you currently are in your life journey, and where it has taken you right now.
Let go of what's outside of your control
A good friend of mine always feels like she must have control of the situation. This is fine to an extent until she begins to panic when she feels like she’s losing control. The problem is; She always feels like she’s losing control! Whether it’s giving a speech, meeting up with someone, or even eating dinner on time, this need for control creates a lot of stress.
The fact is you’re never going to have full control. You might over some things, but life is a cruel mistress. If you only feel comfortable when you have control over the situation, welcome to a world of stress. So learn to recognize what you have control over, and what you don’t. When it’s out of your control, do your best, otherwise let it go.
Think about the tangible, objective reality you’re dealing with rather than concerning yourself with hypotheticals, ideas, and what-ifs. Thinking about the facts and the actual data can help you focus on the task from a practical standpoint. This is important because it’s easy to get swept away if you don’t have any grounding to your thinking.
Let go of the outcome
While teaching English in Vietnam, a student of mine was overly anxious about an upcoming exam, treating it as a life-or-death situation. Once he recognized that his stress stemmed from a desire to please his parents, rather than the exam’s outcome, he felt significantly more at ease.
Have you ever thought that your problems are due to the angle you’re seeing things from? Instead of looking at what you can do on the outside, look at what you can do to overturn this painful perception. Look at alternative perspectives to the view that’s causing you stress. Stretch yourself to see it differently, and work on the root cause of this pain.
Relax, it's all temporary
The thought that my current challenges are temporary has given me a sigh of relief. Your situation may be stressful now, but how about in a week, a month, or a year? This is a bigger-picture way of thinking, and it will help you rationalize the situation you’re in.
Remember, it’s not the end of the world. We tend to exacerbate smaller issues and become dislodged because of them. But every challenge you have encountered has ended, so trust that this will be the same case.
Now you have some tools to ground yourself during turbulent times in your life. Make sure you do these practices regularly, and really focus on centering yourself before doing anything else. If you’re still struggling and want some personal help, you can book a 1-on-1 call with me by following this link. We will get to the roots of it, and explore different avenues out of your pain together.