Being Barefoot Gives you Superpowers
The secret science of grounding
In the year 2017, I was living in a tiny Shepherd's hut in the Highlands of Scotland . It was remote and unconventional, but it was how I wanted to live. Occasionally, I would go hiking in the mountains. I'd do this without boots, shoes or sandals. I'd go barefoot. The fellow climbers I encountered on these hikes gave me quizzical looks and asked me probing questions.
When it was time for bed, I would sleep on a mattress that was covered with strips of metal fabric that were connected by cable to a grounding rod that stuck out of the earth. This was more unconventional still. But I did these things for a reason:
I was experiencing something. And it was life-changing.
To the uninitiated, these behaviors probably sound strange and nonsensical. Even now, when I'm at a park or any place in nature, I seem to be an outlier: The only person who wants to ditch the shoes and make direct contact with the earth.
So am I just a clichéd hippy with nonconformist sensibilities? Could I really be a few paranoid thoughts away from donning a tinfoil hat? Or is there a method to my madness? And perhaps one that's backed up by scientific evidence?
In this article, I'm going to familiarise you with the concept of earthing, and briefly discuss the phenomena behind the practice. Most importantly, I'll tell you why going barefoot could change your life, and how you can do it.
What is earthing?
Essentially, earthing (or grounding) occurs whenever we make direct contact with the earth. It can be your hand, back, arm, or foot. As long as a part of your body is touching the earth, you are earthing. You're grounded.
More specifically, earthing is the process of paring yourself up with the subtle energy or electromagnetic fields of the earth. When this happens your body becomes saturated with the negative-charged free electrons that permeate the surface of the earth. Basically, it means your body has the same electric potential as the earth - zero volts.
How it works: life is electrical
The first thing to note is that we are not just suits made of flesh and blood. Every process in our body is an exchange of electrical energy. We are bioelectrical beings. We are walking, talking conductors of electrical energy.
All of the processes that occur in the brain produce electricity which can be measured and monitored scientifically. The heart is also electrical in nature. In fact, it is this electrical system that controls both the heart rate and the heart rhythm.
Similarly, our planet is highly electrical in nature. Actually, the earth is essentially one giant battery. With an electrical potential of zero volts, the earth is the most negative charged entity that humans come into contact with. Note: negative, in this sense, is a good thing.
Earth's global electrical circuit (GEC): a system comprised of the atmosphere, sun, and earth. The GEC is primarily charged by thunderstorms.
Now we've introduced the idea that humans and the planet are both electrical in nature, let's discuss the problem of our disconnection.
Shoes and modern living
According to health expert David Wolfe, "shoes are perhaps the world's most dangerous invention."
We spend most of our time outdoors wearing footwear. Even when we're taking a walk through a forest, park, or a field, we're likely to be wearing shoes. This means that we are constantly insulated and cut off from the healing vibrations of the earth.
Even when I see people sunbathing at the park, they keep their shoes on. And if they're not wearing shoes, then they're are wearing socks or sitting on blankets. In short, they are still not grounded.
Think about this: Humans evolved over millions of years, walking, eating and sleeping on the ground. It is only in the last two thousand years that we began to separate ourselves from the earth.
These days we rarely touch the ground. Our homes and offices are insulated with wood and carpets. Our beds, in which we spend one-third of our lives are also completely cut off from the earth.
This means that not only are we unable to receive the free-flowing electrons from the earth, but it also renders us completely exposed and vulnerable to electro-pollutants that permeate our unnatural environment.
What are electro-pollutants?
Commonly referred to as EMF's, electromagnetic fields are generated by man-made products - and there are those that occur naturally. But it's the man-made ones we're concerned with. These fields are invisible to the naked eye and are, increasingly, permeating the atmosphere in which we live - this is especially true in cities.
Why are they harmful?
Whether or not EMFs are harmful is still a topic of debate among scientists and researchers. But there is increasingly more and more evidence to suggest they are, in fact, quite pernicious.
"EMFs disrupt internal functions responsible for homeostasis and health. This includes digestion, internal repairs, wound healing and metabolic processes." - Gaetan Chevalier, ph.D.
Remember, all biochemical reactions are electrical in nature and are susceptible to being disturbed by external electric and magnetic fields.
When we're ungrounded we lose our reference point. We become vulnerable to the electrostatic interference that is emanating from our cellphones, WIFI routers, televisions, etc. And much like electrical devices, our bodies need a ground to function optimally. For humans, this is the earth. This keeps our internal functions in sync and keeps us in sync with the earth.
EMF's have been linked to causing inflammation in the body. Inflammation is an autoimmune response to protect the body from foreign invaders. When we are ungrounded and the body is saturated with EMF's, the body cannot recognise what is the self and what is not the self. This will start an autoimmune attack on its own cells.
