“I’m feeling really grounded today”.
We’ve all said or heard it, but what does it actually mean? Why use the word “grounded”?
Well, at the most surface level we’re simply expressing a feeling of balance and stability, that we are feeling solid and secure in ourselves within time and space in that moment. But, the ground in grounding is significant as we are communicating a feeling of being strongly connected to the immovability beneath our feet. And though it’s easy to forget, and we far too often do, that ground is The Earth.
That’s what grounding is – connecting to The Earth.
And it’s one proper powerful yet practical health and wellbeing practice.
The science behind grounding comes down to electric charge. Our bodies are a hub of electro-magnetic activity, resulting in atoms within us existing as either positive, negative, or neutral charges. Now, evolution and our connection with nature meant that in a natural setting all these contrasting charges would be in balance, leaving us fit and healthy. However, the modern environment, particularly our disconnection from nature (just ask yourself how often your bare feet touch the natural surface of Earth) and the presence of ever increasing electrical components around us, means our electric charges are effectively short-circuiting. Which is resulting in negative health outcomes, specifically poor sleep and effectively through that mechanism alone, increased inflammation which means pain, anxiety, depression and a poorly functioning immune system [to name but a few].
Grounding with the Earth reverses that electric dysbiosis [by flooding the red blood cells with negative ions] and with it a slew of negative health outcomes. The first person to tackle this scientifically was Clinton Ober, a communications industry veteran who worked day in day out with electricity and having fallen victim to a debilitating mysterious illness that the medical field could not figure out (a common story nowadays). Ober had an inkling his close proximity to copious amounts of artificial electric and magnetic fields (EMF) could be the culprit.
Ober eventually designed and conducted an experiment to investigate grounding’s effect on sleep and pain and it showed “significant improvement in sleep, reduction of pain and other things like PMS issues disappeared, TMJ disappeared, just all kinds of issues [disappeared]”. That inspired him to conduct more research, which he did in collaboration with a doctor who actually only agreed in order to prove Ober’s “nutty” theories wrong. Lo and behold, to said cynical doctor’s shock, the study showed positive statistically significant results with respect to cortisol levels. What Ober’s study showed was that grounding “synchronized” the subject’s cortisol levels, spiking it in the morning and leveling it at night.
Cortisol is a critical hormone connected to your circadian rhythm, or natural waking and sleeping cycle. It should spike early in the morning to get your body moving and energized for the day and taper off over the day so that by nightfall you’re ready to sleep and get much needed rest. These days, many people’s cortisol cycle is upside down, with too little action in the ‘am’ leading to fatigue, sluggishness, fogginess, etc. and too much in the ‘pm’ meaning insomnia and its legion of downstream effects.
That successful study inspired Ober to pursue grounding as a health intervention and over the years in conjunction with a host of medical professionals has published more than 20 peer-reviewed papers showing benefits related to sleep, inflammation, stress, anxiety, heart rate variation, vagal nerve tone, blood glucose, serum electrolytes and wound healing.
So, how do you get grounding?
It couldn’t be easier – just touch the Earth with your skin. Walk barefoot, take a snooze in the grass, garden without gloves, anything that puts you back in touch with the natural surfaces of Earth. And although even concrete actually works fine (but asphalt does not), the best stuff to be in contact with is grass and soil/sand. And there’s even one better surface than that – salt water. So, if you’re lucky enough to be by the beach, take regular dips because “you can’t get more perfectly grounded than jumping in the ocean”.
Time wise? More is more. You can’t overdue grounding. But as a rule of thumb, 30 minutes is recommended at a minimum as within that time span the body will have completed a total circulation of the blood in the body.
But given the context of so many of our lives, getting on or into nature isn’t always possible. Step forward the modern solutions to the problems of modernity. Grounding sheets and mats and other gizmos and gadget are available to integrate into your lifestyle. Using them for sleeping and at your computer workstations are ideal solutions given the time we spend in those places. There are also cool little grounding gizmos that attach to shoes.
I think that about says it all. Connecting to the Earth is a powerful way to connect to the healing power within yourself and your body. So, as cool as the grounding gadgets can be, really consider cultivating a barefoot practice. Don’t worry about how you look, just be brave and be barefoot.