Grounding Exercises to Try

In my last post I talked about the benefits of Grounding. This post highlights a few ways to exercise.

Josh D. Ether

10/20/20223 min read

Before doing these grounding exercises, make sure all activity has paused and you have everyone’s attention. One effective way to do this is by designating a specific word or gesture before the activity begins. For example, when you say a phrase like “B.I.T" (Bring It Together) the participants know to stop what they’re doing.

Share and Breathe

Pause the activity. Once you have everyone’s attention tell your participants to shout the emotion they are feeling at the count of three. After they shout their emotions, lead them in a group deep breathing exercise.For example, have them all stand with their arms by their sides. As they take a deep breath in, have them raise their arms slowly above their heads. As they exhale, have them put their hands together above their head and slowly lower them so both hands are clasped together at chest level.Repeat this three or four times. More if necessary. Complete a short debriefing session and return to the activity.

Group Clap

A great way to get the "system" back in the present moment is to have them do a simple activity together. After pausing an activity, instruct the participants to complete a short clapping exercise. This varies on each individuals abilities, but here are a couple of ideas:

  • Everyone claps four times and then pauses. Repeat.

  • As you count to four repeatedly, have your participants clap when you say one and three.

  • Form a circle and have one person clap. The person next to them then claps. Let them go around the circle clapping a couple of times.

  • Have everyone clap ten times then say a grounding word such as “calm” or “focus”.

Group Circle

After pausing the group, have everyone get in a circle. Start with one of the calmer participants and ask them to say a word or two describing what they’re feeling at the present moment. Go around the circle with each participant only using a couple of words describing their emotions. As a leader, acknowledge all emotions. Say a few words about the good behaviors you saw during the activity. Encourage them to refocus to complete the activity.Then have the participants say a grounding word together while still in the circle.

The Power of Debriefing

Think of "system" grounding as the foundation for fostering/creating/restoring a positive group environment. Debriefing provides a solid structure on that foundation. After a grounding exercise, you may want to do a short debriefing session if you feel individuals of the "system" aren’t focused enough. Sometimes the exercise alone may get some groups ready to return to the activity.

Debriefing highlights the teachable moments of the activity. Running the activities is only part of the therapeutic process. What you teach them allows participants to see how the skills they used during the activity can transfer into everyday life. It’s those “ah-ha” moments when the giant light bulbs turn on over their heads.

Tips for an amazing debriefing:

Highlight the positives, and troubleshoot the struggles. Make sure you start a debriefing session by talking about what the group did well. This sets the tone for the session. When you talk about the struggles, don’t spend time focusing on the negative. Talk about how the group addressed these struggles. Ask the group to provide ideas for ways they would approach the activity differently if doing it again.

Don’t preach. All your great ideas for how the group could improve their performance will likely fall on deaf ears. Unless, however, you have great participants that take every word you say as gospel. Most of us don’t have that luxury. Guide your participants to find ways to work better together. Praise them when they find the answers–even if you knew the answers all along. It’s not about you, it’s about your participants learning and growing. Don’t allow finger-pointing. Sure, maybe one participant was responsible for a lot of the group's Dischord. A debriefing session where participants start blaming others for issues will only result in more disharmony. Have each person talk in “I” statements instead of “You” statements. For example, “I felt frustrated when we started arguing.” Instead of, “You weren’t doing what you were supposed to and it got the group mad.”

Transfer the skills. Ask the participants to talk about other times they were frustrated, angry, etc. Have them talk about what they learned during the activity and how it will help them in the future.