Get Grounded: The Surprising Benefits of Being Barefoot

Have you ever been in your garden and had an overwhelming, instinctive urge to kick off your shoes and feel the grass beneath your feet? You might not realise it, but there’s a specific term for exactly that action (and a growing body of scientific evidence to say it comes with real health benefits): grounding.

Grounding, or earthing, is a practice that taps into our intuitive impulse to keep a close bond with the Earth. The premise is simple: by planting your bare skin – typically your feet - directly on the ground outside, you can reconnect with the Earth’s natural surface charge. As the Journal of Environmental and Public Health [1] states:

“It is an established, though not widely appreciated fact, that the Earth’s surface possesses a limitless and continuously renewed supply of free electrons. The Earth’s negative charges can create a stable internal bioelectrical environment for the normal functioning of all body systems, which may be important for setting the biological clock, regulating circadian rhythms, and balancing cortisol levels.”

Just like grounding electrical cables to remove unwanted static and give excess charge a safe place to go, grounding your body similarly neutralises the positive electrical charge that runs through it – reportedly producing a calming, anti-inflammatory effect.

If being barefoot outdoors sounds like a ridiculously basic means of benefitting your health, that’s probably because it is. And yet, how much time do we spend with our skin touching grass, dirt, or sand each day? If modern averages are anything to go by, it’s not very much – if any - time at all.

Clint Ober, author of Earthing: The Most Important Health Discovery Ever?, explains [2] how, these days, “we all wear shoes with non-conductive (usually rubber) soles that insulate our bodies from the earth”. This is in stark contrast to ancient times, when “most people either walked barefoot or on shoes with leather soles that became conductive when they were wet with sweat.”

Ober, however, is no stranger to the scepticism grounding is often met with, admitting in an interview for The Earthing Movie: The Remarkable Science of Grounding [3] that “it sounds absurd. How can I just take my shoes off, put my feet on the ground and reduce inflammation?”. But, Ober says, “it’s one of those things that you can talk about, but until you experience it, you’re not going to believe it.” 

So, what are the consequences of our shift from naturally grounded, barefoot nomads, to laced-up house dwellers, car drivers, and office workers – disconnected from the earth beneath us? According to the advocates of grounding, our detachment from the earth is causing us heightened inflammation, stress, disturbed sleep, and slumping energy levels.

There’s also increasing concern that, because of our shoe-wearing, indoor-centric lifestyles, we absorb excessive amounts of electromagnetic radiation from our ever-present electrical devices; mobile phones, Wi-Fi routers, and laptops – thereby throwing off the delicate electromagnetic balance needed to maintain optimal health.

On the other hand, when we actively ground ourselves - enjoying the Earth’s natural supply of free electrons – a series of initial studies seem to show [4] an inflammation-reducing, mood-improving, anxiety-lowering effect.

Research has found that grounding can improve sleep, speed healing and reduce chronic pain [5]. Other studies have shown that grounding can reduce muscle soreness and fatigue [6], improve heart rate variability [7] and even potentially increase facial blood flow [8], possibly having an anti-aging effect on the skin. Grounding can also seemingly reduce blood viscosity [9] – a major risk factor in heart disease.

“Of course,” says Ober, “there’s also a primitive emotional effect from grounding via your bare feet, reconnecting with the earth, relaxing in nature”. Conscious Spaces founder Tara Williams agrees, saying:

“Along the way, we’ve lost much of our primeval connection with the natural world. We now exist in largely sterile environments and spend most of our days indoors. This is bad news for both our emotional and physical wellbeing. Getting outside and grounding yourself is a hugely beneficial practice for your health, allowing you to access the wonderful healing properties of the Earth’s natural electromagnetic frequencies, and to really connect with the natural landscape.”

What of the wider medical world’s views on this movement that’s sweeping the holistic health scene? "The consensus is that it's not curative," board-certified neurologist Ilene Ruhoy, M.D., Ph.D., told mindbodygreen [10]. However, she said, grounding “can be recommended within an integrative plan for mostly preventive but also therapeutic, health management." Ruhoy added that electrical medicine is certainly intriguing, though, noting that human cell structures have been likened to battery packs [11] thanks to their ability to conduct electrical currents.

Get Grounded: The Surprising Benefits of Being Barefoot

Keen to have a go at grounding yourself? Follow these simple steps to get the best results: 

  • Walk, stand or sit with bare feet (and hands if you like!) touching the earth. Direct contact is vital.
  • The ground you’re in contact with needs to be natural; grass, sand, soil and rocks all count. Being barefoot in your home or on the pavement, where minimally conductive or nonconductive materials like tiles, tarmac and hardwood flooring shield you from the Earth’s electric charge, will not have the same effect.
  • Anytime spent barefoot in nature is beneficial - and just 15 minutes a day should help to reduce your stress levels - but it is recommended to spend a minimum of thirty minutes if possible to feel the full effects.
  • Always be aware of your surroundings and make sure the ground is safe and smooth enough to walk on barefoot without injury.
  • Want to make your grounding experience extra soothing? Choose a scenic setting, leave your phone at home and incorporate mindfulness techniques. Notice the colours and sounds around you, and explore the feel of the soil, sand, water or grass beneath your feet to add another immersive layer to your grounding practice.

