In our modern world, we spend much of our time indoors. We seldom go outside and touch the Earth. We might walk around outside, but we almost always have on shoes. Only rarely do we walk barefoot and allow our feet to touch the Earth, and there is strong evidence that this lack of connection is bad for us, but most of us do not realize it. The practice of earthing, sometimes referred to as grounding, can help us reconnect with the Earth and balance our body’s electrical systems. If you have never heard of it, earthing is something you should explore.
What Is Earthing?
In its simplest form, Earthing means connecting physically with the Earth and making direct contact with the soil, rocks, and trees. Did you ever wonder why walking barefoot on a lawn feels so good, or maybe, why it feels good to take off your shoes and walk on a beach? There is more to it than you might expect. It is a way of connecting with the Earth, and as you do, the Earth affects your body’s electrical charge.
Earthing Isn’t a New Thing
Ancient cultures throughout the world recognize the importance of maintaining a physical connection with the Earth. Physical contact with the ground was a natural part of life, and only in our modern world have we lost this important experience. This physical contact allows the energies of the Earth to pass into our bodies through the exchange of ions. The ancient Chinese referred to this energy as Qi, and they talked about its healing properties.
In the late 1800s, Adolf Just, who is considered one of the founders of naturopathy, used healing routines that included avoiding alcohol and smoking, eating a vegetarian diet, walking barefoot, and sleeping on the ground. Mattheo Tavera was a French agronomist who talked about “electric nutrition” for plants and animals. Several biophysicists studied grounding in the 1920s and 1930s.
In the late 1990s, the work of Clint Ober brought the practice of grounding into the modern era. Ober established one of the leading cable television installation companies in the nation, and that is what led him to his conclusions about the practice of grounding. When cable television has a clear signal, it is because the wires are shielded from outside electrical interference. The shield is connected to the ground so that the Earth can deliver or absorb electrons and prevent the build-up of electrical charges in the cable system and cause interference. The electrical potential of the shield stabilizes due to contact with the Earth.
In his retirement, Ober began to think about how this might apply to humans and the Earth. Ober later went on to test his theory and with some surprising results. In 1998, he demonstrated that the theory worked when he used it to relieve his own pain and help him get better sleep.
The Basic Science of Earthing
To explain how grounding works, let’s go back to Clint Ober’s grounding experiments. What Ober did was use metal duct tape to create a sleeping pad. To this, he connected a wire and ground rod that he planted in the soil. This conductive pad was in direct contact with the Earth, similar to being barefoot outdoors. Within a short time, he was able to stop taking painkillers to get to sleep.
In the year 2000, he experimented with 60 males and females who had reported chronic pain and sleep issues. He used a control group and a test group that was sleeping on the pads. All pads were identical. Only, part of them was connected to the Earth, and the others were not. Neither group knew whether they were sleeping on a pad that was connected to the earth or on one that was not connected.
The results of the study were impressive. Among those who slept on the grounded pads, 85% reported falling asleep faster, 92% reported better quality sleep, 100% reported waking up feeling rested, and 81% reported an improvement in stiffness and pain. Among those who were not grounded, none of the participants reported a reduction in pain or muscle stiffness. Only 13% reported falling asleep faster, better sleep quality, and waking up feeling rested. So, what happened with the test group that slept on the grounded pads?
Why Does Earthing Work?
The Earth continually has electrical currents flowing through it, and so does the human body. This charge occurs because atoms contain a larger number of negatively charged electrons than positively charged protons. Electrons can flow between atoms. Atoms are almost continually giving off or acquiring electrons as they come into contact with other atoms. When an atom picks up an extra electron, it will develop a negative charge. When an atom loses electrons, it will have more protons, which will create a positive charge.
The Earth is a large repository of electrons, and when we walk barefoot on the Earth, sleep on the Earth, or use a grounding mat, we absorb electrons from the Earth, and eventually, we will reach a steady state that matches that of the Earth. In Ober’s experiment, this effect was found to reduce pain, but it has also been found to normalize body hormones and reduce positively charged free radicals that are a source of inflammation. This effect happens when electrons are transferred to the body from the Earth until a steady state is reached. Shoes with rubber soles block this exchange of electrons between the Earth and our body.
Health Benefits of Earthing
These early studies on grounding found an improved quality of life through better sleep and a reduction in pain. Since that time, these studies have been confirmed, and many others have been conducted that support the benefits of grounding for many other health conditions. Both physical and emotional benefits have been reported. Here are a few of them.
- Decreased chronic pain and inflammation.
- Improved sleep.
- Improved blood flow and pressure.
- Accelerated wound or injury healing.
- Relief from headaches.
- Reduced hormonal imbalance symptoms.
- Increased immune function.
- Increased energy.
- Lower stress and anxiety.
- Improvements in depression.
- Improved feeling of well-being.
Changes in the electrical charge of the body can be measured, and there is a growing body of research on the effects of grounding and how grounding can help to relieve a range of physical and emotional conditions. It has been studied for its benefits in sports training recovery, the prevention of cardiovascular disease, and chronic fatigue. Grounding has been around since life first began on the planet, and we are only now beginning to understand how deep our connection to the Earth goes.
Ways to Practice Earthing
You can practice earthing in many different ways. The most important thing is that you have a real physical connection with something in the natural world. Here are a few ways that you can integrate grounding into your daily life.
- Walk barefoot on the grass.
- Dip your feet in a natural body of water.
- Sit on the ground and take off your shoes and socks.
- Find shoes that have natural soles.
- Garden and put your hands in the dirt.
- Try laying on the ground and watch the clouds go by.
- Hold a rock in your hands.
- Lean up against a tree barefoot.
- Use an earthing or grounding mat under your desk.
- Use an earthing band or pain patch.
It is suggested that you try these activities for at least half an hour, but more is always better. It is impossible to overdose on earthing. If you are having chronic pain or feeling stressed, observe how you feel before and after these activities. Earthing is not a cure-all for diseases, but many can find relief by using regular grounding sessions.
One of the pieces of advice that physicians give is to get out in nature regularly. The effects of nature on the human body and emotional state are considered common knowledge, but now you understand a little more about how it works and why you feel calm and relaxed when you take a walk in the woods. The next time you are feeling stressed or a little under the weather, try taking off your shoes and going barefoot. You might be amazed at the results, and besides, you have nothing to lose but your stress.