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A User Guide to Observing Through Your Senses

(or, 5 to 1 things you see/hear/feel)

While every care has been taken to ensure the accuracy and general applicability of the information in this article, the author and Inner Actions makes no warrant about the applicability of the article and information contained within to the specific circumstances of the reader. This article is written to provide general information only and readers should consider the suitability of the information for their specific needs and where necessary seek professional advice directly applicable to their personal circumstances. See also our full site disclaimer.


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Use of this Exercise

This exercise can be a useful strategy to help you stay in the present moment when your anxiety, stress or other feelings are becoming intense and potentially overwhelming. It can also be helpful when your mind is racing with thoughts and you are struggling to think clearly.

It can be useful to record the steps as an audio recording (e.g. on your phone) so that you can guide yourself through the practice. If you choose to do so, remember to slow the steps and use a quiet voice.

How to practice "Observing Through Your Senses"

  1. Sit or lie in a comfortable position, or the most comfortable position you can right now. Place your feet on the floor and look around you. Begin to notice what you can see, hear and feel.

    • Name five (5) things you can SEE
      Take your time to notice what you see around you, and start naming 5 of these things, either aloud or to yourself. For example: I see the door, I see the window, I see the poster on the wall, ..."

    • Name five (5) things that you can HEAR
      For example: "I hear a truck, I hear the air conditioning, I hear someone talking in the next room …"

    • Name five (5) things you FEEL, (such as physical sensations on the surface of your body)
      For example: "I feel the edge of my socks against my ankles, I feel my hair against my neck, I feel tension across my shoulders, …"

  2. Now repeat the exercise, this time naming:

    • Four (4) things you SEE

    • Four (4) things you HEAR

    • Four (4) things you FEEL

    If you can, focus on new things, sounds and sensations

  3. Repeat the exercise again, this time naming:

    • Three (3) things you SEE

    • Three (3) things you HEAR

    • Three (3) things you FEEL

  4. Repeat the exercise again, this time naming:

    • Two (2) things you SEE

    • Two (2) things you HEAR

    • Two (2) things you FEEL

  5. Repeat the exercise one more time, this time naming:

    • One (1) thing you SEE

    • One (1) thing you HEAR

    • One (1) thing you FEEL

Finishing the exercise:

Now notice how you are feeling:

  • Has the intensity of your anxiety, stress or discomfort changed?

  • Are you feeling more relaxed, or perhaps more stressed?

  • Have the racing thoughts reduced in intensity?

If you haven’t noticed any changes, you may like to start the exercise from the beginning, and to continue until your anxiety or stress is reduced, and the racing thoughts are less intense.