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Somatic Therapy Exercises to Improve Your Mental Health

Somatic therapy techniques help strengthen the mind-body connection and can support you in better understanding how physical sensations correspond with your emotional well-being. Somatic exercises can be practiced anywhere, and they may augment the work you're doing in talk therapy or other mental health treatments.

What Is Somatic Therapy?

Somatic therapy refers to deepening the mind-body connection. It honors that past experiences stay stored within the body. Somatic therapy can support emotional regulation, deeper self-compassion, and mindfulness. It can also help you better express emotions and understand how to connect certain thoughts or needs with various body sensations.

Somatic experiencing, EMDR, and sensorimotor psychotherapy are some of the more popular somatic therapy approaches. However, it's also common for any therapist to provide psychoeducation about bodily sensations and the role mindfulness/releasing tension can play in supporting your overall well-being.

For these reasons, somatic therapy can be especially beneficial for clients with:

  • post-traumatic stress disorder

  • anxiety disorders

  • mood disorders

  • recovery from substance use or compulsions

  • chronic stress

  • chronic pain

Body Scans

A body scan is intended to help increase body awareness. When you do a body scan, you simply note the various sensations within your body, noting any muscle tension, chronic pain, or fluctuating body temperature.

You can do a body scan by:

  • Getting into a comfortable position (either lying down or sitting still)

  • Closing your eyes and taking a deep breath

  • Moving from the very top of your head and scanning through your various muscle groups until you reach the toes

  • Allowing yourself to engage in deep breathing as you move through all the sensations

Grounding Exercises

Grounding exercises refer to intentional techniques intended to bring you to the present moment. Here are some exercises you can try:

5-4-3-2-1 grounding: This exercise allows you to immediately orient yourself into the present moment, which can be helpful if you struggle with dissociation or intense anger. Note 5 things you can see, 4 you can touch or feel, 3 you can hear, 2 you can smell, and 1 you can taste.

Just the facts: Although this is not an inherently somatic exercise, it can become one. The next time you feel tense in your body, spend some time reviewing basic facts about life, including your name, the date, the temperature outside, etc. Note how your body changes in response to neutralizing context during an intense moment.

Positive affirmation: Make a list of positive affirmations you can refer to when you feel anxious, depressed, or otherwise unsafe. You may write down quick notes like, I will be okay, or, I have what I need to take care of myself, or, I am allowed to rest.

Boxed Breathing

Most of us engage in shallow breathing in daily life. But deep breathing exercises send signals that promote calmness and relaxation to your nervous system. Sometimes known as square breathing, boxed breathing is a straightforward somatic exercise aimed to promote relaxation and reduce stress.

  • Inhale by breathing in slowly and deeply through your nose. Count for 4 beats

  • Hold your entire breath for another 4 beats.

  • Exhale through your mouth slowly. Count for 4 beats.

  • Hold the exhalation for another 4 beats.

Repeat this cycle at least five times until you return to your body's natural rhythm.


Resourcing refers to tapping into positive images, relationships, or visuals during heightened moments. When you're struggling with an intense emotion, you can resource yourself to feel more grounded.

Try to think of any external people, places, or things that promote a sense of calm. Then, consider any internal resources, like positive physical sensations that make you feel grounded. When you notice stress or discomfort arising, use these resources to support your well-being.

Felt Sense

Felt sense helps you feel more connected to your whole body, and this can be an especially important tool if you're trying to heal trauma or other adverse life experiences.

  • Sit or lie down in a comfortable position.

  • Note the physical sensations you experience in your body. Describe them in full detail (i.e. 'my toes feel tense and cold,' and 'my stomach is grumbling and dull.'

  • If you note yourself feeling anxious or uncomfortable about a certain sensation, redirect your awareness to a relaxed body part or give that sensation a gentle affirmation like, "I am safe, we are safe, and this is a safe space."

Improving Your Mind-Body Connection With Resurface Group

Somatic therapies can be used as standalone treatments, but they also can coincide with other mental health treatment options, including trauma therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy. Becoming more aware of what's happening in your mind and body can help you feel more empowered in daily life. In addition, learning how to move yourself into a calm state supports overall emotional well-being.

At Resurface Group, we treat clients struggling with complex mental health needs, substance use, co-occurring conditions, and difficult family systems. We provide comprehensive, long-term care intended to help you thrive in life.

Contact us today to learn more about our dynamic programs, including Resurface Connect, our virtual IOP that you can attend from the safety and comfort of your own home.

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