We’re back with Tip #33, and I am so excited to share this one with you! So far in our Full Year of Resolutions, we’ve shared 32 More Than Healthy Tips to help you on your wellness journey. This week’s tip is one of my very favorites, and is perhaps one of the most under-appreciated and under-utilized in our modern world. Tip #33 is all about the health benefits of earthing.
What on earth is earthing?
I can already hear some of you saying, “What on earth are you talking about?” But that’s exactly what I’m talking about – getting in touch with the earth. Earthing, sometimes referred to as grounding, is the practice of connecting to the earth’s natural energy. We do this when part of the body directly touches the earth (grass, sand, dirt, water, rock, etc). Earthing means living in contact with the Earth’s natural surface charge – or, in other words, being grounded.
When your bare feet or skin come in contact with the Earth, free electrons are taken up into the body. These electrons could be referred to as nature’s biggest antioxidants. They help neutralize damaging excess free radicals that can lead to inflammation and disease.
You probably already know that it’s good for your physical and mental health to spend time outdoors. But it’s not just because you’re getting great sunlight (we’ll talk about that in a future post). It’s also about getting the benefits of connecting with the Earth. Just like vitamin D in our body is produced by the energy generated from the sun, 93 million miles away, the Earth right under our feet provides energy that directly influences our body. Scientists believe that earthing corrects an ‘electron deficiency syndrome,’ an overlooked and significant cause of many health problems.
Getting the charge we need from the Earth
We talked in a previous post about how our bodies are made from and run on energy. And we mean literal energy, not just the kind you get from eating carbs. Think about static electricity, when your own finger has the power to shock someone. The human body is neutrally charged. We feel static when we get positively or negatively charged. We even generate electricity. At rest, the human body produces around 100 watts of power, enough to turn on a light bulb. Everything we are able to do is controlled by electrical signals running through our bodies.
The Earth provides a vital energy source that many of us are starved for. Our planet is alive with natural energy. In fact, it’s a six sextillion (that’s six followed by 21 zeroes!) metric ton battery that is continually being replenished by solar radiation, lightning, and heat from its core. Every living thing benefits from this natural energy. We are a collection of cells that constantly send and receive energy. Your heart, brain, nervous system, muscles, and immune system are perfect examples of electrical subsystems operating within your bioelectrical body.
Our disconnect with Earth
The problem is, our lifestyles have separated us from the limitless healing energy that the earth has. We live on Earth, but most of us don’t actually touch the Earth a whole lot anymore. Throughout most of history, mankind has had a direct physical connection with the Earth. We walked barefoot and slept on the ground. We spent time cultivating the land with our bare hands.
Today, however, we live in an insulated world. We wear nonconductive shoes, walk on carpeted floors, and sleep in elevated beds. We rarely go barefoot outside. We’re disconnected. Research says that this disconnect is a major contributor to physiological dysfunction and unwellness.
In today’s world, to reap the vitally important benefits of Mother Earth, we have to be intentional. We have to leave the insulation of our modern world and seek it out. Practicing earthing has the potential to restore and maintain the human body’s most natural electrical state, which in turn promotes optimum health and functionality in daily life.
I first thought earthing sounded crazy, too
Some of you may be thinking that this sounds crazy. Connecting with the earth’s surface has a healing effect? When I first heard of this over six years ago, I thought the same thing. I had listened to an interview where Dr. Stephen T. Sinatra talked about a book he had co-written called Earthing, the Most Important Health Discovery Ever.
In the interview he said, “Earthing is among the most natural and safest things you can do to improve your health: something simple yet astoundingly profound. It isn’t a treatment but a hugely rewarding return-to-a-core aspect of nature that we have abandoned. Earthing is a missing link in the health equation.”
Well that really struck me. I was battling cancer at the time, so I ordered his book. I read it in just a few days, and I was convinced. Since then I’ve slept on an earthing mat, which is a conductive system that transfers the Earth’s electrons from the ground into my body, as much as possible. I also work to connect with the earth as much as I can. I no longer think earthing is crazy. I’m convinced that earthing has been a significant part of my journey to health.
Here are five of the benefits we’ve experienced from earthing:
Benefit #1: Earthing can improve your sleep
Carla was dubious at first when I originally got excited about earthing. I bought earthing mats to sleep on and to have at our desks, and she gave me that ‘David’s-a-little-crazy look,’ but went along with it. One thing we both noticed was that we started to sleep better. Once Carla noticed that, she was all in. Since sleep is a foundation of health for us here at More Than Healthy, we embrace anything that can help us achieve healthy sleep.
