What’s all the hype about earthing and grounding? Believe it or not, there is science behind it! So, what is it? Well, grounding and earthing refers to direct skin contact with the surface of the Earth, whether it be with your bare hands or feet. Another concept that is along the same lines as this is called forest bathing. Forest bathing was developed in Japan and is called Shinrin-yoku or “taking in the forest atmosphere.” These techniques are a way to reduce stress and calm the mind. They allow us the opportunity to enjoy the great Earth we all live on together.
Guess what? Earthing actually effects our human physiology and health! Grounding can influence changes in levels of our white blood cells, inflammatory markers, and immune response. It has also been demonstrated to reduce pain and change the number of immune cells floating around in your bloodstream which can then influence the downstream factors related to inflammation (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4378297/). One very interesting study showed that grounding caused a reduction in a muscle enzyme called creatinine kinase (CK) after a series of muscle contractions (the people in the study did 200 half-knee bends). This means that grounding helped reduce muscle damage or irritation after these muscular contractions were performed (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26443876).
One theory is that earthing can influence the electrical and chemical capabilities of the nervous system. This may help the nervous system to better adapt to the demands of the body and immediate surroundings. It may also help us restore our natural electrical status. These changes can even be seen on tests such as an EEG (electroencephalography) which measures brain wave activity (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21856083). Fascinating, isn’t it?
Forest bathing has been shown to produce changes in our human physiology as well. One study showed that pulse rate, blood pressure, and heart rate variability were better in the forest than in the city when people were asked to walk for 15 minutes and then sit in chairs viewing the areas they walked in for 15 minutes (http://www.natureandforesttherapy.org/uploads/8/1/4/4/8144400/_physiologiceffectsurbanforest.pdf). Another interesting study showed that brain activity and cortisol (a key stress hormone) levels were significantly lower in those that spent time in a forest walking around and enjoying the scenery compared to when this was done in the city (http://www.natureandforesttherapy.org/uploads/8/1/4/4/8144400/_physiological_effects_of_shinrin-yokucortisol-2007.pdf). What is exciting is that these changes are noted in a very short period of time. You don’t have to do it for months before you can see the benefit.
We know that the brain and the gut are directly connected to each other and that the digestive tract has its own nervous system. There are more nerves in the digestive tract than in the spinal cord! It is also well established that the brain can influence activity in the digestive tract and can influence the gut microbiome. Additionally, the opposite is also true. The gut microbiome can also influence brain activity, emotions, feelings, anxiety, and depression. Earthing and forest bathing seem like a genius way to naturally reset and rebalance our human bodies and physiology. Not only can it help us reduce stress, it can influence brain activity, blood pressure, heart rate, and immune activity. Almost certainly, the gut microbiome probably plays a role in this process as well. A happy brain makes for a happy gut. It actually makes a lot of sense if you think about it. Dr. Daniel Siegel defines the “mind” as being within us and between us; our mind is within our body but also between our body and the environment. Therefore, in order to heal our mind and body we must also connect with and respect our environment and everything and everyone in it (http://www.drdansiegel.com/books/mind/).
Regardless of the science or anyone’s opinion, there seems to be enough evidence to support earthing and forest bathing. It is a free, simple, and fun way to not only heal your mind but also heal your gut! So, next time you feel like you need a break or a breather, take off your shoes and walk barefoot in a patch of pesticide-free organic soil! Make it part of your regular routine!