Earthing — why some believe connecting with Mother Earth is good for your health
Earthing, or grounding, is a practice that has likely existed in certain communities for generations even if there wasn’t an exact label for it.
Jeannie Sindicic remembers being just 4 or 5 years old and feeling a sense of calm and belonging by simply planting her bare feet on the Earth.
“I loved being barefoot. Anytime I was barefoot — walking on soil, walking on grass — it made me personally feel at a very young age very connected to Mother Earth,” she says, recalling how her grandmother would tell her anytime you’re barefoot on the ground you’re “vibrating with the natural frequency of the earth and the benefits of what that was.”
It wasn’t until much later that Sindicic, now an intuitive life coach based in the Midwest, learned the name for this very practice: Earthing.
“We would call it grounding,” she says, another term people use for it today.
Earthing, or grounding, is a practice that has likely existed for generations even if there wasn’t an exact label for it. Now, thanks to an interest in natural healing, the practice is gaining more attention. On social media platforms like TikTok, the hashtag #earthing has more than 66 million views and #grounding has 199 million. The 2019 documentar,y “The Earthing Movie: The Remarkable Science of Grounding,” has 4.6 million views on YouTube.
What exactly is ‘earthing?’
Clint Ober — the author of “Earthing: The Most Important Health Discovery Ever?” — says earthing has to do with the Earth’s slight negative charge and abundance of free electrons.
“Anything that is conductive — like a ground rod, metal, a human body, an animal — that touches the Earth, the body absorbs electrons from the Earth and equalizes with the Earth,” Ober says.
These electrons are thought to be used by the body to help improve function and reduce inflammation, leading to myriad health benefits.
Ober is credited as discovering earthing and bringing it to the masses through his work but says the act of connecting to the ground in this way isn’t something he invented. He says he was inspired by his knowledge of electrical stability in the communications industry as a retired pioneer of the American cable TV industry and his childhood growing up near Native American communities. He recalls one time being at the home of a Native American friend whose mom told them to take off their shoes.
“They’ll make you sick,” he recalls her saying, a concept that stuck with him as he began thinking about the potential consequences of people no longer being naturally grounded to the Earth with the invention and use of rubber- or synthetic-soled shoes.
What benefits can ‘earthing’ provide?
Once Ober started playing around with the idea of electrical charges in the home, body and ground, he says he started to note “very apparent” effects, including improved sleep and reduced body pain.
Now 78, he says he stays grounded about 80% to 90% of the time with outdoor grounding as well as tools he’s helped develop that allow people to ground from indoors through grounding rods and says he doesn’t suffer from any inflammation-related health disorders.
There is plenty of research on the benefits nature can have on someone’s mental health but less on earthing specifically, especially in terms of physical health.
In a study published in 2012, researchers found “emerging evidence shows that contact with the Earth — whether being outside barefoot or indoors connected to grounded conductive systems — may be a simple, natural and yet profoundly effective environmental strategy against chronic stress, ANS dysfunction, inflammation, pain, poor sleep, disturbed HRV, hypercoagulable blood and many common health disorders, including cardiovascular disease.”
Critics argue there are too few studies and not sufficient evidence to support these claims, pointing to a potential placebo effect that makes it difficult to validate from a scientific point-of-view.
Sindicic says earthing has become embedded in her daily routine and helps with her mental health.
“When I wake up in the morning ... I’ll go outside with my dogs and I will walk on the grass. That’s how I begin my day,” she says. “It may sound corny ... That’s a form of meditation to me. I can feel beneath my feet, the vibration of the Earth, and I feel very sound, I feel grounded. I feel like I can really start my day.”
Daignault says any time spent in nature will “pay dividends on your mental and physical health.” “There’s something inherently wellness-boosting about being outside.”
Tips on giving earthing a try:
If you’re interested in exploring earthing, Sindicic suggests these simple steps:
- Take your socks off.
- Walk outside, even if it’s just on some soil or grass in your backyard.
- Stand and be quiet for three to 10 seconds.
- Take three deep breaths from your solar plexus chakra, which about two inches above your belly button.
“That’s how you can begin this whole journey and how people try to figure out (their) place in this world,” she says.