Do the 333 Rule and the 54321 Method Help People Struggling With Anxiety?

By Krista


Last Updated: February 16, 2022

Author Renee Jain has said, “Don’t believe every worried thought you have. Worried thoughts are notoriously inaccurate.”

While the above quote may be useful for some, for others, anxiety can feel as though it’s taking over. In truth, it can feel really crippling, causing you to freeze and making you unable to carry out your day-to-day tasks. 

If you’re experiencing severe anxiety, we encourage you to seek out the professional help you need (and deserve!). In the meantime, you can use the 54321 rule or the 333 rule for anxiety (and perhaps you’ll also use these continually to help ground yourself!).

These two grounding techniques give you a moment to step away from those anxiety-inducing thoughts, decreasing the intensity in which you feel them. So, let’s dig into them a little further.

Does counting actually help anxiety?

How do you perform the 54321 rule and the 333 rule for anxiety?


Does Counting Help Anxiety?

Counting objects, movements, and more can offer you something else to focus your attention on as opposed to those anxious feelings. In many ways counting techniques for anxiety coincide with mindfulness therapy.

Mindfulness therapy works by forcing you to be in the moment, relaxed, and focused. Similar to grounding techniques, this helps you zoom out of the negative and anxious thoughts and steer your focus elsewhere, such as to the present moment.

The 54321 rule and 333 rule for anxiety involve aspects of this and counting. Again, this offers somewhere else to focus your attention on until your anxious feelings subside. 

The great part about these techniques is they can also be performed anywhere and anytime. 

While, inevitably, you’ll need practice to help calm your anxiety in crowded or public areas, these techniques offer something you can turn to during times of debilitating anxiety and provide you with a self-reliant strategy.

So, how can you use these techniques in your daily life?

Related Article: 5 Best Online Anxiety Support Groups to Calm Down Your Mind


Anxiety Counting Techniques

Anxiety doesn’t have to rule your life.

In fact, you can rule your anxiety! The truth is you always have more control than you think. Anxiety counting techniques can help you take back that control and help you get to where you want to be. 

The 333 rule for anxiety and 54321 rule are helpful for oncoming panic attacks and even for mild forms of anxiety. So, what are they exactly?


What is the 333 Rule for Anxiety?

No one wants to feel anxiety. Unfortunately, our brain is somewhat wired for this feeling due to age-old survival networks. Luckily, the 333 rule can help you calm this natural response and feel better. 

The number “3” has for a long-time been associated with mind-body connections, optimism, and good luck. Thus, it’s no surprise that it’s making an appearance in anxiety-reducing techniques!

So, how can you apply it in your life? Here’s a step-by-step guide.

Step 1: Three Things in Sight

The moment you feel and recognize that next incoming wave of anxiety, take a moment to pause. Focus on your visual field and the objects around you. Then, name three objects within your visual view. 

As you list them, make sure to pay close attention to the details of these objects. Notice the brush strokes on the painting or the folds in the blanket or sheets. This is important, since it helps you really pay close attention to the present moment and what is visually in front of you.

Step 2: Three Things You Hear

Once you’ve listed and noticed three things in sight, open up your ears. Make a note of three sounds you hear. This might be traffic in the background, the wind, birds chirping, your S.O. in the other room, or anything else! 

Again, ensure you really take those sounds in.

  • Do they have rhythm?
  • Do they grow and fade in pitch and volume?
  • Truly take the time to notice these things.

Step 3: Three Things You Can Touch

Now it’s time to move onto your sense of touch. And this actually doesn’t involve touching anything. Rather, it’s about tuning into your body. You choose three body parts to move.

For instance, maybe you decide to wiggle your toes or fingers. Or perhaps you gently move your head from side to side. Or maybe you gently tap your fingers against your thighs. Whatever first comes to mind here works! The goal is to do three of these movements.

If you find one round of this wasn’t enough, start back at step 1, and continue to repeat until your anxiety has fully dissipated. 

Related Article: 4 Easy Tips To Reduce Anxiety & Relax Your Nervous System


What is the 54321 Method for Anxiety?

The 54321 rule follows a similar step-by-step process as the 333 rule, except with a few key differences. This grounding technique for anxiety actually engages all of your senses, really forcing you to focus on the present moment as opposed to your anxious feelings.

So, how do you do it?

Step 1: Five Things You Can See

Similar to the 333 rule for anxiety, you want to look around your visual field and find five things that you can see. You also want to take in their details, noting things you might like or don’t like about them.

Step 2: Four Things You Can Feel

Again, this very much mimics the 333 method. In this step, you want to take note of four things you feel, such as wind blowing on your face, the chair on the back of your thighs, or your hand resting gently beside your leg.

Step 3: Three Things You Can Hear

We’ve seen this before in the 333 rule! This is the exact same thing. Can you hear the tree leaves in the wind? Traffic in the background? Water running? Find three things you can hear.

Step 4: Two Things You Can Smell

This one can be tricky, but if you can, name two smells around you. If this isn’t available to you (and you don’t smell anything), try to think of two smells you enjoy and focus on taking those in.

Step 5: One Thing You Can Taste

Maybe you’re sipping on water, or perhaps you have that coffee after-taste in your mouth. Whatever the case may be, this last step is simply to focus on one taste. If there aren’t any tastes you can easily identify, choose one you enjoy and focus on that.


Will These Methods Work for You?

There’s only one way to find out: Try them out!

The 54321 rule and 333 rule for anxiety have helped many individuals overcome anxious feelings and ground themselves. The goal is to truly immerse yourself in each step so you’re focusing on counting your sense as opposed to narrowing in on those anxious feelings.

Read Next: 7 Easy Ways to Stop Anxiety & Chronic Stress From Ruining Your Life

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash


4 comments on “Do the 333 Rule and the 54321 Method Help People Struggling With Anxiety?”

  1. Thanks. This is very helpful. Although I know the 54321 exercise thanks to my social worker daughter, it's good to remind me to use it. Big anxiety today.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.