As a nation, we’ve become entirely detached from the world around us. We chug to our offices every day in machines that recirculate “conditioned” air, marching across hard-packed gravel or pavement parking lots to our job, then get comfortable in a sterile, artificial environment all day long.
Someone who rarely leaves home on weekends for hiking in the forest or mountains is considered “outdoorsy,” regardless of the fact that they’re perhaps only spending about one percent of their lives in nature. With this continuous dissociation from nature, we’ve begun to perceive ourselves as being separate or why else would we need to invent terms like “nature” or “the environment?” Whether we consciously admit it or not, nearly all of us don’t even think of ourselves as animals.
Looking at it critically, that’s all we really are. In no doubt, we may be gifted with consciousness, thoughts and experience emotions well beyond most other animals; we still rely on the world to nurture us. It’s no coincidence that there has been an alarming increase in chronic diseases as we continue to distance ourselves from nature.
As health statistics continue to nose dive, many people are starting to revert to a simpler way of life. One of the most straightforward, uncomplicated and beneficial ways to do this is to ditch the shoes every now and then. Shoes are the symbol of our disconnection with the world around us, hindering us from feeling the planet under our feet and from balancing our energy with it. Barefoot therapy is also called earthing or grounding, it has undergone transformation from being a practice for only the wackiest people in town, to a scientifically proven method of improving our health.
It’s important to note, however, that these health-benefits are only experienced on natural surfaces. Barefoot therapy entails walking only on soil, vegetated surfaces (like grass) and sand. Anything other than the above surfaces is likely to bruise your heel, cut the bottom of your foot, or have you step on things you really don’t want to step on!
Below are 5 superb benefits of earthing.
1. Balance your charge
By working on a natural surface you are literally grounding yourself on the earth. Our bodies are made up of almost two-thirds water, they are good electrical conductors. Walking barefooted invites all of the health-giving negative ions in the soil, sand, and vegetation into our bodies. Traditional medicine maintains that an overall positive charge in the body predisposes the body to diseases and infections. Walking barefooted on natural surfaces thereby exposing your feet to a bit of the earth’s negative ions is a good thing.
2. Sleep better
Lots of research has shown the importance of being grounded to getting a good night rest. A research work in 2004 published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine chose 12 individuals who were suffering from sleep dysfunction, pain and stress and had them sleep on an earth-conductive mattress pad. The study duration was 8 weeks; researchers evaluated cortisol levels during their sleep, and also collected information on symptoms of sleep dysfunction, pain and stress per individual.
The results showed there was “Measurable increase in diurnal cortisol profiles, with a significant reduction in cortisol levels during night-time sleep. The 24-hour circadian cortisol profiles showed movement towards normalization, the earlier reported symptoms such as sleep dysfunction, pain, and stress, were reduced or eliminated in almost all the subjects.”
Another study was conducted in 2006 to build on these preliminary findings in 58 healthy adults; it produced a similar result. For this study, an earthing cord was attached to the soles of the subject’s feet during sleep, with the other end driven into the earth outside. Dramatic and immediate changes in brainwaves were observed by the researchers as soon as they attached the earthing cords and a marked improvement in the sleep pattern that followed.
This study showed that by the simple act of reconnecting these individuals to the earth while sleeping had a positive effect on stress levels, tension and autonomic balance.
Well, I don’t know about you, but I am not opened to the thought of sleeping on the ground outside every night to get that earthing benefit neither do I want a long electric cord attached to my feet and running it out the ceiling or window. However, there is a residual benefit on sleeping from barefoot therapy during the day. The absorption of health-giving negative ions balances the body electric charge thereby reducing stress and anxiety; increasing the likelihood of much better sleep at night.
3. Reduce inflammation, boost immunity and prevent disease
This is like a 3 in 1, three benefits of barefoot therapy all rolled in one. A study was carried out two years ago to confirm those very benefits by examining existing research on the subject, published in the Journal of Inflammation research. It was discovered that daily barefoot therapy resulted in an increase in white blood cell counts, ultimately boosting immunity along with a marked reduction in inflammation and pain. If you have a persistent cold or flu, have low-level constant pain, or suffer from inflamed joints or muscles, simply getting out of your shoes, stripping off your socks and walking on natural surfaces everyday may just be the thing.
4. Banish foot problems
Many foot injuries and ailments today can be traced to shoes. Shoes completely change our walking style, with many of the tighter varieties preventing toe flexion thereby causing the foot to undergo morphological changes (structure and form). You can return your feet to their natural, healthy state by walking barefooted as much as possible. This allows your toes to spread out, your gait smoother, and lesser worries for your foot health.
During my workout routine when the sky is clear, I ensure it involves exercising on the grass, be it sprinting, jumping, doing weight lifting exercises, or taking a turn with the battle rope. I find that when I exercise barefooted, I jump higher, run faster and feel so much better afterward.
5. Reconnect with nature
For me, this is the most important benefit of grounding. When stressed, overwhelmed or anxious, I simply take off my shoes and stroll out onto the lawn or go fishing. The effect is instant. There is an unexplainable feeling about having your bare feet planted on the ground that makes you feel connected with the world, and it becomes increasingly difficult to feel worried or stressed when you become part of something far bigger than yourself.