Sustainability Tip: Simple and free grounding exercises can improve your mental and physical health

Walking barefoot in the sand can be a form of grounding. Credit: Mamanatural

By Elise Nam, Alliance Intern from Barnard College ‘24 

As a child, I hated grass on my skin because it made me itchy. Looking back, I think grass made me uncomfortable because it was ‘dirty,’ and I was raised as a city kid. Over the years, I have come to love the outdoors in all aspects, including the feeling of the earth on my feet. In fact, I make it a practice to walk barefoot as often as I can! This practice is called grounding or earthing if it’s done outdoors. Grounding consists of techniques which allow you to connect with the earth and thereby manage anxiety, stress and overwhelm, in addition to bringing you into the present. 

Our increasingly disconnected and fast-paced world is contributing to an unprecedented mental health crisis in the US. 23% of adults and 16% of youth suffer from at least one major depressive episode per year, says NAMI. While medication and therapy have their place, they can be expensive and often inaccessible. One possible simple solution is grounding. Studies show grounding can benefit mental and heart health, healing and immune system, while also relieving chronic pain and fatigue, according to Mamanatural.

Most of us don’t realize that our bodies become electrically connected to the earth through the earth’s surface electrons, as Mamanatural points out. They add, “Though it all may sound a bit woo-woo, the reality is most of humanity has been practicing earthing for the majority of their lives — some without ever even realizing it! So while the conscious practice of grounding is a buzzy activity right now, it’s really not new at all.”

The science behind grounding and why it works

Mamanatural explains, “The Earth possesses a limitless and continuously renewed supply of electrons that make the surface of the planet electrically conductive (except in limited ultra-dry areas like deserts). And—guess what—humans are also electrically charged beings.” Earthing helps electrically recharge your body. Mamanatural adds, “It only makes sense that the latest research on earthing suggests that these two forces sync to help create a more stable internal biological environment, helping our entire system function more efficiently.”

“The problem? Modern lifestyle inherently separates humans from such contact with the Earth. Think about it: Instead of walking barefoot or using traditional leather-soled shoes, we wear thick rubber-soled shoes. Instead of sleeping on the earth in huts or log cabins, we are in high rises or elevated houses. Instead of forging all day, walking the earth, we sit in office buildings or cars.”

The earth carries a negative charge, and “it is assumed that the influx of free electrons absorbed into the body through direct contact with the Earth likely neutralizes reactive oxygen species (ROS) and thereby reduces acute and chronic inflammation,” according to the Journal of Environmental and Public Health.

Studies documenting the benefits of grounding

  • A study with 16 massage therapists alternated between grounding and no grounding, and reported that grounding reduced pain, stress, depression and fatigue
  • One study found “grounding therapy helped participants sleep longer and have fewer sleep disturbances. In the same study, participants also reported decreased levels of overall fatigue and improved mood after just four weeks of treatment with grounding mats,” according to Mamanatural.
  • Grounding helps ease pain and promotes healing, according to a study which found that “individuals who wore grounding patches after exercise reported lower levels of pain due to muscle damage. This suggests that grounding can not only help with pain, but can actually help our bodies heal itself,” as stated by Mamanatural.
  • Researchers confirmed an association between earthing and positive immune response in one study that examined the effect of grounding on the classic immune response, adds Mamanatural.
  • Grounding has also been found to help improve heart health. Mamanatural points to another study which found that hypertensive individuals with a long history of self-administered grounding therapy had lower blood pressure levels. It was so effective that the researchers of the study call earthing a “safe blood pressure-reducing therapy warranting further research.”

“Though we lack formal studies on exact duration, experts say you don’t have to commit a full hour to this—just 20 minutes a day is a good benchmark for full effect,” according to Mamanatural. They add, “And don’t beat yourself if you miss a day. Be realistic about what works for you, and know that no matter how often you ground, there are likely lasting benefits. In studies on forest bathing, researchers found that the positive effects lasted for more than a week after the forest excursion.”

Suggestions to incorporate grounding in your life

Mamanatural’s outdoor earthing practices:

Indoor grounding: 

  • Focus your attention on one object 
  • Perform a body scan — Direct your attention to the top of your head noticing any sensations or feelings and slowly focus on different body parts until you reach your feet 
  • Choose an object and use all five senses to describe it 
  • Focus on your breath — Place your hands on your stomach and notice the rise and fall as you inhale and exhale
  • Play the Rainbow Game — Locate an object for each color of the rainbow and say the color and the object out loud
  • 5-4-3-2-1 Game — Identify 5 objects you can see, 4 objects you can touch, 3 objects you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste

In addition, there are a wide variety of products you can use to help you ground: mats, sheetssockspatches and body bands.

Many people believe that health and sustainability are expensive and time-consuming. However,  grounding is one of many examples of a simple — and free — practice that can have tremendous benefits. Who would have thought my walking in grass was one of the best things you can do for yourself! 

More Resources for Your Grounding Journey: 

For additional mental health support, please see all resources from the Department of Human Health Services. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *