There’s a lot of ways the world has improved over time – increasing life expectancy, greater access to education, and the ability to order your weight in sweet potato fries with a click of a button, to name just a few. But one of the most detrimental changes we’ve grown to accept is the increasing disconnect between us and mother nature. It’s a detachment that manifests hostilely in the health of both humans and the planet.
Our modern lifestyles have taken us away from the earth. Where we once walked barefoot through our environment we now wear synthetic, insulated shoes. We spend less time outside and more time holed up inside four walls, sedentary on couches instead of sitting on the ground. We’ve moved from sleeping on the earth to memory foam and mattresses (hey, our lower back isn’t complaining about that one). But there’s emerging research and plenty of anecdotal evidence on the benefit of direct physical contact with the earth, something so many of us are sorely missing. This connection can be achieved through a practice called grounding or earthing, with perks ranging from better sleep to improved immunity. Here we explore the therapeutic technique of grounding and how it can impact your wellbeing.
What is grounding and how does it work?
A quick refresher on some high school-level science – everything in existence, including us, is made of atoms. These tiny particles contain equal numbers of negatively charged electrons and positively charged protons, this balance makes it neutral. When an atom loses an electron it becomes a “free radical” with a positive charge, which ain’t a “positive” thing. An excess of free radicals leads to dysfunction, damage, and disease within our bodies. The belief behind grounding is that direct connection to the earth and its energy field allows the bountiful transfer of free electrons into the body. This process is posited to neutralise the free radicals and realign your bioelectrical energy, leading to powerful healing effects.
There have been a number of small studies on the benefits of grounding suggesting positive impacts on heart health, reducing pain, improving mood and bettering sleep.
Back in the ’90s, Polish scientists established that the practice of earthing creates “a positive and powerful shift in the electrical state of the body and the electrodynamics of blood.”
More recently, in a report published in the Journal of Inflammation, researchers described earthing as a “simple, natural and accessible health strategy against chronic inflammation.” They went so far as to liken this to a battery’s charge.
“The very fabric of the body appears to serve as one of our primary antioxidant defence systems. is a system requiring occasional recharging by conductive contact with the Earth’s surface – the “battery” for all planetary life – to be optimally effective.”
However, the research is stronger when it comes to the influence of spending time in nature more generally. Studies have shown that spending stretches of time surrounded by nature through “forest bathing” can significantly enhance mood, help alleviate anxiety and depression, and improve immunity.
I’m keen… what does grounding involve?
Whether its scientific credentials are flawless or not, grounding is a free, simple, and potentially powerful addition to your daily routine. Grounding or earthing involves skin-to-earth contact and the most natural techniques include:
Walking barefoot outdoors – through a local park, along the beach or just standing on your nature strip or footpath
Lying on the ground – stretch out on the sand or kick back in the grass
Swimming in the ocean, a lake or a river
Gardening – using your hands to work with the soil
Proponents recommend at least 30 minutes of grounding each day. It’s worth noting that paint, vinyl and wood aren’t conductive surfaces.
No easy or safe access to nature? You can still tap into the feeling of groundedness by balancing out the spiritual and physical energy in your body and connecting yourself with the present moment.
There are a variety of simple embodiment practices that can assist with this, including self-massage, receiving massage/energy healing, intentional exercise, breathwork, dance and singing. Essentially, any activity that places you in touch with both your internal and external environments simultaneously, allowing you to shift or recharge your energy field and stimulate flow through the root chakra.
Wait… What’s the root chakra have to do with this?
The root chakra is a swirling wheel of energy located at the base of the spine, in line with the pelvic floor and the first three vertebrae. It’s often referred to as “Muladhara,” which literally translates to “root support.” When spinning and functioning healthily, the root chakra is responsible for helping us feel embodied, safe, stable and secure (read: grounded). When this energy channel is blocked, however, you’re more likely to lack focus, be easily distracted, feel spacey, scattered, anxious and affected by the moods and energies of others.
Are there specific products that can help with grounding?
We’ve seen a bunch of grounding facilitators entering the market in recent years as the benefits of the practice become more widely acknowledged. These products range from ankle bracelets and soft-soled earthing shoes to mats, sheets, and adhesive patches connected to the ground through a wall outlet or a rod placed into the soil outside your home or office. Sarah Wilson of I Quit Sugar fame, has previously waxed lyrical about using computer and bed mats on her blog, crediting them for her improved sleep, pain and inflammation.
“I’ve been having terrible sleep issues lately, due to a range of factors. Feeling frazzled with pent up ‘positive electric energy’ ain’t my only issue,” she penned. “However, since using the mat I have been waking with less pain in my legs from the inflammation. I tested things by removing the mat for two weeks: the achy pain returned. Also, I’ve had less cramps and restless legs during the night.”
Healing crystals, including Red Jasper, Bloodstone, Hematite, Gold Tigers Eye, and Carnelian, are also powerful grounding tools. You can carry them in the pocket of your pants, dress or skirt or even keep them in your bra (a small tumbled stone is perf for this.) Surrounding yourself with the colour red (think eating strawberries, drinking tomato juice, wearing a red scarf or necklace) can help too, as this symbolises the root chakra.
Feeling extra off-balance atm? Try this grounding tree meditation:
Take off your shoes and choose somewhere quiet to sit/stand. Inhale into your belly, bringing your attention to the feeling of the ground beneath your feet. Imagine them growing roots, extending all the way down into the centre of the earth. Breathe deeply, pulling the energy from these roots, through the soles of your feet.
Allow this energy and nourishment to spread throughout your body. Raise your arms and picture them as long branches, stretching towards the sun. Allow any stress or anxiety to be released from the tips of your fingers. Witness your mind relaxing as the warm glow of the sun strengthens your branches. Your trunk, your roots, your spirit.
Stay in this meditation for as long as you like, and open your eyes whenever you feel ready.
For more info on grounding, check out Earthing: The Most Important Health Discovery Ever?, via Earthing Oz.