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Imagine walking barefoot in the cool grass or submerging in a peaceful lake or digging your toes into the sand. How do you feel? Chances are this kind of intimate connection with the earth makes you smile and elevates your mood, and while you may chalk that up to memories of your last Maui vacation, those feels may actually be more complex.
Grounding — connecting with the earth through physical touch — has been found to induce chemical and electrical changes within your body that bring about a boost in mood. While this might sound like some hippie-dippy baloney, science is actually on board with this concept, and recent studies show that grounding not only can elevate your psyche but also can help relieve inflammation, increase circulation, reduce muscle pain and support heart health, according to research published in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health.
“[Grounding] is an indispensable healing and recovery tool … for any treatment or recovery regimen as it relates to injury, surgery and maximum athletic performance,” says Jeff Spence, DC, and mindset coach in Los Angeles. “Amazingly, the planet appears to be the most powerful anti-inflammatory we have — the original painkiller!”
Here’s how it works.
Your body is capable of creating its own electricity. Case in point: Your central nervous system generates electrical impulses that instruct your body to breathe or swallow or sprint away from a mugger. Naturally, your body carries a neutral charge, but these days, the blue light from cellphones and computers as well as an abundance of pollution can alter that neutrality, and positive ions in the form of free radicals begin to invade and accumulate your tissues. Extensive research associates free radicals with premature aging, inflammation, dementia, arthritis, hair loss, cancer and even actual damage to your DNA, so it’s in your best interest to evict them as soon as possible.
The earth carries a mildly negative charge, and if you retained anything from high-school chemistry, you’ll remember that in order to eliminate a positive charge, you have to introduce a negative one. Therefore, it stands to reason that making direct contact with the negatively charged earth can return your positively charged body to a neutral state. “Nature provides electric ‘nutrition’ from the ground below to maintain natural order and healing within the bioelectrical circuitry of your body,” Spence says.
And science concurs: Studies have concluded that this influx of earthy electrons helps calm the nervous system, shifting it from the sympathetic fight-or-flight branch toward the parasympathetic rest-and-digest branch, thereby reducing inflammation and bringing peace to the body and mind.
Want to try grounding for yourself? The process is simple: Take off your shoes and stand or walk in the grass — or sand or dirt or mud. You also can sit and place your palms on the ground or submerge yourself in a natural body of water. In less than 30 minutes, you can reap all the benefits of “vitamin G.”
- Walk barefoot in the sand, grass or even the mud.
- Lie on the beach or in a field with as much skin exposed to the ground as possible.
- Wade into a lake or sea.
- Garden without gloves.
Tip: Rubber is an insulator and will block any electrical charges from passing through — great for lightning strikes but not so much for grounding. Remove your shoes or choose footwear with leather soles to properly connect with Mother Earth.