We’re finally beginning to see some real proof that spring has arrived, and for many of us that are stuck indoors, this means dreaming of getting outside and feeling the warmth of the season on our skin. For me, this time of year always brings to mind the carefree days of childhood, much of it spent playing barefoot in the grass.
Nowadays, even when we escape outdoors, chances are we’re not running barefoot through the grass. As we grow older, we lose a big part of our natural connection to the earth. What once felt natural, now feels odd and maybe even a little unsanitary. It seems it’s next to impossible to enjoy the outdoors with the pure enthusiasm and innocence of childhood. Or is it?
There’s been a movement recently to reclaim our natural connection to mother earth – called grounding.
Grounding, or earthing as some call it, is a method of putting your body in direct, uninterrupted contact with the earth. We’re talking skin to skin with Mother Nature, and while it’s somewhat controversial, there’s growing evidence that grounding provides significant benefits to both physical and emotional health.
The Science of Grounding
In short, grounding is simply a word for making and maintaining physical contact with the earth. Often, when someone is first introduced to grounding, their initial thought is that it’s another form of nature meditation, the idea being that being outdoors and connected to nature brings about a sense of peace and wellbeing.
While this might be part of it, grounding is so much more. The true benefits of grounding involve physiological processes that happen as a result of the exchange between your body and the earth. It’s actually quite fascinating, especially if you happen to love science.
It all starts by looking at our bodies on a molecular level. We are made of atoms. Some are positively charged – called protons. Others are negatively charged electrons and then there are neutrons that hang around in a state of electrical neutrality. These atoms float around in our bodies, doing their thing and interacting with each other in an amazing and complex system.
In a perfect world, nothing interferes with these atoms. Unfortunately, our constant exposure to technology, electromagnetic fields and pollutants interferes with the electrical energy of the atoms in our bodies and this can cause an abundance of free radicals to accumulate.
We’ve all heard enough about free radicals to know that they aren’t good, but many of us don’t understand why. Free radicals are molecules with unpaired electrons. Electrons love to have a partner, so the free radicals spend their time searching for an electron, and as this happens, we see a chain reaction of molecular destruction.
A free radical basically steals an electron from a healthy molecule, destabilizing it and turning it into another free radical. Then that one goes on to take an electron from another healthy molecule, and the chain continues. Eventually, this process can weaken cell membranes, interfering with their ability to filter what enters and leaves the cell. If left unchecked, free radicals can lead to genetic mutation within the cell and cause major issues.
Free radicals are suspected to play a role in many of our chronic health issues today, including degenerative diseases, inflammatory disease and cancer.
Scary stuff, but what does any of this have to do with the earth? As it turns out, there’s an incredible connection.
The earth is constantly creating, and releasing, its own electrical energy. When we connect with the earth, for example by walking barefoot outdoors, we’re facilitating the transfer of the earth’s energy into our own bodies. As we take in electrons from the ground, they work to neutralize the free radicals floating around in our bodies, promoting an increased sense of overall wellness.
The Benefits of Grounding
Granted, major scientific research on the topic of grounding is limited. However, there have been some interesting smaller studies that are quite convincing of the potential benefits of grounding.
For example, thermography results of patients with chronic pain show fewer “hot” areas of pain after grounding, and participants who slept on a sheet to simulate grounding reported a significant decrease in chronic disease symptoms where those that used the placebo did not.
But, regardless of this information, grounding is nothing more than physically connecting with the earth. There’s no investment in costly equipment and it can be done almost anywhere. There really is nothing to lose by trying, and possibly much to gain. Just take a look at this impressive list of the potential benefits of grounding.
- Reduced inflammation
- Reduced chronic pain
- Improved adrenal functions
- Improved circulation
- Fights against premature aging
- Relieve muscle tension
- Improvement of PMS symptoms
- Speed healing
- Easier recovery from physical activity
- Reduced symptoms of stress and anxiety
- Blood pressure regulation
- Improved sleep patterns
- Increased energy
- Restoration of natural biological rhythms
Not bad for spending a little time in nature, right? Now, let’s look at just how easy it is try grounding for yourself.
