When you first hear the word “grounding,” you may think of espresso beans, but sadly the term has nothing to do with Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks. It simply means activities that connect you to the surface of the earth, like walking barefoot in the grass. The purpose of this is to be in contact with the earth’s plentiful electrons that can have antioxidant effects on the human body.
Think of the earth as the ultimate stabilizer. We are electric beings comprised of many enzymes that are sensitive to our environments. Each enzyme has an optimal pH level. A change in our electrical environment alters the pH and can throw off our entire biosystem, planting the seeds of disease and illness. In order to maintain a stable internal bioelectrical environment that promotes health, we need to plug into the earth’s surface—much like recharging our cell phone.
Consider the difference in your energy when you are walking along the beach barefoot and when you are in a crowded store in the mall. Everything in that latter environment has a charge: the Led Zeppelin playing in the background, the fluorescent lights flashing above, the cellphone of the lady next to you, as well as the words she is shouting into the phone. You’re not cognizant of the shifts in your internal bioelectric environment, but they are happening.
My Science Experiment
I first heard of grounding a year ago. The daughter of a friend of mine was going through a period where she had a lot of anxiety and emotional outbursts. My friend’s co-worker, who grew up in a culture that used grounding in medicine, told her to take the daughter outside for ten minutes each morning and have her stand in the grass. She followed his directions, and after two weeks the daughter was noticeably calmer.
Initially I was as skeptical of this as I am of other simple solutions to complex health conditions. Trust me. It’s going to take a little more than 10 minutes in the grass to heal the molecules in this body. However, at that time I was also intrigued because my bloodwork showed inflammation throughout my body and an MRI indicated some swelling in my brain. I was also experiencing worrisome brain fog.
So I conducted my own experiment.
For four months, I grounded for at least a half-hour each day. Instead of working out at the gym, I ran a few miles to my favorite beach. I took off my running shoes, put my feet in the sand and waded in the bay. Then I walked around a nearby field for fifteen minutes. The grass felt prickly and I attracted curious stares. It all felt like a waste of time, but I stuck with it. Whenever possible during that stretch – from June to October — I tried to be outside and let nature heal my brain.
What the Research Says
After four months of grounding, my inflammation was reduced. I know this because my Raynaud’s symptoms improved. I had better blood flow to my fingers. They weren’t going numb every time I held a cold glass of water. The swelling in my gums was considerably less, too, which suggested lower inflammation throughout my body. Most importantly, my memory and concentration significantly improved. I began to write more in my journal.
I don’t give all the credit to grounding. I was also spending a lot of time at the horse farm, which offered a similar kind of healing. My diet was extremely clean. I had removed gluten, dairy, soy, and sugar, and was making a celery-ginger juice each day to reduce inflammation. My mattress was propped up with two books, Self-Compassion and Acedia & Me, to try to reduce the swelling in my brain.
Aside from all these variables, I believe the grounding itself helped decrease inflammation, which is consistent with the research on the topic. A review study published in the Journal of Inflammation Research cited the findings to date on the effects of grounding on inflammation, immune response, wound healing, and the prevention and treatment of chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. In one pilot study, it was determined that grounding the body to the earth alters the measures of immune system activity and pain – that it can speed the recovery from delayed-onset muscle soreness.
A Spiritual Practice
Perhaps even more significant than the physiological benefits of grounding are the spiritual lessons implicit in the activity. Grounding has become for me a spiritual practice to remind me that I have a solid foundation in God, the creator of all living things. It may feel as though I’m a delicate dandelion vulnerable to the wind, but I am deeply rooted in the Source of all life. By planting my feet in the sand or even touching the grass, I am connecting to my faith in an all-loving Creator and communicating to my brain a message of security.
My grounding practice is a way of saying to myself the same thing the late Henri Nouwen wrote in his book The Inner Voice of Love: “You have to trust the place that is solid, the place where you can say yes to God’s love even when you do not feel it…. You have to choose the solid place over and over again and return to it after every failure.”
It is this stabilizing force of the earth – both physiological and spiritual – that is so powerful.
A Healing Source
The authors of the review study referred to the earth’s surface as the “battery for all planetary life.” Other scientists suggest grounding as a possible intervention for many of the chronic degenerative diseases in our era.
Could a potent power of healing really be under our feet?
Maybe it’s not as simple as that, but I think everyone needs a sense of security, a reminder that they are standing on solid ground.