"It was good for the skin to touch the bare earth, and the old people liked to remove their moccasins and walk with their bare feet on the sacred Earth ... they sat on the ground with the feeling of being close to a mothering power... the soil was soothing, strengthening, cleansing and healing."
Luther Standing Bear (1868-1939) Sioux Tribal Leader
Grounding: An Introduction
The grounding or earthing movement has taken flight (to mix the imagery). Don't kid yourself into thinking it's a new phenomenon. Earthing is the act of physically connecting our bodies with the Earth's surface. When this happens, the free electrons which circulate around the Earth's living matrix conduct through our body and neutralize reactive oxygen species (ROS), also known as free radicals. Clint Ober, one of the progenitors of cable tv, discovered the earthing concept after observing the parallels between grounding tv cable currents and the human body's currents.
When was the last time you touched the soil, grass, a rock, plant or tree?
Our ancestors and the native peoples of this land used to be connected 24/7 because they either went barefoot or wore footwear made from hides. They also slept on the ground or on animal skins. Unfortunately because of our modern lifestyle (and frigid Canadian winters) most of us can go months without making direct contact with the Earth.
The Evolution of Insular Footwear
The footwear renaissance was mothered by necessity during WWII. The troops obviously needed durable shoes that would carry them through trench warfare. In the 50s, use of plastics replaced many traditional fibers like wood, wool and leather. Shoes with rubber and plastic soles became more popular, and dare I say, practical, than leather soles. See the football players donning Chuck Taylors below.
The trouble was, these shoes no longer conducted electricity. They insulated our individual bioelectric fields and cut us off from the electric frequencies of the Earth. Some scientists believe this is a cause of many chronic diseases and widespread inflammation we collectively suffer. This may sound wishy-washy but there are hundreds peer reviewed publications on this subject. In the 1950s, 95% of shoes had leather soles; in 2010, 95% of soles were synthetic. In the former decade, most visits to the physician were for infectious diseases, injuries and pregnancy; 65 years later, stress, pain and chronic diseases are the main reasons. Let's look at how being grounded can turn this around.
The Dirty Deets
Earthing is shown to improve sleep, reduce pain, activate the parasympathetic nervous system, and more! You can see the extent of its impacts in the diagram below.
I especially like how earthing normalizes your cortisol and melatonin hormones. Cortisol is regulated by your adrenal glands and is your "stress hormone". Earthing has the ability to deactivate our sympathetic (flight or fight) nervous system and activate the parasympathetic nervous system, responsible for digestion, metabolism and relaxing. Most of you are familiar with melatonin, your "sleep hormone" which is secreted by your pineal gland. Astonishingly, melatonin increased by 66% in a study of participants who slept grounded for 6 weeks.
I vaguely knew about earthing before last year. It does make a lot of sense and as a child I felt better running around on the lawn naked, digging in the mud or picking flowers. It's intuitive for certain. A friend re-introduced me to it by telling me to watch The Earthing Movie (directed by Sundance award-winning filmmakers Josh and Rebecca Tickell) after the techniques helped ease her Lyme disease related pain. It's about the Tickell family's young daughter who lays on the ground instead of taking pills and undergoes a remarkable healing. Please watch and tell me if you are convinced or not!
For me, grounding reduces my headaches, arthritic pain and varicose veins. It made my mind clearer. I was a bit happier. This was all after I placed a grounding mat under my desk and would place my bare feet on it while zooming and typing and reading.
Ways to Ground
Barefoot or Barehand
This is the easiest way to ground (a bit more complicated in colder climates). Try spending 15 minutes a day *at least* with the soles of your feet directly in contact with the Earth. See how your system responds. You can also connect with the soil when you garden, just make sure you protect yourself if you're dealing with thorns, bugs and debris!
Lying on the Ground
Why not take a nap on the beautiful Earth! Better yet, under a tree or on a bed of chamomile...It is so restorative. I do a meditation twice daily called Shoonya, meaning emptiness in Sanskrit, where I shut off from the world for 15 minutes. I love doing this meditation with my back rested against a tree. My body is more awake and aware when I come out of it, compared to sitting on a chair.
Apparently, you can "earth" in water too! :) Try wading through a clear lake or swimming in the ocean. Advocates of earthing report this has similar effects as walking barefoot.
A Grounding Mat
You want to avoid shoes with rubber or plastic soles. Moccasins conduct very well and you can find many pairs made by indigenous communities in North America. Some sandals out there are already conductive. If you're a vegan or want more modern options, check out Groundz.