Day 6: Grounding
Dear Naomi, I wanted to give you a chance to catch your breath today. The entire focus of these emails has been to help us all enjoy a calmer, less frantic Christmas season, but there is still a lot to do: whether it's tidying, shopping, baking, wrapping, hosting or writing, Christmas is a busy time.
So today, half way through the traditional 12 days of Christmas, I want to encourage you to take some time out. A little moment of mindfulness, and a chance to connect with one another, and our planet itself.
All I want you to do to achieve all this is to go outside, and take your shoes off!
This is called "grounding," or sometimes "earthing," and it's a simple practice that has a surprisingly calming effect. Of course for some of you I know the ground is mighty cold where you are, so you don't need to stand out there long enough to get frostbite... just long enough to reconnect with nature.
Grounding is simply a word for enabling your skin to come in direct contact with the surface of the Earth, such as with bare feet or hands. Research has found that frequent "grounding" has significant positive impact on health, including reduced inflammation, improved immune responses, and wound healing, as well as the prevention of these conditions.
This research report, for example, claims that "grounding an organism produces measurable differences in the concentrations of white blood cells, cytokines, and other molecules involved in the inflammatory response... Grounding reduces pain and alters the numbers of circulating neutrophils and lymphocytes, and also affects various circulating chemical factors related to inflammation."
These positive effects of grounding are caused by some pretty simple physics. Our planet is a conductor of free electrons, and so are we (and all other living things on the planet). Our bodies are made up mostly of water and minerals, which are excellent conductors of electrons - that's why electricians wear rubber-soled boots when working with live electricity! So... when we come into direct contact with the Earth (skin touching planet), free electrons are exchanged between us and the Earth.
The Sydney Morning Herald explains it this way:
"Because the surface of the earth and our bodies are electrically conductive, we build up a positive electrical charge throughout the day. Once our bare feet have direct physical contact with the earth, the ground's supply of negatively-charged electrons flow into our bodies. This neutralises the excess positive charge and stabilises the body's electrical environment."
To enjoy all the positive effects of grounding, you need to get your shoes off frequently. Your health won't change overnight. But it's a great start and, if nothing else, today's barefoot jaunt will be a moment of calm and mindfulness, in the midst of this chaotic season.
Here's my challenge for you:
- Go outside and find a patch of earth. It doesn't need to be a big space - you don't need to wander into a forest (though wouldn't that be wonderful!) - just big enough to fit both of your feet. It could be grass, sand, mud, rocks... just make sure it is an actual part of our planet, not something man-made
- Now slip off your shoes, and stand on your patch of earth (if the weather really is just too miserable, try putting your hands on the earth instead). The experts say that the best kind of earth on which to stand is damp - the moisture helps promote the flow of electrons - but any is still good
- Just stand there for as long as you care to (or as long as you can stand). Feel the sensation of the ground under your feet. It's quite rare for our skin to come into contact with anything natural these days, as most adults rarely go anywhere without shoes, so earth under your feet might be a strange sensation. Enjoy it! Pay attention to how it feels
- While you're standing there barefoot, imagine the planet stretching out from both sides of your feet, and in front of you and behind. Stretching out, out, all the way until it curves beyond the horizon. While you are standing on this little patch of dirt, you are physically connected to the entire rest of the planet Earth... and everyone else who is standing barefoot upon it at this time
There are slightly more than 500 of us working through these emails together right now, from all over this big, round, planet: while you're barefoot, send a mental hello of calm Christmas solidarity to everyone else. Maybe some of us will be barefoot and touching the Earth at the exact same time, connecting us, quite literally, together! We are closer than we realise, and that's a wonderful thought.
Now get inside and put some woollen socks on your cold feet!
That's all for today. But if you like the sound of grounding for its health benefits, here are some more tips:
- For best results, take your shoes off on the earth regularly, to release the electric charge that accumulates in your body throughout the day
- Try to find soft, damp surfaces on which to stand, like grass or sand
- When your feet toughen up, you can try moist dirt and rocks
- Take yourself on barefoot walks. At first, if the soles of your feet are quite tender, do this in a grass oval, park or paddock
- If you're feeling advanced, apparently barefoot running is a really great thing to do for your body
I hope you enjoyed this time-out, and feel more mindful, grounded, and connected to your planet and our community. I'll be back tomorrow with more festive cheer. As always, I love hearing from you! Write to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.