We humans are Earthlings. The molecules that make up our planet also constitute our bodies. We live in a constant reciprocal relationship with our environment.
In the last several decades, environmental medicine has addressed the negative impacts of environmental factors on human health (think: pollution). But less attention is given to the essential, positive relationship between the natural environment and our health and wellbeing.
There is mounting scientific evidence for the benefits of making direct, physical contact with the earth. Of course we don’t need peer-reviewed studies to affirm what we can directly experience: connecting with nature makes us feel good!
Walking barefoot on soft grass or standing in a forest is revitalizing. Relaxing against a smooth boulder or lying in a meadow is soothing. Our bodies, our nervous systems positively respond to direct connection with nature…it brings us home.
This is the experience of being grounded.
Science suggests that Earth’s surface is our resource to maintain health, prevent disease and provide clinical therapy. The ground gives us free electrons that support normal functioning of all bodily systems—such as setting our internal “clock,” regulating rhythms like cortisol secretion, and perhaps reducing acute and chronic inflammation.
For nearly all of human history we enjoyed intimate contact with our natural world. Sleeping close to the ground, foraging and working the land for food, walking barefoot or wearing porous shoes all allow the earth’s free electrons to enter the body and stabilize the electrical environment of our organs, tissues, and cells.
Modern lifestyles have dramatically separated us from the regulating properties of Mother Earth. We are increasingly un-grounded, and some researchers correlate this separation to our dramatic increase in chronic illness, immune disorders, and inflammatory diseases.
It seems our bodies are literally aching to be grounded.
While making physical contact with earth is an essential and immediate way to ground and regulate ourselves for health and wellness, it’s not the only means we have…which is very good news for people living in urban settings.
There is another ancient practice we can turn to: meditation.
Harvard neuroscientist, Laura Lazar is one of many researchers exploring the science of mediation. Those who have experienced its nourishing effects will not be surprised that meditation positively influences some of the same functions that other researchers have linked to touching Earth’s surface.
Meditation settles our nervous system. It grounds us.
Like walking barefoot and sleeping under the stars, meditation helps us feel deeply connected to life…it too is a way to bring us home. Exemplifying the benefits of all these practices, villagers in the highlands of the Tibetan Plateau region, who still live close to the land and weave meditation into everyday life, radiate the contentment of being deeply grounded.
But you don’t need dirt floors to ground yourself. You don’t need to meditate in the tradition of Tibetan monks. Right now, in this season of change, Nature’s slow turn inward is an invitation to explore practices that ground your body, emotions, mind and soul...
Take yourself to a lawn or a park: stroll, stand or sit barefoot the ground, for even a few minutes. While you're out there, or even while you're inside, try gifting yourself just 5 to 20 minutes of quiet meditation. These grounding practices gift your body the nourishment it craves.