Studies show that grounding the human body to the earth during sleep reduces nighttime levels of cortisol, the body’s main stress hormone. It also resynchronizes cortisol hormone secretion so that it is more in alignment with the natural 24-hour circadian rhythm profile. This naturally helps improve the amount of deep sleep you get, thus improving your overall sleep quality. You wake feeling more rested and ready for the day.
Studies show that earthing helps with every aspect of the sleeping process, including less morning fatigue, less nighttime pain, higher energy during the day, and falling asleep faster.
Benefit #2: Earthing helps lower stress
In addition to sleeping better, I also noticed that it helped manage my stress levels. Of course when you’re getting better sleep, you’re better able to handle stress, but this was different.
The research shows that earthing lowers stress and promotes calmness in the body by activating the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) which promotes relaxation and reduces the stress hormone cortisol that we talked about earlier.
In fact, one study found an instant and clear change in trapezius muscle tension (where we usually hold stress) as soon as participants began earthing. And, in another study, after 40 minutes of earthing, participants had twice the PNS function as compared to before they started, and those levels continued to increase even after the earthing session stopped.
An algorithm for measuring stress
One of the best ways to measure stress levels, sometimes referred to as a ‘stress algorithm,’ is by assessing EEG (electrical activity in the brain), EMG (electrical nerve response), and HRV (heart rate variability). In one earthing study, a majority of the participants showed marked positive changes in EEG, EMG, and HRV after earthing. In fact, half of the participants showed rapid improvement in these readings the moment they were connected to the ground! Study results stated that earthing creates a reduction in overall stress and tension.
Take a vacation from stress by earthing
I always thought that the reason I was so calm and relaxed on a trip to Hawaii was because I was on vacation. It made sense that I was not as stressed when I was away from my regular daily demands. But the science says my relaxed state is probably due more to the walking, sitting, and playing for hours on the sandy beaches I was doing each day.
The Earth is a conductor of free electrons. Our bodies are composed of mostly water and minerals, which in combination are excellent conductors of electrons from the Earth. We just need to have direct contact or some other conductive channel for them to flow through. By walking barefoot on the beach, I was grounding for hours each day and always relaxed. Have you noticed there is a different pace of life and level of anxiety in places where people walk barefoot on the ground a lot? They are practicing earthing without even knowing it!
When I discovered earthing, I was battling cancer, and it was an extremely stressful time in my life. Despite all of the extra stress I was feeling, people would sometimes comment that I seemed so calm. I attribute some of that to the grounding I was trying to do on a daily basis. Not only was I using the mat I was sleeping on, I also tried to get outside barefoot as often as I could.
Benefit #3: Earthing can reduce inflammation and chronic pain
Inflammation is a critical link between our lifestyle and the soaring global increase of chronic diseases. As of 2019, more than 50% of all deaths were attributable to inflammation-related diseases. Inflammation is the biggest underlying health problem both in terms of cost and human suffering. There is undeniable evidence linking inflammation and many chronic health conditions. And, 90% of our nation’s $4.1 trillion spent in annual healthcare costs goes toward treating chronic conditions.
The original anti-inflammatory
When I read that earthing can help defuse the cause of inflammation and improve or eliminate the symptoms of many inflammation-related disorders, I was really intrigued. Many of you know I suffered with chronic pain from neuropathy and arthritis for years. I’ve since learned that earthing reduces pain and alters the numbers of circulating neutrophils and lymphocytes, an important part of the immune system. It also affects various circulating chemical factors related to inflammation. The influx of free electrons absorbed into the body serves as a powerful anti-inflammatory reinforcement for the immune system.
There are studies that show a reduction in inflammation within 30 minutes of earthing. One thermal image was of a patient that had pain in both knees. After 30 minutes of earthing, a second thermal image showed that most of the inflammation was gone.
Another 85-year-old man struggled with back and shoulder pain for four months, and nothing seemed to help. After he started sleeping on an earthing mat, his thermal imaging showed a distinct reduction in inflammation. He reported 50% less pain after only two days. After four weeks he said his pain was totally gone, and he only had occasional mild stiffness.
I didn’t get complete resolution of my pain and inflammation until I removed NSAIDS (we will discuss this in a future post), but I did notice a reduction in my pain. People frequently report that after they start earthing they feel and look healthier and younger. And, earthing is scientifically proven to even improve your mood! The natural energy from the Earth is truly the ultimate anti-inflammatory and the ultimate anti-aging medicine.
Benefit #4: Earthing can help increase your energy and speed up recovery
This benefit of earthing has been undeniable for me. I especially notice this when I travel, particularly if we’re not able to bring our earthing mat with us. If I’m in a place where I can’t get outside much and walk barefoot, I can tell each morning when I get up that I have less energy.
