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Rainbow Grounding Techniques: 3 Ways to De-Escalate Big Feelings

by Lauren Fallat, MA LPC ATR-BC

Grounding techniques are coping strategies that help us to bring down the intensity of our emotions by refocusing our attention on the present moment. When we are able to rely on our senses as our guides, we then can increase our awareness of our environment, something outside of our physical bodies. The goal is to be able to distract from our internal thoughts and intensity of emotion. We are also allowing our bodies a chance to adjust to sensations that communicate to our brains that we are safe and not threatened.

For today’s blog, we will focus on the use of the rainbow to inspire 3 different grounding techniques that children, teens and even adults can use to bring down the intensity of their emotions and promote healthier coping. These three techniques can be reviewed and practiced in an art therapy session or you can help your child create these resources as you work on them together. You may even state that you will practice these techniques with your child so that they can become normalized as a way to regulate emotions.

Technique #1: Rainbow Breathing

Materials Needed: Mixed media paper, paint, markers, or colored pencils (rainbow colors- red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple/violet)

Directive: Depending on your child’s age, you may outline a rainbow in black sharpie marker or print a coloring page for them to color in if they are younger. For older children and teens, you can be creative and have them draw or paint their own rainbows using high arches. It may be helpful to add text to the image, a how-to box, or add a paper to the back so that your child can reference these directions when they are ready to use it. The goal is for your child to use their fingers to trace each band of the rainbow.

For example, you can add an arrow to the bottom left of the red band that says “inhale “, and then your child will trace their finger all the way up and down the red band inhaling in. Then they will move their finger to the orange band, with the words “exhale” pointing with an arrow on the bottom right of the band. And your child will then move their finger across the orange band as they exhale. And the pattern will continue until they reach purple. They may repeat this breathing technique as many times as needed to shift the intensity of their feeling.

Technique #2: 5-4-3-2-1 Rainbow (Using the 5 senses)

Materials: paper or basket, found objects, clay (model magic), collage images, colored pencils, markers, paint, stencils, scissors, glue

Directive: This directive can be completed as a drawing, collage, a set of small sculptures or as a scavenger hunt. If your child is creating a drawing or collage, you can ask them to draw a large triangle on their page and separate the triangle into 5 areas that will represent 5 different colors. Then you can ask them to draw or paste images of 5 items in the room that are red, 4 that are orange, 3 that are yellow, 2 that are green and 1 that is blue. You might also ask them to do something similar by sculpting 5-4-3-2-1 sets of objects using model magic clay. This is an air drying clay that you can also draw on the model magic clay with markers to add color. You might also try this activity out as a scavenger hunt, asking them to find 5 objects that are blue, 4 that are green, etc. The beauty of this activity is that you can practice this anywhere- at home, the supermarket, in the car.

Technique #3: Zentangle Rainbow

Materials: paper, thin-tip markers (thin sharpies, micron pens) or colored pencils

Directive: Create bands of patterns, resembling the arched shape of a rainbow or your own radial shape, using one color at a time. You may choose to start at the bottom center of the paper or from a corner and work your way up. The goal is to create one band or area of a color, such as red, by using different patterns with the same color. Then the next band will have orange, the next yellow and so on. This is great for adolescents and adults as it has the artist responding spontaneously in the moment to each mark that we are making, while promoting problem solving skills and attention to details. The goal is to put all of your attention into creating a rainbow using patterns of lines and shapes and to keep your focus on the directive and less on your thoughts. Your mind should be thinking what line or shape will fit in this space, how can I connect this line with that one.


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