What happens in the body when we're grounding?
Earth provides electrons that repel positive charges (positive charges are considered bad). Keeping our bodies at the same electric potential as the earth. The earth is an electrical reference point of sorts. It keeps us in sync. Shields us from harmful and disruptive EMF's.
Some evidence: In 2003, there was a study at the California Institute for Human Science to investigate the impact of Earthing on nervous system function, led by electrophysiologist Gaetan Chevalier and Kazuhito Mori.
"Fifty-eight healthy adults participated in the randomised, double-blind experiment involving a series of sophisticated brain and muscle measurements."
This was done using EEG's (which record electrical signals from the brain) and EMG'S (which detect electrical voltage generated by muscle cells).
"The EEG and EMG showed that grounding significantly influences the electrical activity of the brain and muscles, even within a mere half an hour. In fact, dramatic changes were recorded almost instantly of Earthing." - Chevalier G.
In the book Earthing: The most important health discovery ever? There are several studies that illustrate the positive effect that earthing has on the body and it also provides a convincing argument for the pernicious effects of man-made EMf's.
My personal experience
I have been consciously grounding regularly for almost eight years now. In that time I have experienced the curative power of grounding many times. In fact, every time I step into the natural world without shoes, I can feel the energy of the earth at work.
As someone that has suffered from migraines since childhood, I can tell you that the positive effects of earthing are real. There have been times when I have felt incredibly severe headaches miraculously melt away as I laid on the grass in my garden.
Body pains and anxiety have seemingly evaporated. I have slept more soundly and watched as wounds and cuts healed quicker than I ever expected they would. I have felt supercharged with energy whilst climbing mountains in Scotland.
Above all, It's enhanced my ability to be present and connect with the world around me. And as much as it may sound like hippy-hogwash, it makes me feel freer, happier, and more human.
The benefits of earthing
There is a wide range of benefits that come with the practice of earthing. And there is increasingly more scientific evidence emerging that confirms what many ancient cultures have always known: we belong to the earth and we should live in harmony with it.
Inflammation is said to be the underlying cause of most diseases. Grounding has been repeatedly shown to reduce the signs and symptoms of inflammation: redness, heat, swelling, pain, and loss of function.
"The moment your foot touches the Earth, your physiology changes. An immediate normalisation begins. And an anti-inflammatory switch is turned on. People stay inflamed because they never come in contact with the Earth, the source of free electrons, which can neutralise the free radicals in the body that cause disease and cellular destruction." - James Oschman, ph.D.
One popular hypothesis is that connecting the body to the Earth allows free electrons from the Earth to spread over and into the body. Free electrons are stated to have an antioxidant effect in the body and specifically around areas of trauma and injury.
For more information on this aspect of earthing, here's a research paper on The effects of grounding on inflammation.
Even I had a hard time believing this one. Grounding is said to be effective in reducing and ameliorating the symptoms of jet lag.
In the book, Earthing, there's one story from a man named Jim Bagnola, who said he was able to avoid all symptoms of jet lag simply by grounding shortly after he arrived in his destination country.
"In my work, I travel all over the world, so jet lag is always an issue. In my experience, going barefoot and sleeping grounded are the fastest ways to realign to a far-flung time zone. I sleep more soundly, with more lucid dreaming, and feel stronger physically."
He goes on to say that in the past he had tried all kinds of remedies and gadgets but nothing worked as effectively as grounding.
The idea is that by grounding after landing in a new time zone, people can reset their internal clocks to "local time" and reduce the effects of jet lag.
I recently took a trip to Canada, to visit my family. The time difference is five hours - not crazy, but enough to experience jet lag. On top of that, I had a stop-over in Amsterdam. The travel time was over twenty hours. I figured this would be the perfect opportunity for me to experience this benefit of earthing for myself.
As soon as I arrived at my moms' house, despite wanting to sleep, I kicked off my shoes and headed straight for the garden.
Within one hour of sitting on the grass, most of my energy had returned to me. I felt like a new person. And when It was time to sleep, I had no issues whatsoever. It was that way for my entire trip. It was like my body-clock simply readjusted itself in that one-hour period of grounding.
Now, before you dismiss this as a fluke or a placebo effect. Let's look at why grounding could mitigate the effects of jet lag.
Biological clock and sleep
Biological clock systems are found in all forms of life. Humans have several biological clocks and one master clock, located in the hypothalamus. This master clock controls all bodily system functions, including the wake-sleep circadian cycle.
The theory is that the master clock doesn't just receive its cues from the external light conditions, but that the earth's energy also coordinates the biological clocks and hormone flow in the body.
Grounding has been repeatedly shown to normalize the day-night cortisol rhythms and the production of melatonin, which is responsible for sleep.
