I was the kid who spent 90% of their time barefoot and outside (in the summer). Often, I was covered in mud! I didn’t actually learn the term “grounding” until I was 14 at my aunt’s wedding. A family friend also enjoyed the feel of the ground beneath her feet. She was the first to tell me that connection with the earth improves our physical and mental health.
Grounding: What Does It Mean?
You can ground a disobedient teenager, but luckily, that is not the kind of grounding
In fact, there are two kinds of grounding that I would like to share with you today! They are interconnected (as health always is), and they have a similar root.
In the simplest terms, grounding means base.
A grounding in science is the same as saying that you have basic training in scientific terms. In electrical terms, grounding means connecting a conductor to the earth.
So what does grounding have to do with our health?
Firstly, when we are struggling with rumination or anxiety, we need to ground our thoughts and our minds. We bring our thoughts back down to the earth, the present, and the moment.
Likewise, grounding is inherently connected to our physical body and the earth. Also known as earthing, this technique involves physical contact with the surface of the earth. Unlike grounding our thoughts, we physically connect to the ground.
While both forms of grounding have similar techniques, the benefits are surprisingly varied. I will explore both to provide a holistic understanding of how grounding improves mental and physical health.
How To Ground Your Thoughts
If you have read various other mental health articles, you probably learned about the importance of mindfulness. In my own blog, I explore how to be mindful in a variety of ways, from coloring to walking through nature.
If you are brand new to the concept of mindfulness, it’s actually pretty simple!
Mindfulness allows us to slow our thoughts down, step off the anxiety “hamster wheel”, and live in the moment. It helps us identify our needs, calm our minds, and reduce the stress of daily life.
In short, when we practice mindfulness, we ground ourselves in the here and now!
Increasingly, therapists are teaching their clients how to use mindfulness to cope. Tord and Bräuninger, among others, applied grounding in Dance Movement Therapy (DMT). Based on the idea that we are all rooted in the earth, the researchers explored how this connection can be applied in therapeutic movement.
The focus on movement, body, and connection brought the participants to the “here and now”.
Tord and Bräuninger suggest that this therapy can be used for any individual. Clients who have experienced trauma can find a safe way to re-inhabit their bodies as their own. The rhythmic movements are soothing for individuals with depression or anxiety, fostering autonomy. In elderly persons, DMT fosters strength, balance, and awareness. Overall, DMT fosters physical, emotional, and social grounding!
Apply It To You
Perhaps you have been feeling untethered lately. Maybe your thoughts have too much control right now.
How can grounding and DMT apply to your life? What if you don’t want to, or are not ready to seek out therapy?
Luckily, the concepts described are not difficult to adapt to the person!
Disclaimer: I am not a psychologist, psychiatrist, or doctor. If you are struggling with severe mental health concerns, I highly recommend you seek out a professional counselor.
When we ground our minds, we are present in our bodies. The focus is on the “here and now”. You acknowledge and dismiss your thoughts, rather than indulging in the “what ifs”.
The following activities are great ways to ground yourself on your own terms:
- Forest Bathing (read more)
- Mindful Coloring (read more)
- 5-4-3-2-1 Technique (read more)
- Yoga: this exercise allows you to stretch and strengthen your body while promoting calm and mindfulness.
- Mindful Eating: for one meal a day, put your phone away when you eat. Take the time to savor and notice the different flavors and textures of your food.
You may surprise yourself! Or, maybe you will find a different technique that works for you. If so, leave it in the comments to share with others!
Either way, we can all benefit from grounding our thoughts in the present.
Grounding Our Bodies
Our bodies are conductors. That means electricity can pass through them.
This isn’t so great if you are struck by lightning, but, it deeply impacts our mental and physical health. Why?
When we connect to the earth, our bodies absorb electrons. These electrons act as antioxidants, which promote health in a wide variety of ways.
This type of grounding is also known as earthing. Why? Because you need to maintain sustained contact with the earth. By connecting with the earth, we gain many benefits! According to Oschman and colleagues, benefits range from reducing inflammation, promoting immunity, improving healing, and helping reduce chronic pain.
Now that seems too good to be true.
But let’s explore the science.
Sleeping While Grounded
In this study, some individuals slept normally, and some slept on a mat that was grounded. Those who slept on the grounded mat reported better sleep, lower cortisol, and a decrease in pain!
If you would like to learn more about the damaging effects of cortisol, you can read my article here!
Pain, Immune Response, & Being Grounded
To test how being grounded impacts the immune response, participants were required to exercise for a certain amount of time. When we work out, our body must then heal those damaged muscles, which is why we get sore.
When participants were grounded for most of the day, their pain following the workout was less, and their immune response was further advanced. Moreover, their inflammation was lower than the group that was not grounded.
This suggests that being grounded helps facilitate healing and reduce inflammation.
Grounding For Chronic Disease
Most chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and fibromyalgia, have an inflammatory component.
Sometimes that inflammation can be related to diet. Sometimes there are other life factors that influence the amount of inflammation in our bodies.
However, this research on grounding is very exciting for those battling chronic diseases! Why? Because grounding appears to reduce inflammation! By targeting the inflammation, grounding supports immune function and helps reduce pain.
More research is needed, of course, however, it is a low-risk way to potentially make a huge difference!
What If I Don’t Want To Walk Barefoot?
My favorite way to ground myself is to walk barefoot on a lawn, the soil, or really anywhere.
But walking barefoot is not for everyone, for a variety of reasons.
Luckily, there are hardworking scientists researching how we can be grounded anywhere, from our office chair to our bed! How?
For example, Sleep Grounded Canada Inc. has created grounding mats for your mattress, chair, your feet, and more!
There are options, and these options are exciting. Or at least, I am very excited by the implications of this research!
For more information about grounding, you can visit this link! The testimonies are incredible, and so is this theory about pain management and the earth.
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