Using your senses to regain control of your body can help you when you are hyperaroused or hypoaroused. They can be good to help to ground you in the present moment.
Scent – the olfactory bulb (scent organ) has direct access (other senses have indirect access) to the parts of the brain where emotions, mood, memory, and creativity are processed, so you can have faster effects for calming the nervous system.
Put on a scented perfume/aftershave/cologne/lotion and focus on the scent and how it makes you feel.
Inhale a scent (essential oil through a diffuser, burning incense, or scent from a scented candle). Focus on the scent and how it makes you feel.
Go for a walk in a wooded area and breathe in the smells of nature.
Sniff a strong mint. Focus on the scent and how you are feeling and any changes within your body after inhaling the scent.
Make some baked goods and focus on the scent of them baking.
Smell some flowers.
Make a favourite meal. Focus on the taste. Focus on the emotions and memories associated with that meal.
Treat yourself to a dessert or baked good.
Have a piece of candy and focus on the taste, texture, and sensations coming from the candy.
Take a raisin, nut, or some seeds. Focus on how it looks, feels, and smells. Put it in your mouth notice how it feels before chewing it slowly, and notice how it feels to swallow it.
Mindfully taste the food you eat.
Listen to a favourite song. Focus on the melody and how it makes you feel.
Stop and listen. Notice and name the sounds you can hear nearby. Starting with the closest and loudest sounds. Gradually have your awareness move outward, so you are focusing on sounds further and further away.
Put on a piece of instrumental music. Give it all of your attention. Maybe follow a single melody line, notice how the music makes you feel, or notice the changes in rhythm.
Sit in nature and notice the sounds around you.
Play a sound on an instrument you play (piano, guitar, etc.) or sing a song.
Hum a soothing tune.
Listen to loud music.
Make a playlist of music to get you through tough times. Listen to it.
Put on a favourite item of clothing, wrap yourself in a blanket, or hug a pillow. Notice the texture, colour, and the way it smells.
Splash some water on your face. Notice how it feels. Now how the towel feels as you dry. Use words in your mind to describe the sensations.
Hold a cool beverage glass, can, or bottle in your hands. Feel the coldness and wetness on the outside. Drink slowly taking the time to notice the taste and texture of the drink.
Hold your breath and put your face in a bowl of cold water (above 50 degrees) or hold a cold pack on your eyes and cheeks. Hold for 30 seconds (This is especially for reducing extreme emotion).
Wrap yourself in a blanket. Give yourself a bear hug.
Pay attention to the clothes on your body, what is covered, and the sensation of your clothes as you move in them. Notice how your feet feel.
Wear an elastic band on your wrist and flick it gently, so that you feel it spring back on your wrist.
Feel something that has an interesting texture. Describe it in your mind in detail as if you were trying to describe it to someone who has never felt it.
Cuddle or pet a cat or dog.
Hold an ice cube and let it melt in your hand. Noticing the temperature and how it feels. Notice the wetness on your hand as it melts.
Take a long bath or shower.
Have a massage. Soak your feet. Focus on the body sensations.
Put a cold press on your head.
Look at a picture of a loved one, a place with a good/neutral memory, or an object that reminds you of a loved one. Notice how it makes you feel. If any memories come up, notice how you feel when you revisit those memories.
Look and take an inventory of what is around you. Name and notice the qualities of large objects before moving to smaller objects.
Pick an object in your vision and trace the outline with your eyes like you were drawing it.
Do some kind of puzzle (crossword, sudoku, word search, etc.).
Read a book, magazine, or article.
Walk in a beautiful place noticing the sights around you.
Look at the stars at night.
Look at beautiful pictures.
Light a candle and watch the flame.
Go people-watching or window shopping.
Watch a beautiful sunrise or sunset.
A number of these techniques are from:
Linehan, Marsha M. (2015). DBT Skills Training Manual, Second Edition. Guildford Press.