5 Senses Exercise graphic
5-Senses Mindfulness to Reduce Stress

Also know as "5-4-3-2-1," this tool will help you ground and de-stress when anxiety, panic, or other big emotions have you spiraling.

Mindfulness practices like the one we'll review here are frequently prescribed in mental health treatment for developing greater self-compassion, reducing distress, and developing a healthier relationship with one's own mind." According to, "Studies show that mindfulness-based approaches can significantly reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression. They can also help people who have been depressed several times to stay well and avoid relapsing."

How to Use the Tool Right Where You Are

Take a deep breath, and feel the gravity of your body against the floor or seat. Continue onto the following five steps for mindfulness.

What are FIVE things I can SEE from where I am right now?

What are FOUR things I can HEAR around me right now?

What are THREE things I can TOUCH or FEEL from where I am right now?

What are TWO things I can SMELL right now?

What is ONE thing I can taste right now?

Once completed, check-in with yourself. How do you feel? You may repeat these five steps as may times as you'd like. Alternatively, you can try again using a mental image instead.

How to Use the Tool With a Mental Image

The 5 Senses Exercise pair's well with mental images such as those developed with EMDR or meditation practices. When your current environment is overwhelming or overstimulating, you can practice the 5 Senses exercise using a mental safe space such as a peace beach you've once been to or a completely fictional environment like the cartoon world of Adventure Time.

To start, consider closing your eyes or finding a soft gaze on the floor or wall in front of you. Bring up the mental image of the place to which you want to psychologically teleport. Then go through the steps of the 5 Senses Exercise as described above.

What are FIVE things I would SEE were I standing in my mental safe place?

What are FOUR things I would HEAR were I standing in my mental safe place?

What are THREE things I would TOUCH or FEEL were I standing in my mental safe place?

What are TWO things I might SMELL were I standing in my mental safe place?

What is ONE thing I might TASTE were I standing in my mental safe place?

Similar to the exercise using your actual surroundings, check-in with yourself once you've finished. What's happening in your heart, your mind, you lungs? Continue the exercise until you feel as calm as you wish.

What if I Can't Smell or Taste Anything?

As much as possible, you are encouraged to try your best at identifying something in your current environment or mental image for each of the five sense. However, sometimes our nose is clogged. Sometimes we can't taste anything because it's been hours since we've eaten and there's just nothing there.

In these cases, try to fill in the gaps in the exercise with your favorite smell or taste, and take a mindful moment to really remember what that experience is like.

Ultimately, there's no wrong way to practice 5-4-3-2-1. As long as you are turning your attention to mindful awareness, you're doing it!

About the Author

Image of Jordan Dobrowski, LCSW: white woman in mid twenties with a nose ring

Jordan Dobrowski is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Certified Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy Provider with experience providing psychotherapy to youth and adults in both English and Spanish. She received her Master’s in Social Work with certificates in Trauma-Informed Care and Culturally Responsive Mental Healthcare for Immigrant Families from the University of Chicago in 2018. She currently teaches with Naropa University and the Integrative Psychiatry Institute in their psychedelic clinical training programs. She is the founder of Willow & Leaf Counseling, and the executive director for Kaleidoscope Psychedelics — an organization working to improve psychedelic therapy access for BIPOC, queer, and neurodivergent folks in Chicago.

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