When you think of how many people have ditched city life for the countryside over the past eighteen months (it’s estimated around 700,000 people left London in 2020 alone), it’s hard to deny that in times of hardship or intense stress, we crave the comfort and simplicity of nature.
You’ve probably heard by now that the Earth grants us numerous benefits, both in the resources it provides for us and for our overall well-being. The effect a day spent surrounded by woodland, sand, or grass can have on one’s mood is almost restorative. It’s a sensation I’ve found is akin to a mental reset, the flip of an off/on switch inside the brain.
Throughout my childhood, I constantly heard the phrase: fresh air is good for you. Naturally, this meant little to me at the time. But, as I got older and moved away from my quiet, countryside home to the city, I learned more about the Earth and her properties. Finally, I realized what the adults had been talking about.
I’m talking, of course, about the Earth’s (supposed) grounding effects. It’s a practice that’s often referred to as Earthing; and entails forming a connection with the ground beneath us by touching bare skin to soil, grass, sand, etc.
Although there’s very little formal research on the practice, it’s thought to reduce stress and inflammation, boost immunity, and regulate sleeping patterns.
The process is said to happen on a cellular level. By connecting with the Earth’s natural, negative electric current, we release the positive charge that often builds up in our bodies. This then initiates a healing process.
Ok, yes, I was skeptical too. Touching our palm or sole to a patch of dirt doesn’t exactly scream enjoyable. In fact, with the kind of weather we have in England, it honestly sounds unpleasant. Think damp, sticky mud and near-constant drizzle—hardly the conditions you’d want to spend your morning meditation in.
But how about when the grey clouds part? And the rain finally stops? Will venturing out into the early morning chill, rather than staying inside in the warmth of our homes, really benefit us?
According to a small study published in 2015, one hour of grounding (Earthing) therapy was found to significantly improve participants’ mood, all of whom suffered from anxiety and/or depression.
Another article suggests that these practices may significantly help during times of crisis, such as PTSD flashbacks or anxiety attacks. This is due to the technique’s ability to bring the mind and body back to the Earth by connecting and syncing the two. As with other grounding techniques (such as breathing exercises or the five senses), Earthing helps calm the mind and reduce Cortisol (the stress hormone) levels.
So, it wasn’t only my childhood ailments—coughs and colds and runny noses—that I was told required “some fresh air,” as I’d believed, but my mental health also.
Perhaps this is why I spent so much of my time wandering through fields and woodlands, climbing trees, and building forts from fallen branches. My family had wanted some air after being cooped up at work, stressed and tired from a long week of early starts and parental responsibilities. That, and they simply wanted to tire us out, energetic as we were.
When we’re stressed, it can sometimes feel like taking thirty minutes to meditate is too much, particularly when we have other, seemingly more pressing responsibilities on our minds. But those who regularly practice grounding can tell you how beneficial it is.
Of course, Earthing isn’t supposed to be complicated and should be done alone or with fewer people—as you would if you were meditating indoors. Maybe you have a ritual or a specific spot you like to practice in? The same can be done when undertaking this practice.
Find a quiet spot—in a local park or even your back garden (if you don’t happen to live somewhere with an abundance of grass)—where you can be alone with your thoughts and emotions.
Hold your palms against the ground, close your eyes, and breathe. Let your mind calm, and focus only on the feel of the Earth against your skin.
Alternatively, if you’d prefer to be moving while connecting with the Earth, try it while doing yoga or walking the dog.
You don’t have to practice this obsessively. Once or twice a week is enough to allow your mental batteries to recharge. Perhaps now, as you wake up and stretch, or during your morning coffee run, or as you sit in the park on your lunch break, would be a good time to try it?