The grass is greener when you step on it. Photo: Nick Page, Unsplash
People have come up with hundreds of ways to improve health using technology and modern medicine, but some believe we just need to keep our feet on the ground. Grounding (aka earthing) is a biohacking practice in which people literally connect with nature by doing things like walking barefoot on grass and touching soil with their hands. Practitioners believe that doing so helps boost energy levels, manage anxiety, and improve sleep.
Kayla Barnes, host of the podcast Brain Biohacking, describes grounding as “the practice of making direct contact with the earth.” The Earth’s surface possesses a continuously renewed supply of free or mobile electrons, meaning most of the planet’s surface is electrically conductive. Some findings suggest that this electrical potential holds a number of benefits for humans.Barnes said that through grounding, people can absorb free electrons from the earth which provides an antioxidant effect, can slow down or prevent free radicals (which can damage cells), and may improve biological rhythms by reducing nighttime cortisol levels. These could lead to better sleep, an improved mood, and less inflammation and stress.To practice grounding, Barnes suggests touching things like soil, grass, sand, gravel and rocks, living plants and trees, and bodies of water for at least 30 minutes a day. There are now also some technologies, like grounding mats and patches, that mimic the earth’s electrical current.
“You can go barefoot in the grass or soil, meditate, use a grounding mat, lay on the earth, or swim in the ocean or a lake to reap the benefits [of grounding],” Barnes told VICE. Like other biohacking methods, research on grounding is still ongoing, and even those who practice it understand why many may be skeptical to give it a try. “If you grew up in a city your whole life, I can understand how grounding might seem ‘hippie’ or ‘unscientific,’” said Philippines-based movement coach Angelica Alberto.As a movement coach, Alberto is interested in understanding how to optimize movement and promote a good quality of life. For her, grounding helps with both. She grounds regularly by standing or stretching and doing mobility work barefoot on grass. It makes her more relaxed, improves her mood and sleep, and helps her body rest and recover from workouts.“It just feels like I’m doing something really good for my body. It feels exactly like what I need,” said Alberto.Both Barnes and Alberto pointed to how grounding was a natural part of our ancestors’ lives. Early humans walked barefoot and slept on the ground, keeping them connected to the earth day and night.
“This is a practice we have virtually eliminated in our modern life,” said Barnes. Grounding is likely not a perfect substitute for any and all modern medical treatments, but those who practice it believe it’s a simple enough activity worth trying.“Grounding is an accessible and free practice with both immediate and long-term benefits, ” Barnes said.Follow Romano Santos on Instagram.