We all know that getting out into and experiencing nature is good for body and soul but these days, unfortunately, most of us are way out of touch with nature. Many of us live in hermetically-sealed houses, travel to our windowless offices in airless cars and trains, have lunch delivered, then close out the day indoors, with a workout at the gym, yoga or spin studio. Safe to say our shoe-and-boot-encased feet rarely touch the ground and in the process, we miss an excellent opportunity to promote health.
Aside from the benefits that fresh air and sunlight bestow, Mother Earth also provides her own daily dose of health-supportive medicine as well. You just have to give her a chance. How to do that? Simple: just lose your shoes! Direct, good, old-fashioned, naked foot contact with the ground, known as ‘earthing’ or ‘grounding,’ does a number of powerful things, helping to restore cortisol balance, tamp down stress, and regulate your circadian rhythms (aka your ‘internal clock’) which in turn helps keep digestion, blood pressure and hormones on an even keel.
What else can earthing do for you? Here are a few more of the benefits – and how to put this simple and pleasurable health habit to work for you:
So, what is grounding?
Grounding is the simple practice of connecting your body to the earth by placing your naked feet or some skin on the ground for a couple of minutes a few times a week – or more, if you’ve got the time. By adding that direct, regular contact with the earth to your routine, you’ll be connecting your body with the (extremely) gentle jolt of the Earth’s electrical charge, which helps stimulate a number of positive physiological changes in the body almost instantly.
What can grounding do for you?
Quite a lot and all of it’s good, according to a recent study published by a team in the Journal of Inflammation Research. The report shows that “electrically conductive contact of the human body with the surface of the Earth (as in grounding or earthing) has positive effects,” specifically on taming inflammation, boosting immune response, aiding wound healing and reducing pain. Their research also indicates that grounding can be helpful in the prevention and treatment of chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, improving sleep quality, increasing blood flow and reducing stress. So we say ‘count us in!’ Other benefits earthing fans (myself included) commonly report include:
- Improvements in energy levels
- Reduced stress and anxiety
- Reduction in headaches (both hormone and tension-related)
- Increased endurance
- Faster healing and athletic recovery
- Reduced jet lag recovery time
What else happens when you ‘ground?’
With the ground under your naked feet, you’ll begin to relax, breathe better, and your nervous system settles down. Afterwards, you feel rejuvenated—perhaps a little clearer in your thinking, too. Grass, sand, dirt, gravel and, to a lesser extent, even concrete are conducive surfaces for this most humble of health-promoting acts. So, kick off your shoes, stand, sit, or play in the grass. A daily dose of contact with the earth can make you more resilient and energized almost instantly, offering a drug-free, healthy buffer against the tsunami of stress that is a such a big part of everyday existence. Get out there!
What’s electricity got to do with it?
When you physically make contact with nature, you are, in effect, working with your internal electrical system to re-connect with the earth’s power grid. Current thinking (pun intended) is that our bodies need the earth’s electrons to help maintain the electrical balance of positive and negative electrons that make up our atoms. When our atoms have both their positive and negative electrons paired and in place, the atoms remain balanced, or neutral, it’s all good. Drop a negative electron or two, however, and you’re left with ‘free radicals’ – those positively-charged, lone rangers which, when there are too many of them, can trigger inflammation, cancer cell growth and cell damage. So, what’s the antidote? You guessed it – a few minutes of earthing to restore the balance of your body’s bioelectrical motherboard.
How to get grounded?
As mentioned above, it’s all about contact – and here’s how:
- Start by kicking off your shoes! The fewer barriers to the flow of energy, the better.
- Put your feet, or an uncovered body part (within reason), directly in contact with the damp(ish)ground, sand or sea, or any conductive surface. In a pinch, even gravel or concrete will confer benefit.
- Shoot for a 30-minute session, a few times a week (currently, there isn’t a recommended frequency).
- If there’s a park nearby, grab your lunch, take refuge under a tree, have a seat, lean against the trunk and enjoy.
- Not totally on board with the naked foot idea? Then feel free to put a napkin or towel down between you and the natural world to form a bacterial/viral barrier, but not an electrical one.
- Play in the dirt – with your bare hands – but just make sure the soil is clean, as in free of chemical fertilizers and pesticides to minimize your exposure to toxins.
- Live in a place where earthing isn’t always possible? Then you might want to consider a pair of lightweight leather footwear specifically designed to enable you to ‘earth’ at your convenience. NOTE: Electrically-powered earthing sheets and pads are available as well, but in some cases may also increase the risk of exposure to EMFs (electro magnetic fields) so, erring on the side of caution, I don’t recommend them.