Grounding is good for you
When was the last time you walked barefoot on the grass?
I posted on Instagram recently about how grounding is important when in the middle of a global pandemic – but as I was writing the caption for my image I realised I had a lot more to say on the matter – and so I decided to write a blog post.
Walking barefoot is good for us in so many different ways. When we lived in a flat with no garden I would make sure to find a park to visit as often as possible so that I could put my feet in the grass. Now that we have a garden, I can go and stand outside for a while – but I still prefer to visit different open spaces as often as I can. Some people call this grounding or earthing; I’ve never quite understood the difference between those two terms to be honest. But I do enjoy doing it!
Here’s why walking barefoot in the grass is good for you:
Grounding is literally returning to your roots
Human beings did not evolve wearing shoes and protective clothing! I think we’re all aware of the damage we can do to our musculoskeletal system by wearing shoes that put our feet into unnatural positions, and there has been a big increase in people wearing “barefoot shoes” which mimic walking barefoot.
For the vast majority of human evolution, we had our feet on the ground. We were in direct contact with the Earth’s electric charge and this helped us to feel connected to the Earth and each other. This sounds very hippie-ish, but it is a fact that the Earth has an electric charge, and we all know that electricity can travel through our bodies – why would this not be the case for the electric charge coming off the very planet we inhabit?
Everything in this world is made up of atoms, and atoms are made up of equal numbers of negatively charged electrons, and positively charged protons. When an atom loses an electron it becomes a “free radical” with a positive charge. This can then cause damage within our bodies including things like chronic inflammation and disease. The Earth has a negative charge and is always generating electrons that can neutralise these free radicals, acting as antioxidants. Direct physical contact with the Earth can have a neutralising effect on our bodies, releasing that positive charge back into the ground.
Grounding exposes you to different bacteria
There seems to be an obsession with cleanliness, making sure there is no dirt anywhere, avoiding germs at all costs – but we do actually need to be exposed to germs and bacteria in order to keep our immune systems working well. Walking barefoot on the ground for 15-20 minutes exposes your skin to bacteria which it can then absorb. The skin has a microbiome which is just as important as that of the gut and the average human has more bacterial cells than human cells. It’s important to expose ourselves to a wide variety of these different bacteria, so that our immune systems can adapt and grow. If we avoid any contact with new bacteria we ultimately risk becoming quite ill because our immune system has not been tested.
Grounding can help you sleep
Grounding is not just walking barefoot; these days you can also get an earthing or grounding sheet which you can put on your bed (with a connecting wire to the Earth) to help you sleep. This sounds like a con, but a 2007 study showed that grounding can normalise cortisol release and also improve sleep. Other studies have shown that participants experienced a reduction in chronic pain, sleep apnoea and hypertension when sleeping on a grounding mat.
Research suggests that direct contact with the Earth can help to regulate the autonomic nervous system and our circadian rhythms.
Grounding can protect against cardiovascular disease
A 2013 study showed that grounding decreased blood viscosity, thus improving blood flow – which protects against cardiovascular disease. This study only had ten participants, but since there are no known negative effects of grounding – and plenty of positives – it has to be worth a try!
Barefoot walking activates acupressure points
There are numerous acupressure points in our feet which correlate to every part of the body. When we wear shoes our feet are cushioned and any pressure is usually spread out, mitigating any impact. When we walk barefoot, acupressure points are naturally simulated by the uneven surfaces we walk on. This is like getting a free acupressure massage every time you walk barefoot, and can help to enhance the body’s natural healing process. If you don’t want to walk barefoot or don’t have an easily accessibly place you can walk barefoot regularly, you can get similar benefits through wearing barefoot shoes.
Grounding: different ways to earth your body
The most obvious way to approach grounding is to simply step oustide without your shoes on. Walking (or standing) barefoot on natural surfaces such as grass, soil, moss or sand works just find. Also, as mentioned above you can buy a special “grounding mat” to put on your bed if you like. Swimming in a natural body of water such as the sea or a lake can also help. Another approach could be to put your hands directly into the soil when gardening, or to sit beneath a tree, leaning against the trunk for a while.
Final thoughts on grounding
Grounding is one of those things that it really can’t hurt to try. It’s free and easy to do; you don’t need any equipment or special training. You just need to go to the local park, or even just out of your door.
Because there’s no risk involved and it costs nothing, to me it doesn’t matter that most of the research that has been conducted was on relatively small groups. It’s something we can all experiment with today, and see how it feels for us.