"At any point on the surface of the planet, the earth's energy fluctuates according to the position of the sun and the moon, creating cycles such as the circadian cycle." - Earthing. Pg 95.
Clint Ober, one of the authors of Earthing conducted one of the first studies on the effects of sleeping grounded:
Over thirty days, sixty people were monitored as they slept on earthing pads. In actuality, only half of them slept grounded, the other half were ungrounded (their pads looked as though they were connected but actually weren't).
The results were amazing. Of those who were grounded:
- 85 percent fell asleep more quickly.
- 93 percent reported better sleep throughout the night.
- 82 percent noticed a large reduction in muscle stiffness.
- 74 percent experienced elimination or reduction of chronic back pain and joint pain.
- 100 percent reported feeling more rested when they woke up.
Pain, performance and recovery
Of all the benefits of earthing, This might be the most exciting.
Earthing has been shown to be so effective in speeding up healing and recovery from injuries that professional athletes are incorporating grounding into their regular routines.
Tour de France: one of the toughest and most challenging tests of human endurance on the planet. It has been compared to running three marathons a day, for twenty-one consecutive days. The race pushes competitors so hard that they frequently suffer from tendonitis, lack of sleep and general sickness - not to mention mental stress and physical trauma.
In 2007, the American-sponsored teams utilized earthing as part of an experiment to test the healing benefits of grounding. After each day of riding, they would sleep grounded via earthing pads. The results were astounding.
"They (riders) reported better sleep, significantly less illness, practically no tendonitis, dramatic recovery from the days racing, and faster healing of injuries." - Clint Ober. "Earthing"
There are even stories of those who claim that their muscle strength has increased since they started earthing:
I've been a powerlifter since the age of twelve and over the years I've achieved many records with different federations. I have been grounding myself for more than two years, ever since the age of fifty. The most I had squatted before that was 505 pounds. After six months of grounding, I was able to increase my lift to 585 pounds, a jump of 80 pounds. When that happened, at my age, I thought it was a bit strange. The only thing I can attribute to this unusual improvement is grounding - Ken Jones, ph.D.
The effects of earthing are so beneficial that more and more professional athletes are taking to the practice. These days there are triathletes, swimmers, runners, NFL players and many others that make earthing a priority.
The other benefits of earthing
We have only scratched the surface regarding the benefits of connecting with the earth. The truth is it would take many articles to cover the multifarious ways in which earthing can improve your life.
It has been generally been shown that the sicker the individual is, the more they benefit from earthing. Even those in good health report feeling better after spending time grounded.
Here are some of the other common benefits of earthing that may appeal to you:
- Increases energy
- lowers stress, improves mood and promotes calmness
- Normalises the body's biological rhythms
- Improves blood pressure and flow
- Relieves muscle tension and headaches
- Lessens hormonal and menstrual issues
- Speeds the healing process
- Protects the body against EMFs
- Helps with fatigue and insomnia
- Improved sexual function in males
- Reduction of varicose veins
- Strengthening the immune system
How you can harness the power of the earth
Whether you live in the city or the countryside, incorporating earthing into your daily life is easy.
According to the research, it only takes around 30 minutes after grounding for the healing process to begin. I typically encourage people to spend at least 45 minutes earthing a day, if they want to notice results.
Obviously, the more time you spend grounded the better. It can be as simple as sitting in your garden with your feet in the grass or taking a short walk around a local park.
Ways you can ground
The beach. This is probably the most common way that people spend time earthing. Swimming in the ocean is another great way of grounding, with saltwater being much conductive than freshwater due to the high concentration of minerals.
Grass. This is likely to be the most accessible source for grounding. It can be a park, garden, or if you're really desperate, a patch of grass in the middle of a city. Sitting on a chair with your feet on the earth, whilst reading a book is a great way to ground on a daily basis.
Concrete. Believe it or not, it is possible to ground on concrete paths and sidewalks. The connectivity isn't as strong but the effects are still beneficial. Asphalt, however, is not conductive due to the petrochemicals contained within it.
Earthing products. For those of you living in apartments, or for anyone who wants to increase the amount of time you spend grounded, these are convenient and effective tools for staying connected.
There are earthing pads, mats, blankets, shoes, and even mattresses on the market. These come in handy during the winter and on rainy days.
I currently have an earthing blanket that I purchased online. The best sleep I have is grounded sleep. It's also great for dealing with headaches body pains, and general wellbeing. There are many to choose from, so do your research and read the reviews.
Every single one of us is a part of nature, not something separate from it. Our relationship with the earth is the same as it is for all other mammals and organisms on this planet. We depend on it, not just to exploit its resources, but to live in symbiosis and harmony with it. When we live according to the laws and rhythms of nature, we become super healthy, super strong, super connected, and, ultimately, superhuman.