Developing a Grounding Practice
For grounding to be effective, your skin must be in contact with dirt, rock or water. The simplest, and most effective, method is to just take your shoes off and walk around outside for about 30 minutes. But, even if you’re not in the mood for a barefoot stroll, there are other ways of reaping the benefits.
For example, take off your shoes and just sit in the grass with the bottom of your feet and your hands touching the ground. You might also choose to lay back and soak in some of that natural vitamin D while you’re doing it (just don’t forget the sunscreen).
It really is very simple, and if you are already devoting time each day to mindfulness, meditation or even gentle yoga, grounding can easily be worked into those types of routines without taking any extra time.
There is one thing that’s important to remember, and that’s not all “ground” is equal in terms of benefits. If you live or work in a major city, touching your feet to the ground during your lunch break might not be as effective. In urban areas, there is a greater chance that electrical lines are not far below the surface, and this can interfere with the energy given off by the earth. A quick call to the local electric company should be able to give you an idea of what areas to avoid.
Just like there’s places to avoid if you want the maximum benefit of grounding, there are also some areas that are shown to be more effective than others. For example, if you happen to be lucky enough to live near the ocean, a little time spent on the beach is a great, relaxing way to supercharge your body and neutralize those free radicals. The sand and saltwater of the ocean are excellent conductors that make it extra easy to soak up those electrons. Damp or dewy grass is also great because of the conductive power of the water.
But, let’s say that getting outdoors to practice grounding just isn’t an option. Maybe you just don’t have the time, or don’t live in an area where it’s possible to enjoy some quiet skin to skin with mother earth without it being a major inconvenience. Not to worry, technology (ironically one of the things that can cause an imbalance in the first place), has made it possible to enjoy the benefits of grounding without any limitations.
There are a variety of grounding sheets, mats and wearable devices that simulate the effects of connecting with the earth. For example, you can purchase a grounding mat to put on your desk while you’re working. The mat plugs into a grounded, 3-prong outlet and facilitates the flow of electrons. This is especially beneficial for people who find themselves constantly around technology, such as the 8 hours a day you might spend in front of your computer for work.
Many grounding experts agree that mats and sheets to be used in the bedroom are especially effective for a couple of reasons. First, many of us keep our phones right by our beds or have alarm clocks, computers and televisions in the bedroom that can interfere with the electrical energy of the room.
Considering that the body is hard at work repairing and restoring itself while we sleep, anything that can be done to minimize and neutralize free radicals during this time can be especially beneficial.
Noticing the Difference
How people begin to notice the effects of grounding is a very individualized experience. Many first begin by feeling a little more energetic, especially right after a grounding session. The fact is that we’ve created a world around us where it’s almost impossible to connect with the energy of the earth without making a conscious effort. From the rubber soles of our shoes to the materials used most commonly in building, we’ve surrounded ourselves with materials that inhibit the conduction of energy. When those obstacles are removed, even for a short time, many people are surprised and encouraged by the immediate rush of energy that they feel.
However, people who experience chronic pain or have a specific health issue might first notice the effects as a mild reduction in their symptoms. For example, someone with a chronically bad back might find that they can move a little easier or sleep better after grounding.
One of the best ways to find out if grounding is a good fit for your life is to just give it a try but keep a detailed journal of your grounding sessions and any physical symptoms you might be experiencing. Take the time to notice every little thing, and then after a week or two of grounding go back through and look at your progress.
If there’s one thing to be learned here, it’s that trusting the earth and building a connection with it never lets us down. Our lives become healthier and more beautiful as we move away from everything artificial and toxic and embrace the natural wonders we have all been entrusted with. Grounding is just one more way of doing this, and that alone is enough to make it a beautiful thing.