It’s easy to get caught up with our everyday emotions and stressors. Whenever we get overwhelmed with negative emotions, it’s important to find a way to effectively relieve anxiety. Practicing mindfulness helps us get unstuck from these overwhelming feelings we experience. However, while mindfulness promotes ‘focusing on the present’ through simple meditation, some of you may be looking for a more instant solution. In this case, I present you: The 5 Senses Countdown. This easy exercise requires full engagement with our surrounding environment as we center ourselves through the 5 senses, reducing anxiety. It’s easy enough to practice anywhere as long as you can find a calm space to yourself.

Woman in the breeze with eyes closed

“You must learn to heed your senses. Humans use but a tiny percentage of theirs. They barely look, they rarely listen, they never smell, and they think that they can only experience feelings through their skin. But they talk, oh, do they talk.”

Michael Scott (Irish writer)

That’s right. Our minds never stop chattering, but we can disengage from the chatter by heeding to our senses. It is also an effective technique to reduce stress and anxiety instantly. If you ever feel the need to break from the thoughts that run through your mind, give this exercise a try!

The 5 Senses Countdown

– Pause for a moment.

Find yourself a calm comfortable space to fully participate with your 5 senses.

Eye looking through clasped hands

1. The SIGHT Phase – 5 Senses Countdown

In the first of the 5 senses, we are going to utilize our sight.
First, take a deep breath.

Next, look around and notice FIVE things that you can see.

The floor, table, curtains, trees, animals, anything you see is okay.

You can say them out loud or silently in your head. With each of the five sights, pause to take them in completely. 

Woman hiding her face with her arm

2. The TOUCH Phase – 5 Senses Countdown

Take another deep breath.
Next in the 5 senses countdown, we will be using touch.

Notice FOUR things that you can feel in contact with your body.

For example; your watch against your wrist, your trousers against your legs, your feet on the ground, or your back against the chair.

Note them out loud or in your head, and rest your attention with each sensation for a few deep breaths.

A rabbit in a field

3. The HEARING Phase – 5 Senses Countdown

The next step in the five senes countdown utilizes our hearing.
First, breathe deeply as you bring attention to your ears.

Then, listen carefully and notice THREE things that you can hear.

For instance: the sound of the wind, birds chirping outside, the hum of appliances, cars running, etc.

Listen and notice things in the background that you normally wouldn’t pay any attention to. As you listen to each sound, note the unique characteristics of the different tones and patterns.

Smelling pink flowers

4. The SMELL Phase – 5 Senses Countdown

As you take another deep breath, concentrate on the air going through your nostrils.
The next phase in the 5 senses countdown focuses on smell.

Notice TWO things you can smell.

Bring attention to scents that you usually filter out, either pleasant or unpleasant. Catch a whiff of the pine trees outside, food cooking in the kitchen, or the smell of your clothes. Note the different characteristics of these scents.

Drinking out of a straw

5. The TASTE Phase – 5 Senses Countdown

Take a final deep breath and bring your attention to the tongue.
The last step in the 5 senses countdown will focus on taste.

Notice ONE thing you can taste.

Take a sip of a drink, chew gum, or nibble on a piece of chocolate. If you don’t have anything in hand, notice the current taste in your mouth or taste the air against your tongue.

Concentrate and savor that one flavor.

Reduce Stress in a Way that Works for You

Person relaxing in a kayak on a lake

The goal is to use our 5 senses to focus on the present environment instead of our thoughts. Consequently, this activity helps to ground us and relieve anxiety. By the time most people reach the ‘taste phase’, their overwhelming emotions will fade away. This doesn’t mean the negative feelings are gone, but we do get a break from it taking over our minds. It’s human nature to worry and feel anxiety about the past and future. Therefore, bringing our attention to the present can relieve us from these thoughts and help reduce anxiety. Appreciating the ‘now’ and ‘present’ is a great way to enjoy life. Even more, what better way to celebrate our current existence than with our 5 senses!

Hand in the water

However, there are still many different ways to instantly relieve stress. Perhaps you are looking for a more long-term solution in stress management, rather than an instant stress reliever. In that case, check out how you can better learn to control your emotions through “emotional differentiation“.

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If you’re looking for more tips on how to care for your mental health, check out some of our past blog posts!


Harris, R. (2013). Getting Unstuck in ACT: A Clinician’s Guide to Overcoming Common Obstacles in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (1st ed.). New Harbinger Publications.