No access to outdoor, natural ground? There’s now a variety of grounding products available to allow you to sleep, work and live grounded – outdoors or indoors alike.  

Grounding products to look out for include:

Grounding shoes

Free your feet when walking outdoors with specially made earthing shoes. Most modern shoes have rubber soles, which block your connection to the ground’s natural surface charge (hence why you want to be wearing a pair if you ever get struck by lightning). Earthing shoes generally either have thin, natural leather soles (whereby the permeability of the leather allows a connection to the earth), or – as with Earth Runners, grounded conductive lacing material and a copper ground plug, which mimics the primal experience of being barefoot.

Grounding bed mat

There are huge reported benefits to sleeping grounded, including a settled circadian rhythm, improved heart rate variability and better sleep.  You can find our favourite EMF Protective Grounding Bed Mat here in the Conscious Spaces shop.

“I believe nighttime is the most important time to ground your body and protect yourself from manmade electromagnetic frequencies,” says Tara, “as that’s when your body and brain are detoxifying and repairing.”

“An EMF protection bed canopy, like the one we stock in our online shop, paired with a properly grounded bed mat with a powerline filter ( to stop any stray current coming back onto the earth wire) is a take-anywhere set-up that I highly recommend.”

“If you cannot get the amazing healing properties of the Earth’s surface charge and the connection to be had from the natural environment”, says Tara, “then you could also use Qi-Technologies devices to help maintain wellbeing in the home.” 

“One of the things I do to help is to spend a minute or two closing my eyes and holding/touching/placing my hands around the copper of the Qi Shield or Qi Home. I can actively ‘feel’ the positive beneficial effects of this practice – leaving me instantly calmer and more settled.”

 

TARA'S GROUNDING EXERCISE 

Try getting a family member or friend to lead you through this exercise, reading aloud – and then why not return the favour and guide them through it too?

Begin barefoot, ideally standing or sitting on the earth (grass/sand/rocks are all great!), but even sitting on a chair will do.

Put down anything you might be holding, switch off your phone, and just relax, just be. Let’s take this time together to ground ourselves, and you can then use this exercise anytime you need to stop and pause in the future. 

I invite you to shut your eyes and just relax.

Now, place your left hand on your heart centre, and your right hand over your abdominal area.

Just notice how that feels to you. Do you feel tension, relaxation? No judgement, just noticing as and when things arise.

So now, as you are breathing, if I asked you where you are energetically right now as you have your eyes closed, would you say you were embodied right now, present right now or maybe you might say I feel I am up to the left, behind me, behind my left ear :-)...now invite yourself if you are outside yourself back into your body, just breathe yourself back in, into your heart centre, breathe...there we go.

You're inviting only yourself and your energy back into your heart centre, only your energy, no one else's, and with your intention this is so.

Now after you have breathed this feeling into your heart, I am going to ask you to turn your attention to your abdominal area were your hand is holding and with your intention, you are going to imagine a line, a root, a rope going from your belly button, all the way down out of your body, down, down until it gets to the centre of the Earth, and then you’re going to tether that rope, that root, knowing that if you ever need to gain extra energy, if you tug on it with intention or even pelvic floor, then energy will flow from the Earth up into you and help you to ground.

So, as you follow the rope, the root, the line back up you’re going to breathe this into your abdomen and then you’re going to follow the root growing up through you into your heart centre, breath, and then up and up until it goes through your centre and out through the top of your head…with your intention this is going to now go straight to the centre of the sun, you’re going to tether the other end of this to here.

How does it feel? Do you feel this energy? Again, you can pull on this rope, this root with your intention, anytime you need that extra energy follow the rope down back through your head, until it reaches your heart and now breathe, knowing you are rooted (as above, so below) and can always find this strength and unwavering support whenever you need it…

Finally, gently cup your hand, palms facing your face and gently open your eyes and as you open them you’re going to lift the palms still together, up over the centre of your head, and down to the back of your neck and then separately bring your hands back down in front of your heart centre point, and palms back together as if in prayer in front of your heart area. 

References

[1] https://www.hindawi.com/journals/jeph/2012/291541/

[2] https://goop.com/wellness/health/earthing-how-walking-barefoot-could-cure-your-insomnia-more/

[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=44ddtR0XDVU&t=34s

[4] https://earthinginstitute.net/research/

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4378297/

[6] https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphys.2019.00035/full

[7] https://earthinginstitute.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Emotional-stress-study.pdf

[8] https://www.scirp.org/journal/PaperInformation.aspx?PaperID=51326

[9] https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/pdfplus/10.1089/acm.2011.0820

[10] https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/3-earthing-methods-how-to-find-right-one-for-you

[11] https://www.embopress.org/doi/full/10.15252/embj.2018101056

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