NEW YORK, May 23 — The 5-4-3-2-1 method is said to help calm stress and anxiety by using the five senses. Simple to perform, it anchors the mind in the present moment. The technique is increasingly being adopted to improve mental health in everyday life.

Every day, we’re faced with various sources of stress, not only work-related, but also financial or personal. Some of the time, these pressures can lead to anxiety. This is where the 5-4-3-2-1 method comes in. It’s a method that draws on meditation and mindfulness, and which is designed to help dial down the pressure. The technique was developed by Ellen Hendriksen, a clinical psychologist working at the Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders at Boston University. In a nutshell, this mindfulness technique uses the five senses to calm the mind.

The reason it’s so popular is that it’s easy to practise on a daily basis, whether in the privacy of your own home or in an out-of-sight corner of the office. So, if you’re having an anxiety attack or feeling the first physiological signals, simply focus on your senses in five steps.

To put this method into practice, start with sight. The first step is to look around you and pinpoint five things in your environment. This could be an object on your desk, or a feature of nature if you’re outside. Once you’ve spotted them, move on to identifying four things you can hear (eg, an outside noise, a ringing phone). Next comes the touch stage: Try to find three things you can feel through your skin, like a piece of jewellery or the wind in your hair. Then find two things you can smell, and finally, one thing you can taste. For example, you could take a sip of water.


“Bringing our attention to our senses grounds us in the present and counting the items interrupts the spinning of our thoughts. From there, you can gather your wits and use some of the other tools, like turning your attention inside out or dropping your safety behaviors,” Ellen Hendriksen told Vice in a 2018 interview.

This exercise distracts your mind from anxious thoughts by focusing on the features of your environment. The 5-4-3-2-1 method is based on the principle of mindfulness, a practice recognized for many years for its beneficial effects. According to a study conducted by University of Cambridge (UK) researchers in 2023, the practice of mindfulness meditation could reduce symptoms of anxiety and stress.

Nevertheless, it requires practice, as Gaëlle Piton, a sophrologist and instructor in mindfulness meditation, told Marie Claire. “Everyone can use it for the ‘little’ anxieties of everyday life, all while having additional support for major anxieties,” she explains. — ETX Studio