Are you familiar with grounding?
I’m not talking about punishment meted out for teenage misbehavior. Nor am I referring to that calm, centered feeling we get when we’re at peace with ourselves and the world around us—although a sense of well-being is a benefit of grounding.
Our focus is on an easy, no-cost practice for enhancing physical, emotional, and mental health. Also called earthing, grounding simply requires coming into direct contact with the earth by walking barefoot on grass, sand, soil, or concrete, which “grounds” you to the earth and transfers its natural healing energy to your body.
Before we get into the details, I want to share my family’s experience with grounding, so you’ll understand my enthusiasm and why I believe grounding is essential in today’s world.
My Brother’s Journey Back to Health
My father, Dr. Stephen Sinatra, first started talking about grounding/earthing around 2008, when my older brother, Step, was quite sick with a mystery illness and landed in the hospital.
Interestingly, at Step’s sickest moments, he always felt best walking barefoot on the beach with waves washing over his feet. What was contributing to this marked improvement? The beach, the sun, the water, and/or grounding and plugging in to the earth’s healing energy?
This was a major eureka moment for my father, and from then on he invested a lot of time and energy into learning more about the benefits of grounding. He even funded studies on grounding’s effects on the cardiovascular system and in 2010 co-wrote the book Earthing: The Most Important Health Discovery Ever!
As his body began to heal, Step eventually left the hospital and returned home, but he was still in a great deal of pain in his lower limbs. My father had learned about grounding recovery sheets, which many cyclists used during the Tour de France to aid in muscle recovery, and he got one for my brother.
Sleeping on grounding sheets, which are plugged into a three-prong outlet grounded to the earth, immediately alleviated his intense pain and allowed him to experience deeper sleep. Step eventually had a full recovery, and he gives grounding a lot of credit for his current state of health and well-being.
How Does Grounding Work?
As you know from your elementary school science lessons, our planet is surrounded by forces that, though unseen, exert powerful influences. One of them is the earth’s electrical field.
The surface of the earth is teeming with free electrons, which are replenished by lightning that strikes the planet thousands of times a minute. When you are grounded, in direct contact with the earth, your body absorbs these electrons.
The influx of free electrons provided by grounding enhances your body’s natural electrical currents and transfer of electrons. It helps balance your nervous system as well, leading to improvements in stress, sleep, and sense of well-being.
Studies suggest that free electrons also act like antioxidants and protect against oxidative stress and inflammation. Because they have a negative electrical charge, these electrons neutralize reactive oxygen species (free radicals), which are unstable and highly reactive unpaired electrons that damage cells and tissues and ramp up inflammation.
Inflammation is an underlying cause of pain as well as most chronic degenerative diseases. Reversing acute and chronic inflammation is the likely explanation for grounding’s broad therapeutic benefits.
Health Benefits of Grounding
Since therapeutic grounding was discovered 25 years ago, reports of its remarkable benefits have poured in. In addition to facilitating recovery from very serious illnesses (like my brother's), they include improvements in everything from joint and muscle pain to anxiety and depression to digestion and sleep.
Dozens of scientific papers also support the benefits of grounding for physical, mental, and emotional health. Here are a few examples:
- Circulation: Studies reveal that grounding can increase the electrical charge of red blood cells, which prevents them from sticking together and enhances blood flow and circulation. This is important because increased blood viscosity is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disorders.
- Hypertension: Grounding for several hours a day was demonstrated to have a profound effect on blood pressure, including a reduced reliance on medication.
- Sleep and pain: Sleeping on a grounding pad or sheet was shown to improve sleep, reduce pain, and lower nighttime levels of cortisol, a stress hormone.
- Grounding reduces stress and helps balance the autonomic nervous system. It has been shown to help normalize heart rate variability (HRV), which is an indicator of reactivity to internal and external stressors as well as cardiovascular risk.
Grounding Is Important Now More Than Ever
For most of history, humans lived close to the earth. Our ancestors went barefoot or wore shoes made of natural materials like leather and slept on or close to the ground on hides and other conductive substances. Even after the advent of agriculture, humans were in near-constant contact with the earth.
Today, people in modern industrialized societies are increasingly disconnected from the earth and its natural energies. We spend most of our time indoors, often surrounded by electronic devices emitting unnatural and unhealthy electromagnetic field (EMF) radiation. We wear insulated, rubber or plastic-soled, non-conductive shoes and rarely go barefoot outdoors.
This severed connection with the earth—which causes what my father called an “electron deficiency”—is an overlooked contributor to many of our common health challenges.
Fortunately, you can restore this broken connection to the earth by regularly practicing these grounding tips:
- Take your shoes off and walk barefoot on grass, sand, soil, or concrete. Unlike asphalt, wood, vinyl, and plastic, all these surfaces are highly conductive and allow the earth’s energy to flow into your body.
- Wade or swim in a lake, river, and ocean, or get your hands dirty working in your garden. These activities also connect you to the earth.
- Wear leather-soled shoes or specialized grounding footwear. These and other natural materials are much more conductive than rubber or man-made soles.
- Use grounding gear (sheets, pads, patches, etc.). When these devices are plugged into the lower grounded port of any properly installed three-prong electrical outlet, they ground you to the earth.
An advantage of “natural” grounding practices is that they also let you tap into the healing power of nature. But don’t dismiss grounding gear and devices, which allow you to get grounded in the convenience of your home. For example, you can use a grounding pad beneath your hands and/or feet when sitting at your computer—as I am doing right now as I write this sentence.
It’s possible to ground your body practically anywhere, even if you are staying in a hotel in Las Vegas, which in my opinion is the most “un-grounded” city in the world. Simply putting your foot or hand on the metal faucet while taking a bath in your hotel room keeps you grounded.
Make Grounding a Priority
As you can imagine, my brother’s experience and my dad’s book had a profound effect on me, and 2010 marked the time in my life where I made grounding part of my daily routine.
I remember walking barefoot on the beach in the middle of winter in Vancouver, British Columbia, with people raising an eyebrow and probably thinking to themselves, “Why is this man walking on the cold sand without shoes?”
Even on the coldest of days, these 10-minute barefoot walks along the water’s edge helped lift my spirits and boost my energy levels, so I knew there was something special about this practice.
To this day, I make an effort to “ground out,” as my father would say, as often as possible, even if that means standing on the patio for a couple of minutes. In summer, I try to take my shoes off and walk barefoot whenever I can.
You’ve probably noticed that kids instinctively practice grounding by taking off their shoes when playing. It's a common sight to see a trail of shoes and socks outside our home—which doesn’t concern me or my wife, as we know our children are reaping the benefits of being grounded (without the punishment, of course!).