Between building your empire and working through your Netflix shortlist, there’s not a lot of time left for long, leisurely walks in the park.
But there’s a good reason to work some nature dates into your schedule – particularly the kind that involve kicking off your shoes. It’s called earthing, and it’s an effective and simple way to de-stress and boost wellbeing.
While it’s hardly a shocker to hear that spending time in the great outdoors is relaxing, studies have found that earthing – that is when you have direct skin contact with the earth’s surface, such as with your bare feet or hands – works in a unique way to ease stress, improve sleep and reduce pain.
So, what is earthing?
Also known as grounding, this wellness practice is based on the idea that our bodies have an electrical charge that can be neutralised when we get in touch with the planet. That’s a big deal because the stuff of modern life – technology, chemicals, pollution, stress – contributes to a build-up of positively charged electrons (also known as free radicals) in the body, which is linked to a host of inflammation-based health issues. When you walk barefoot on the grass or wiggle your toes in the sand, you soak up the earth’s negative charge, reducing positive electrons and their nasty effects. Basically, you’re accessing the planet’s natural and infinite supply of antioxidants.
While more research needs to be done to confirm the effects of earthing, scientists have already shown that this simple technique can have a real impact. A summary of studies in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health found that grounding can improve sleep, reduce stress and pain, and speed healing. Another study found that 40 minutes of earthing could significantly reduce stress and anxiety by improving heart rate variability and balancing the body’s autonomic nervous system. The practice has also been linked to improved blood pressure and viscosity, regulated circadian rhythms and accelerated recovery from exercise.
How do I “earth”?
The best bit? Earthing feels good and it’s completely free – all you need to do is find a patch of grass and lose your shoes. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Our hectic lifestyles and lit sneaker collections can make a surprisingly tough obstacle to regular earthing, so your challenge is to find a way to bare your soles as often as possible.
If you already have a morning meditation or yoga routine, try moving it outdoors – doing sun salutations or mindful breathing with feet plugged into the earth equals double the zen. Take a walk on the beach, go for a swim in the ocean (yep, it counts), eat your lunch in a park sans shoes, or simply lie down on the grass whenever you get the chance. And if you’re really struggling to venture outdoors on a regular basis, you can buy products such as grounding mats and bed sheets to ensure you don’t miss out on Mother Nature’s healing power.
Experts recommend earthing on damp surfaces, such as wet sand and grass, for maximum benefits, but any natural surface from dirt to rocks should do the trick. And while the effects can start to show within 30 minutes, a daily practice will ensure you get the cumulative benefits of this ground hero.