Distress Tolerance Series #4 Self-soothing and Grounding

Distress Tolerance Series #4 Self-soothing and Grounding

Self-soothing involves being nurturing, comforting, gentle, and purposefully kind to oneself.


This set of skills is particularly useful when you are feeling hurt, down, judgmental of yourself, lonely, and in need of some love and support.



Self-soothing uses our senses to help us feel calm and supported. You already know how soothing your senses can be. When sad, you crave comfort foods and want to stay wrapped in a warm blanket. We will capitalize on naturally soothing sensations to help you in uncomfortable times.


Examples for how to self-soothe with each of the 5 senses will be described below.




Soothing with Vision involves surrounding yourself with beautiful and comforting sights. Examples include:


  • Look at beautiful scenes in nature
  • Look at the stars at night
  • Look at pictures in a book or online
  • Buy a beautiful flower or plant to brighten your space (fake plants work too!)
  • Make one part of your space really pleasing to look at (create a reading nook or make a place for self-soothing)
  • Light a candle or fire (obviously in a fireplace or fire pit if you have one, otherwise please don’t light a fire!) and watch the flame
  • People watching
  • Go to a museum or art gallery (if you cannot go in person, look at their website or explore artists online)
  • Go for a walk in a park or scenic hike
  • Watch a sunrise or sunset
  • Go to a dance performance or watch one on tv
  • Look at a pet, or find pictures or videos of animals online
  • Wear bright colors to cheer yourself up
  • Paint your nails a pleasing color
  • Make a Pinterest board of pleasing sights and images you love




Hearing for self-soothing entails immersing yourself in sounds that are pleasing or comforting. Examples include:


  • Listen to soothing or exciting music
  • Pay attention to the sounds around you (cars on the street, the fan, people talking etc.)
  • Pay attention to nature sounds or listen to recordings of nature sounds (think waves, streams, leaves rustling, etc.)
  • Sing your favorite songs aloud
  • Hum a soothing sound
  • Learn to play an instrument
  • Make a music playlist with music that will get you through difficult times, make different playlists for different moods
  • Listen to the radio or podcasts
  • If you are feeling really fancy, get an old record player and play records




Comforting with smell involves surrounding yourself with enjoyable smells. Examples:


  • Use your favorite soap, shampoo, lotion, etc. or go smell some at a store
  • Light a scented candle
  • Use an essential oil diffuser or rub essential oils on the insides of your wrists
  • Open a package of coffee or your favorite tea and inhale the aroma
  • Cook or bake something that smells delicious
  • Smell fresh flowers
  • Go on a walk and take in the smells of nature
  • Open your window and smell the fresh air




Self-soothing with taste involves exposing your taste buds to different sensations. Examples include:


  • Eat a favorite food
  • Drink your favorite drink (tea, hot chocolate, smoothie)
  • Treat yourself to a sweet treat or piece of chocolate
  • Eat a comfort food (macaroni and cheese, etc.)
  • Sample different ice cream flavors
  • Suck on a piece of candy or lollipop (peppermint, caramel, etc.)
  • Chew gum
  • Eat one piece of food mindfully, really taste the food as you eat it
  • Drink flavored water (like citrus or cucumber water as if you are at the spa)
  • Experiment with new flavor combinations while cooking




Lastly, you can self-sooth by touching comforting items. Examples include:


  • Take a long shower or bath
  • Put on a face mask or hair mask
  • Pet your dog, cat, or other pet
  • Get a massage, give yourself a foot massage
  • Put on your favorite lotion or body oil
  • Do a body scrub
  • Put a warm or cold compress on your head, stomach, or back
  • Cozy up in your favorite chair
  • Snuggle with a cozy blanket or stuffed animal
  • Run your hand along a smooth surface such as smooth wood or leather
  • Hug someone, or give yourself a body hug by wrapping your arms around your knees and squeezing
  • Put clean sheets on the bed
  • Feel the texture and temperature of items around you, such as cool smooth tile, or warm fuzzy blankets, etc.
  • Play with a fidget toy, kinetic sand, or Play-Doh
  • Make a craft with your hands (drawing, writing, knitting, woodwork, etc.)
  • Wear a comfortable or favorite clothing item


Now you are ready to soothe like a champ! Next up is Improving the Moment.


Thank you so much for tuning in for the Distress Tolerance Series! I hope these skills are helpful to you right now and for a long time to come. Skills practice is not a replacement for professional help. If you are struggling with depression, anxiety, or other mental health concerns I encourage you to seek out professional help. ACTivation Psychology offers individual therapy for adolescents and adults struggling with anxiety, depression, transitions, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and other mental health concerns. Telehealth services are available during this time for individuals in the state of Colorado. Please remember that you do not have to struggle alone!


*The above is adapted from Linehan, M., M., (2014). DBT Training Manual. New York, NY: The Guilford Press. Please see the full text for more resources*

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