It’s primal, it’s instinctive, it’s built into the best and most beautiful parts of our DNA. When we see soft sand and ocean edges, we take our shoes off and let our feet sink into the sun-hot earth. And then we venture to the shoreline, and laugh and scream when the cold salt water licks our legs, a surprise even after the hundredth time. Green grass is no different, or Rocky Mountain rivers, or wining grapes for Lucy, or snow for the brave. It’s as though our feet have brains that demand an otherworldly undressing in the wild.
You know it’s true. Have you ever kept your Yeezys on in the presence of white sand and crystal waters? No. You haven’t. Because your feet would strike.
This magnetism between our feet and the ground has a more scientific name: earthing or grounding.
You’ve most likely heard these terms used in the context of your power outlets, or how to stay safe in a lightning storm. But, when it comes to vibrant health, earthing is a practice worth your exploration and hedonism.
What is Earthing?
Science is beginning to support what nature has instinctively taught us and what our ancestors naturally did: the notion that our bodies are meant to come into contact with the earth, a negatively charged and grounding force, for health, longevity and vitality.
Earthing is simply allowing your feet, or your body, unobstructed access to the negatively charged and wonderfully healing earth.
The earth itself has a colossal, liquid metal core and is, by nature, negatively charged. Anything above ground, such as the air, or anything insulated from the ground (such as feet adorned in rubber-soled shoes or an asphalt barrier) carries a positive charge. And it’s, in theory, important for us to plug back into the earth (ground ourselves) thereby dispersing those positive and inflaming charges, and benefitting from the negative charges the earth offers.
Dr. Stephen Sinatra, co-author of Earthing: The Most Important Health Discovery Ever?, emphasizes that we are “bioelectrical being[s] living on an electrical planet,” and that our bodies function electrically, our hearts and nervous systems dominant in these charged interplays. Even some of the most useful diagnostic tests available to us are dependent on analyzing and measuring our intrinsic electrical patterns: an EKG looks at our hearts’ electrical impulses, an MRI uses a powerful magnetic field, radio waves and a computer to assess our health.
Emerging science reveals that direct contact with the ground allows you to receive an energy infusion, compliments of Mother Earth. Think of it as ‘vitamin G’ – G for ground. Just as the sun above creates vitamin D in your body, the ground below provides you with vitamin G, a kind of ‘electrical nutrition’.
There is a well understood connection between inflammation specifically and chronic disease. Dr. Joseph Mercola emphasizes that earth is a “natural source of electrons” and “may actually be the most effective, essential, least expensive and easiest to attain antioxidant.”
This insightful review of multi-disciplinary research published in 2015 concludes with the following:
Accumulating experiences and research on earthing, or grounding, point to the emergence of a simple, natural, and accessible health strategy against chronic inflammation, warranting the serious attention of clinicians and researchers. The living matrix (or ground regulation or tissue tensegrity-matrix system), the very fabric of the body, appears to serve as one of our primary antioxidant defense systems. As this report explains, it is a system requiring occasional recharging by conductive contact with the Earth’s surface – the ‘battery’ for all planetary life – to be optimally effective.
Have you ever been tucked under a tower of blankets in winter and seen or felt the white, hot sparks that result from friction? That’s static electricity. Or, as a child, enjoyed seeing your hair stand on end after grazing your head with a balloon?
We’re electric. It’s almost poetic.
And even more poetic to think that simply plugging ourselves back into the unobstructed earth can reap such an endless array of benefits like a reduction in inflammation, equalizing energy levels, modulation of hormonal cycles and physiological rhythms. Even more emerging research showcases earthing’s impact on blood viscosity, making it more fluid and less sticky, earthing’s ability to temper heart rates, lower cortisol, improve sleep and circadian rhythms, promote a healthy stress response, and much more.
How Modern Advancements Have Set Us Back
Never in history have humans had less direct contact with the earth and more exposure to detrimental energy than today. Back to the lightning analogy above, we’ve created the perfect electrical storm.
We live in high-rises, concrete and asphalt serve as barriers from the earth, and we are constantly bombarded with positive electrons, or free radicals, in the form of electromagnetic waves (EMF) and Wifi. We drive instead of walk, metal frames with rubber tires transporting us even around the block in the spirit of convenience, even our yoga mats are typically made of non-conductive material. And when we do walk, or enjoy nature, our feet are typically adorned with the latest, most fashionable rubber-soled hiking boots.
Our feet, our bodies and our hearts are hardwired to love the sand, the surf, the green, ideally dew-drenched grass, the earth, even the rocks that cut our feet and the thorns that graze our legs. We were made for it. But, you’d be hard pressed to find a boss today who’d allow you to show up to business meetings barefoot, or to work-from-a-riverbed a few days a week, and not everyone lives next to a white-sanded beach (I wish!).
Bringing the Wild Back
If you’ve read other posts on The Wildery, you’ll know that I believe nothing can replace wilderness itself. You have to see the wild, touch the wild, sit with the wild and listen to it, let it rain on you. And you sometimes have to hunt hard for it. Sometimes you have to see it in a potted plant, or ripe tomatoes on shelves, or on the backs of city sparrows.
Because there are the intangibles of earthing, the silences and wind, the way your breathing slows when you’re outdoors that cannot be simulated with products or advancing technologies. And I believe that the intangible benefits of earthing outweigh the tangible ones.
Options In the Meantime
Shoes: There are a few options to stay grounded if you’re not able to walk barefoot daily. An easy solution for me has been earthing shoes like these and these, though perhaps there’s a market for higher fashion looks that hasn’t yet been tapped into.