Many of us are so used to lacing up our shoes before we head outdoors. But did you know you can actually feel better if you sometimes leave those shoes behind? Throughout history, humans have become more distant from the earth. Our ancestors walked more, worked the land, and even slept outside, which meant they were in closer contact with the ground. In order to encourage this connection to the earth today, experts recommend we stand, walk, or lie on the grass, soil, or sand for about thirty minutes every day–a practice known as earthing or grounding.
What is Earthing?
Sometimes all we need to do to feel better is to go back to the basics. Earthing, also known as grounding, involves standing or walking barefoot on the ground. This can be done on the grass in your yard, soil or mud in a nearby park or forest, or sand at the beach. The goal is to walk barefoot while paying close attention to the soles of your feet as they connect with the earth’s surface. Next time you head out to your backyard, a local park, or the beach, try putting your shoes aside and see what a difference it makes in how you feel.
Benefits of Going Barefoot
Earthing and grounding provide several benefits to people of all ages:
- Feels good to us. It is freeing to walk around without feeling constrained by shoes all the time. It also feels pleasant and comforting to have our feet touch cool, soft grass or warm sand.
- Provides a sensory experience. Earthing improves our senses as the bottom of our feet as we touch different types of textures, sometimes for the first time. Having more opportunities to feel distinct sensations allows us to experience our world in a brand-new way.
- Builds mindfulness. Mindfulness is the act of being fully present in the moment in a non-judgmental way. As we practice mindfulness, we begin to understand our bodies and minds better and learn how to be less reactive to thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations. This helps us have more peace, ease, and balance in our lives. Earthing is a wonderful tool for practicing mindfulness as it helps us tune into our natural surroundings.
- Results in health benefits. As a practice done by indigenous cultures for millennia, some experts have found that earthing can also result in some health benefits like reducing pain and inflammation, lowering stress, and improving sleep. It is believed that the electrical charge from the earth neutralizes free radicals in our body to improve health. The electrons, in a sense, act as antioxidants to improve how the body functions. One study of fifty-eight healthy adults found that nearly half of them felt a decrease in stress after earthing.
- Connects us to the benefits of soil. Scientists have discovered that a common microscopic bacteria, Mycobacterium vaccae, found naturally in soil can improve mental health. The bacteria are known to thrive in typical backyard gardens or anywhere soil is enriched with organic matter. It is believed that we can take in Mycobacterium vaccae by touching soil, so earthing is the perfect activity to build this healthy connection to soil.
How to Practice Earthing at Home and Beyond
Leaving your shoes behind to connect to the earth can be a fun family activity. Try building it into your daily routine such as after a workout or by spending some time in your backyard before dinner. Here are some tips for adding earthing to your day in an enjoyable way:
- Find a nature sit spot to relax.
- Play some calming music as you connect to the ground.
- Bring along a nature-related book to read outside as you sit in the grass.
- Try different sensory experiences: soak your feet in warm water; bury feet in the soft sand at the beach; walk through cool, dewy grass; slip through wet, gooey mud; or walk over rough rocks or bricks.
- Hug a tree while you stand barefoot on the ground.
- Play barefoot games: draw pictures in the sand or mud with your feet; pick up rocks with your toes; walk around in different ways like on your tiptoes, backwards, sideways, or hopping on one foot.
- Practice outdoor yoga barefoot. Check out these adorable animal yoga poses.
- Try walking meditation. Walking barefoot on grass or other natural surfaces is a wonderful way to learn how to stay focused on the present by tuning into our body’s sensations, which can help us relax and reduce stress.
- Start a family garden so you can connect to the soil. Barefoot gardening sounds fun!
Enjoy your barefoot time!