Emerging research suggests there are very real mental and physical benefits to making daily contact with the earth’s surface. Here’s what you need to know.
- Written by Genevieve Howland
- Updated on January 16, 2020
If you’ve ever stepped foot on a beach, you know there’s something deeply satisfying about sinking your toes into the bare sand. As it turns out, there’s a scientific reason for this—it’s called grounding.
What is Grounding?
This trending therapeutic practice, also called earthing, occurs when we do activities in which our skin comes into contact with the ground and our bodies become electrically connected to the earth through the earth’s surface electrons.
Though it all may sound a bit woo-woo, the reality is most of humanity has been practicing earthing for the majority of their lives—some without ever even realizing it! So while the conscious practice of grounding is a buzzy activity right now, it’s really not new at all.
In fact, the practice is deeply rooted in physics, and—despite limited formal research—there are plenty of proven ways grounding can positively affect our bodies and our moods. Because of this, we can expect to see much more research on this topic in the near future.
Benefits of Grounding
The good news is that the research that does exist on earthing is largely positive. Here’s a look at what we know about grounding so far:
It helps you sleep better
In one study, grounding therapy helped participants sleep longer and have fewer sleep disturbances. In the same study, participants also reported decreased levels of overall fatigue and improved mood after just four weeks of treatment with grounding mats.
It helps relieve stress
According to the results of another small study, just one hour of grounding therapy was significantly more effective and improving participants’ moods than relaxation alone.
It helps ease pain and promotes healing
Another study found that individuals who wore grounding patches after exercise reported lower levels of pain due to muscle damage. This suggests that grounding can not only help with pain, but can actually help our bodies heal itself.
It improves immune response
In one study that examined the effect of grounding on the classic immune response following vaccination, researchers confirmed an association between earthing and positive immune response.
It improves heart health
Another study found that hypertensive individuals with a long history of self-administered grounding therapy had lower blood pressure levels. It was so effective that the researchers of the study call earthing a “safe blood pressure-reducing therapy warranting further research.”
Why Grounding Works
The Earth possesses a limitless and continuously renewed supply of electrons that make the surface of the planet electrically conductive (except in limited ultra-dry areas like deserts). And—guess what—humans are also electrically charged beings. It only makes sense that the latest research on earthing suggests that these two forces sync to help create a more stable internal biological environment, helping our entire system function more efficiently.
The problem? Modern lifestyle inherently separates humans from such contact with the Earth. Think about it: Instead of walking barefoot or using traditional leather-soled shoes, we wear thick rubber-soled shoes. Instead of sleeping on the earth in huts or log cabins, we are in high rises or elevated houses. Instead of forging all day, walking the earth, we sit in office buildings or cars.
Mounting research suggests this growing disconnect may be a major contributor to physiological dysfunction and unwellness. In fact, researchers call it an “overlooked environmental factor on health,” suggesting the practice of grounding is something important for modern society.
How to Practice Grounding
It’s easy to practice grounding—you just have to physically connect yourself (your feet, hands, or entire body) to the earth. Here are some common ways to do so:
It doesn’t matter where you go for your barefoot stroll—the grass, sand, or dirt. The important thing is to allow your skin to touch the natural ground. (If you know there are buried electrical lines in your front yard, chose a park or forest preserve instead.)
Lay on the ground
Again, it doesn’t matter where you lay down, as long as it’s on natural ground (grass, dirt, sand, etc.). You can ground during a picnic if you use a thin cotton or natural fiber blanket. If it’s winter, think snow angels!
Some say water is just as effective. This means swimming in the ocean, standing in a riverbed, taking a dip in a hot spring, or wading in a lake or a pond would also work. (Sorry—bathtubs and pools don’t count.)
Too Cold to Ground?
There are plenty of good options if the weather is less than ideal:
Go forest bathing
If it’s a little too cold to dig your toes into the dirt, but not so cold you can’t be outside, try forest bathing instead. This practice has many benefits, including improved mood, reduced inflammation, decreased risk of heart attack and obesity, clearer skin, and better sleep (a great reason to bring your kids along!).
Wear grounding shoes
There are some shoes that have copper plugs on the soles that actually help you ground to the earth on a near constant basis—no matter how cold it is. Some popular examples include Earth Runners and Pluggz. You can also find tons of options on Amazon.
Try indoor options
For many people in the Northern hemisphere, there are many times of the year where it’s simply not as easy to practice grounding. (Can you imagine walking barefoot through snow and sleet—brrr!) Though outdoor methods of earthing are superior, luckily there are some great, modern ways to practice earthing indoors.
If you like to shop on Amazon, take a look at these options:
But, if you’re really serious about grounding, check out this website—it’s the best and most thorough resource I’ve found thus far, plus the products are very high quality.
Note: While there is no inherent danger of grounding outside (provided you are in a safe location), it’s important to follow all directions on indoor options to prevent risk of electrocution.
How Often to Ground
Though we lack formal studies on exact duration, experts say you don’t have to commit a full hour to this—just 20 minutes a day is a good benchmark for full effect.
And don’t beat yourself if you miss a day. Be realistic about what works for you, and know that no matter how often you ground, there are likely lasting benefits. In studies on forest bathing, researchers found that the positive effects lasted for more than a week after the forest excursion.
Looking for More Resources on Grounding?
Because earthing is so popular today, there are a growing number of resources that can really help you tune into the practice. Some of my favorites include:
- Earthing: The Most Important Health Discovery Ever! by Clinton Ober
- The Earthing Movie—a documentary you can stream on YouTube
- This podcast by Ben Greenfield Fitness
The Bottom Line on Grounding
There’s still much research to be done. But emerging evidence shows just how powerful contact with the Earth can be. It’s exciting to think that just being one with nature could vastly improve overall health and mood, and I can’t wait to see how daily grounding therapy may affect my own body!
How About You?
Do you practice grounding regularly? Have you noticed any positive effects? Share with us in the comments below!