As we’ve already mentioned, earthing allows electrons to be delivered to the body. These electrons are then passed along through an assembly line of enzymes that create a substance called adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, the basic fuel that powers cells to function and repair themselves.
By infusing the body with electrons, earthing may ensure an ample supply of them to mitochondria (the powerhouse of our cells), contributing to the production of ATP in all cells. This results in a direct increase in our energy levels.
That’s also the reason that earthing can accelerate recovery from an intense workout. This has been especially helpful for us in pickleball tournaments. We find if we can sleep on our earthing mat, especially when we’re competing, we recover faster. So I always try to bring it on our trips where we will be competing.
Benefit #5: Earthing helps reduce or eliminate jet lag
A bonus benefit is earthing helps reduce or eliminate jet lag. In Episode 2 of Netflix’s series Down to Earth, Zac Efron and his travel companion and wellness expert Darin Olien show a great example of this. After arriving in France, Darin insists that they pull over, take off their shoes, and walk in the grass barefoot. A very unwilling Zac Efron finally participates. “You’ve gotta get the electromagnetic connection to the earth again, it’ll help your circadian rhythm,” Olien encourages.
The circadian rhythm is basically our internal clock that tells us when to sleep, eat, etc. It works by making sure the body’s processes are optimized at various points during a 24-hour period. It’s especially important to our sleep/wake cycle. We upset this when we quickly travel to another time zone. The idea of grounding is that in order to combat your jet lag, you reset your internal clock by connecting with the magnetic field of your new time zone.
I learned about earthing to combat jet lag by following Ben Greenfield. Whenever he gets off a plane, he tries to find some grass to get barefoot on right away. He wants to reset his circadian rhythm with the new time zone as quickly as possible. Through grounding, he is able to avoid jet lag as much as possible and adjust when traveling. I’m going to give that a try on my next flight to a different time zone.
A simple earthing experiment
If you’re thinking this all sounds a little “out there” for you, you can see how earthing works through a simple physics experiment that you can try for yourself.
Here is how earthing works:
Tear a paper into small pieces. Vigorously rub a plastic ruler against a dry ruler. Hold the ruler over the bits of paper. The paper pieces will begin to move and stick to the ruler. This is exactly how the positive ions within your body react to the earth’s natural electrical field.
But I work in an office. How can I practice earthing?
So the question that’s probably on your mind is how can I practice earthing if I’m not able to get outside and sit on the grass all the time? It’s actually pretty easy. Here are a few suggestions:
Use an earthing mat
One way to practice earthing is by using grounding mats that you place under your desk while you work. Take your shoes off and place your feet on them whenever you’re working at your computer.
There are also grounding mats for sleeping that you put under your sheet on your mattress. Then you simply plug them in so they are grounded and lay down on them. These are especially helpful because you’re on your bed for so many hours of your day. I place them under my desk, take my shoes off and place my feet on them whenever I’m working at my computer. You can also find a good grounding mat starter kit which has a variety of mats and even a pillowcase.
- Swim in the ocean or a lake
- Garden without gloves on
- Lay on the earth
- Hug or lean on a tree
- Sleep on the earth while camping
- Wear natural leather-soled shoes
Whenever you can, take advantage of ways to practice earthing.
Earthing – The missing link?
The effects of earthing are profound. Could it be the ‘missing link’ for so many of the common health challenges of our day and age? Studies show that it can dramatically improve things like insomnia, chronic pain, exhaustion, stress, anxiety, and premature aging. As stated in the aforementioned Earthing book, “Even the most superbly conditioned individuals – elite athletes – recover much faster from their exertions and injuries.”
Earthing is so simple! It requires almost no effort and has such promising effects. It is both preventative and therapeutic, a very overlooked and underutilized factor in health and healing.
Try it! All you need to do is walk, stand, or sit barefoot on the ground for about 30 minutes. If you have PMS, back pain, indigestion, arthritis, or you’re just feeling tired, do an experiment. Go outside. Place your bare feet on the earth. And see if you feel better afterward.
Let us know how it goes!
Please let us know if you have any questions about grounding or earthing. We’d also love to know if you experiment with some additional earthing, and how it makes you feel. Did you sleep better? Have less pain? Feel more energized and optimistic?
We’ll discuss this and other recent blog post topics in our free More Than Healthy coaching call. We do them once a month on a Tuesday night at 6 PM MST. Anyone can join us. If you’d like to join us, just text COACHING to 1-647-558-9895 to join our email list or watch our social media pages and we will have the link there.
Now, take your shoes off and go for a walk in the grass!