When Focusing On The Breath Doesn’t Help, Try This


While meditation can be incredibly soothing and peaceful, many people, especially those with a trauma history, find focusing on the breath triggering. Often, this activates memories of stressful times and can feel even more disturbing. If that is your experience, even if it’s only your experience some of the time when meditating, there are other ways to anchor in your body. You might find comfort, solace, safety, and serenity by focusing on different physical sensations, like:

Putting your hands on your heart.

Feeling your feet on the floor.

If standing, shifting your weight slightly from left to right , forwards and backwards, or in circles, first clockwise and then counterclockwise.

Placing your hands on your thighs. This can feel very stabilizing and grounding.

Using the Jin Shin Jyutsu butterfly hug. This is a different version from the one on YouTube. Here, you cross your arms over your chest with your four fingers of each hand under your armpits and your thumbs facing up on the front of your chest.

Another great way to ground in your body is to actively focus on body parts that might typically go unnoticed, like your earlobes, elbows, behind your knees, chin, sides of your calves, back if your head, etc. Here’s an example: So Hum Breath Meditation & Yoga Nidra Inspired Body Scan

Trying a mantra, with or without mala beads. You can read more about mantras here: Mantras For Emotional and Psychological Healing

The 5-4-3-2-1 mediation is also wonderfully grounding, especially if you don’t feel like focusing inward. You can find it here: Grounding Techniques To Calm Anxiety & Panic

Move your body through walking meditation (here’s one you can do at home from the Insight Timer app: https://insighttimer.com/evabruha/guided-meditations/walking-meditation-8).

Qigong (I highly recommend Jeff Chand’s YouTube videos)or yoga. Yoga With Adrienne on YouTube is another excellent, free resource.

Some aromatherapy essential oils can be very valuable here, too. You might try lavender, chamomile, cedar, birch, pine, or citrus. The easiest way to do this is to put a few drops on a tissue and breathe in the scent for a few minutes.

All of the above, as well as attending to ambient sounds around you, can ground your awareness in your body or your environment and calm your nervous system. They let you experience the joy of self-regulation and help re-balance your nervous system.


Copyright Nicole S. Urdang

Nicole Urdang

Nicole S. Urdang, M.S., NCC, DHM is a Holistic Psychotherapist in Buffalo, NY. She holds a New York state license in mental health counseling and a doctorate in homeopathic medicine from the British Institute of Homeopathy.