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(Bare) Feet on the Ground

Keep your feet on the ground. Stay grounded. You are so grounded (depending on your age, this can either be a compliment or the last thing in the world you want to hear).

At some point in our lives, we’ve all encountered the above statements or variations on them. But what does it mean, literally, to connect with the ground?

In the field of environmental medicine, grounding is referred to as “earthing,” physical contact with Earth’s surface (i.e., the ground) and the electrons on it. Many of us, especially if we live in an urban environment with few or no public green spaces, lack direct contact with the earth. And even if we do have access to green spaces, our lifestyles often keep us moving from one enclosed space to another, our primary connection to electronic devices.

The Earth’s surface has an unlimited, continuously renewed supply of free electrons (electrons that aren’t attached to atoms and therefore free to move in response to any outside force). Our planet is an excellent conductor of electricity, something that utility companies have long known. Humans are filled with electricity thanks to the elements in our bodies (sodium, calcium, potassium, etc.) and to maintain electrical stability we need grounding. The most direct method of grounding? Connection with the ground beneath our feet.

Recent studies have shown that earthing has health benefits including improving the quality of sleep, reducing chronic pain, and lessening anxiety and depression. Simple and no-cost ways to experiment with earthing yourself include walking barefoot on grass, dirt, sand, mud, or rocks or lying on grass or sand (be sure to scan the immediate area first to make sure there are no objects, like shards of glass or bits of metal, that might cause injuries). Some proponents of earthing also recommend wading in water or swimming as an effective method of grounding since the human body has a high percentage of water.

As with any emerging science, there are companies that have been quick to capitalize on earthing and the appeal it holds for a population that feels disconnected not only from nature but also from itself. However, there’s no quick path to developing a connection with Earth. Like yoga and meditation, earthing is a practice that takes commitment and time to experience results. An earthing bed or an earthing mat isn’t essential, any more than an expensive yoga mat or meditation cushion is. All you need is a patch of earth and the willingness to get a little dirty.