I have so many fond memories of growing up in the Southeastern U.S., one of which was running around the neighbourhood barefoot in spring and summer. It was a badge of honour to have feet tough enough to withstand steamy, hot pavements or my folks’ long gravel driveway scattered with the occasional pine cone. But one of my fondest barefoot memories has to be running up and down my neighbour’s expansive front yard or sitting on their hill and just squishing my feet into their lush, long grass. I don’t think it was just the soothing of my red-raw soles in the coolness of that enviable green mat that I enjoyed, but perhaps something I didn’t even understand at the time…I was grounding myself. Not in the mental sense that we associate with “getting grounded” but actually physically connecting myself electrically with the earth.
What is Grounding?
Commonly referred to as grounding or “earthing”, the practice is based around the theory that positively charged electrons can build up in the body leading to free radical formation, but direct contact with the earth’s surface can balance them with the earth’s negative “grounding” charge. While it was common practice to run around barefoot as a kid, as grownups it’s not. We spend our days in rubber-soled shoes, insulated by clothes, raised above the ground on chairs, sofas and beds, all of which are barriers between us and the earth, yet our environment is filled with electromagnetic radiation from mobile phones, laptops, radios, WiFi, Bluetooth, power lines and electrical appliances. This not only leads to free radical mayhem, but disrupts our body’s own vital electrical communication systems!
How to Get grounded.
The practice is simple: Walk outside, kick your shoes off and feel the ground beneath your feet! Damp grass or wet sand seem to be the ideal conditions to neutralise those free-radical forming charges (but something as simple as digging your hands into the earth works just as well). Take a minute to close your eyes, stand tall with your feet firmly planted. Tune in to your body’s energy and visualise that physical connection with the earth’s energy. Take the opportunity to create greater awareness…notice the sounds, smells and sights surrounding you. Take a deep breath and really connect with Mother Nature to bring balance back in to your day.
Does it really work?
Sound a little woo woo for you? Well, you’ll be glad to know that science actually backs the practice. Studies have shown multiple beneficial effects of grounding including better sleep, balancing cortisol levels (can you say relief from chronic stress and anxiety!?), reduced inflammation and pain levels, faster recovery from injury, improved immunity and improved circulation. One study has even shown improved glucose control in Type 2 diabetics who practiced. In personal and in clinical practice, I have witnessed shifts in mood almost immediately!
Note: If you’re one of those people who just can’t find the time to get outside, don’t fret! There are plenty of earthing products available for indoor use. Personally, I think that spending 5 minutes barefoot outdoors is one of the best physical and mental investments one can make!