For thousands of years, humans have ventured into nature in search of a deeper bond and connection to the natural world around them. This innate need for a nature connection actually has a name; it’s called the Biophilia theory. The Biophilia theory was developed by Edward O. Wilson in 1984 and is the belief that humans are genetically predisposed to be attracted to nature. It suggests that we have a natural affection and love for plants, wildlife and all living things that belong to the natural world. It also theorizes that positive exposure to nature can bring about an abundance of desirable benefits for humankind, such as improved self-esteem, better health and reduction of stress levels.
Simply said, humans are healthier when connected to nature.
In our modern world of technology and fast-paced living, some people find it difficult to slow down and find nature, let alone find the time to connect. But connecting with nature doesn’t have to be difficult or even time-consuming. One easy way to connect that’s right outside our doors is called “Grounding” or “Earthing”.
Once considered a more “new age” trend, Earthing is now a scientifically researched practice with a number of surprising health advantages. The biggest benefit comes from the Earth itself. Our planet has its own natural charge from electrons in the Earth and direct contact with this charge can have a positive effect on us by neutralizing free radicals (unstable atoms that can damage cells, causing illness and aging) in our bodies. The electrons, in a sense, also function as antioxidants to improve how our bodies function. Drawing from these electrons by walking barefoot on grass or soil has been shown to help us sleep better. Other studies have shown that Earthing can actually change the electrical activity in our brains, as well as help with moderating heartrate, improve glucose regulation, reduce stress and support immune function.
Scientists have also discovered that a common microscopic bacterium, Mycobacterium vaccae, found naturally in soil, compost and leaf mold, can improve mental health by affecting our neurons, much like drugs such as Prozac and Zoloft. Even the smell of Mycobacterium vaccae can light up neurotransmitters that release serotonin – a mood lifting hormone that makes you feel relaxed and happier. An easy way to reap the benefits of this microscopic pal? Take off those shoes and socks and start digging your toes into the dirt!
There are other ways that Earthing can help our bodies and mind as well. It can help us slow down and be present by supplying sensory experiences. As the bottoms of our feet touch the ground, we are feeling a variety of textures and temperatures which can help us experience the Earth and nature in new ways. Earthing can also improve our mindfulness, which is the act of being present in the moment without conditions or judgement. 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 which in turn can bring balance and peace into our lives. Earthing can help our mindfulness because it can help us tune into our surroundings and the nature found all around us.
Now that we know some of the benefits of Earthing, how can we go about experiencing it? Try one (or all) of the suggestions below:
- Find a nature spot to sit and relax in and read a nature-themed book with your bare feet on the ground, making sure to move your feet and toes around in the grass and dirt.
- Try different sensory experiences while sitting or standing like burying your feet in soft sand if you are at the beach, walking through cool, dewy grass in the early morning, stepping into wet gooey mud, splashing barefoot through rain puddles or walking over rough rocks or bricks. (I don’t recommend walking over hot coals though!)
- Practice outdoor yoga or stretching in the warm sunny grass while barefoot.
- Hug a tree while you stand barefoot on the ground. (my personal favorite!)
- Start a garden so you can connect to the soil both with your hands and your bare feet.
- Practice 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 you relax and reduce stress. Not only are you meditating and practicing being mindful, but you’re getting your steps in as well!
If you’re interested in learning more about the science of Earthing, make sure to check out The Earthing Movie: The Remarkable Science of Grounding on YouTube. Then get those shoes off and put your feet in the grass. Don’t forget to be mindful and take in all of the wondrous nature that can be found all around you. Your mind and body will thank you!
“Nerdy for Nature” is a new blog segment by Emm Vintner which highlights various nature topics and nature in the news. She hopes you enjoy all of her nerdy musings and carry the info that you might learn, within your day-to-day lives – doing your part to be a steward and caretaker of the Earth and all its inhabitants.