Earthing. Grounding yourself to Mama Earth.
Throughout history, humans walked, sat, and slept on the ground. We cultivated land with our bare hands and spent the vast majority of our days living directly within nature. However, today, we have become increasingly disconnected from our environment as a result of our modern lifestyle.
What if I told you that going outside meant more for your health than just your body soaking up vitamin-D from the sun? Have you ever thought about the surface in which you walk upon outside as something that offers you medicinal energy? Medicinal energy right at your fingertips... or... toetips?
It always feels so refreshing and nurturing to spend time in the great outdoors, but does contact with the earth's surface actually have a real impact on us? Or is this just some hippy-dippy concept that's probably just a placebo effect? Well, science shows that there's a reason why it makes us feel so darn good, and why it could be extremely beneficial to our long-term health and vitality.
First off, let's start by delving into what Earthing actually is. Earthing is the process of connecting one's body to the earth's natural energy field. AKA, planting those feet of ours (or skin) on the ground. AKA, grounding.
Emerging research is revealing that direct physical contact of the human body with the surface of the earth has profound effects on human physiology and health, namely the immune system, autonomic nervous system, and cardiovascular system. This is mainly to do with the electrons being emitted from the earth's surface.
The earth and are bodies are essentially conductors of free electrons. This is because our bodies are composed of mostly of water and minerals, which in combination are excellent receivers of electrons from the Earth – providing there is direct skin contact or some other conductive channel for them to flow through.
The earth has an electronegative charge. So skin-on-earth contact allows us to soak up these negatively-charged electrons. The magical thing about these electrons is that they neutralize positively-charged free radicals in our bodies, thus creating an antioxidant affect.
Your body kills a billion cells a day and builds a billion new cells a day through a processing mechanism in our body called an oxidative metabolism. As a result of this process, you create positively-charged free radicals that can attack our DNA if they aren't kept under control. If you're unclear about what free radicals are, they are atoms or molecules with an unpaired electron. This is what makes them unstable.
Positively-charged free radicals can be introduced to our bodies via the metabolic process we talked about, as well as via toxins such as air pollution, stress, electrical devices we own, or inflammation which can be caused by our immune system working hard to fight off viruses, bacteria, and damaged cells. As a result, the human body (especially this day in age), is mostly positively charged.
For good measure, we need a certain amount of free radicals that our body produces. But in order to make sure they are kept under control, and in order to prevent them from causing damaging activity, those free radicals need antioxidants. This is why berries and other fruits with a lot of antioxidants are so good for you, but also why skin-on-earth contact (earthing) is just as vital. Free radicals are a part of life, but they need these negatively-charged electrons that work as antioxidants to keep them stable.
AUTONOMIC NERVOUS SYSTEM
As a system that rapidly responds to emotional and environmental stimuli, the autonomic nervous system (ANS) controls a wide range of bodily functions. This largely involuntary part of the nervous system regulates heart and respiratory performance, as well as gastrointestinal, hormonal, and urinary activity to name a few. More specifically, these bodily functions are controlled by the ANS’s sympathetic and parasympathetic branches.
The sympathetic nervous system (SNS) branch prepares the body to deal with stressors, while the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) branch relaxes the body. The PNS is known as the rest and digest mode because your body is able to relax and perform normal functions such as eating and sleeping in this mode, which it otherwise can't do properly when the SNS is active. This is why long-term stress can do a number to our tummies, for instance!
Earthing directly supports the calming, parasympathetic mode of the ANS. This is because the electronegative charge of the earth supports proper nerve impulse activity in the body, allowing stuck or blocked electrical currents to channel freely. These days, we are surrounded by constant psychological arousal from stressful news, jobs, obligations, being so connected to social media and the internet, etc. So, anything that can improve ANS function is of great benefit for overall health, since the ANS controls much of our organism.
In addition to Earthing, other grounding practices like exercise, yoga, meditation, and breathwork will allow your body to become more relaxed and will create an electrical balance in your nervous system.
The cardiovascular system is operated by the nervous system. Often doctors look at the heart as something completely isolated from the rest of the body, rather than something connected to a large system that works together day in and day out.
As I mentioned in the section above, the autonomic nervous system (ANS) controls your bodily functions and organs. Think of your body like a house. Just as your house is supplied with electricity so that your lights and appliances can work, the autonomic nervous system supplies your body and thus your organs with electricity.
The ANS is what supplies the heart with electricity. For instance, you can have a structurally normal heart and still get arrhythmias (irregular heart rate). This is because something could be slightly off with your autonomic nervous system. Whether it be stress, or even a nerve compression somewhere in your neck, improper nerve function can be what is disrupting your ANS and thus heart rhythm.
If you're experiencing heart rhythm disturbances like arrhythmias, it's always best to check first to see if your heart structure looks normal. Once that is ruled out, you'll know that ANS disruption is likely to blame.
In a study just published in Integrative Medicine: A Clinician's Journal, an improvement in heart rate variability (HRV), which refers to changes in heart rate, was recorded during 40-minute Earthing sessions. Normal HRV is associated with good ANS function and lessens the likelihood of cardiovascular events. Poor HRV, conversely, is an indicator of stress and ANS dysfunction.
According to Cardiologist, Dr. Stephen Sinatra, "in patients who experience anxiety, emotional stress, panic, fear, and/or symptoms of involuntary muscle contractions and spasms, including headaches, cardiac palpitations, and dizziness, Earthing represents a genuinely promising therapy. Reconnecting the body to the Earth offers perhaps the most natural tool available anywhere, for anyone."
The Integrative Medicine study confirmed a balancing effect on the autonomic nervous system, as well as a restoration of normal tone that reduces the stress response, which means that grounding exercises like Earthing can actually help you deal with stress better when confronted with it in the future. But these responses also go beyond basic relaxation, as there have been repeated reports from people who experience better circulation, lower blood pressure, and improved arrhythmias after they start Earthing.
Other health benefits of Earthing include:
Reducing inflammation, and improve or eliminate the symptoms of many inflammation-related disorders such as Arthritis
Reducing or eliminating chronic pain
Improving sleep, promoting a deeper sleep due to a more regulated circadian rhythm
Increasing energy levels