Often when I am feeling stressed or anxious, I notice that I don’t feel fully “present”; my mind is elsewhere, worrying about the past or future and nowhere close to the “now.” In these situations, I am reminded of a meditation that I once learned called the Five Senses Check. It is a quick and easy method for grounding yourself in the moment, guiding you away from anxious thoughts and back into your body. You can do it just about anywhere—on a plane, waiting in line at the grocery store, slogging through a midday Zoom meeting. Here’s how it goes:

First, plant your feet firmly on the ground. Notice your breathing—there isn’t any “right” way to do it, just recognize the feeling of inhaling and exhaling. If you would like, you can close your eyes.

To begin the meditation, notice the sounds around you. What do you hear? Maybe it’s the sound of traffic; maybe it’s the sound of your stomach gurgling. Try naming the sounds without judgment: Ah, I hear the sound of a car horn; I hear the click of my coworker’s pen. If you are in a more chaotic environment, try silently naming all of what you can hear. As you spend a minute listening for sounds, you may notice your ear getting sharper. What sounds are you noticing that you hadn’t before?

Next, take a deep breath and notice all of what you can smell. Again, approach the exercise without judgment—there are no “good” or “bad” smells, just aromas entering your nostrils. If it is difficult to locate any smells in your environment, try smelling something close by, like a towel, a plant, or even your shirt sleeve. What does it smell like? Is it pronounced or subtle? Can you parse out multiple aromas in your environment?

Now, notice any tastes. Coffee? A mint? Lunch? It may help to take a deep breath while you are assessing for taste, which can often enhance what is already on the palette. You can also swish or run your tongue along your cheek or teeth.

Then shift your attention to what you can feel. How do your clothes feel against your skin? What about your feet on the floor? You may notice the temperature, too: perhaps your feet are cold or your cheeks are warm.

Finally, open your eyes if they were closed and note what is within your field of vision. Perhaps you now glance at what you were previously hearing, smelling, or touching. Look closely for things you may not have noticed before. What is out the window? What pattern is on your shirt? What is really on the book cover in front of you?

Once you have checked in with your five senses, you will hopefully feel more grounded and serene. Stress and anxiety can distract us from what is right before us; checking in with your senses returns you to what is right here and right now. Enjoy this moment—fully present—and remember that you can return to it at any time.