Why does it feel so good to walk barefoot on the beach or on grass? It’s more than just the tactile sensations on your feet. There are two other fairly magical things which can happen when you connect with the Earth.
- The soil hosts bacteria which have been found to improve your mood! There are several recent studies on this, a few are noted below. But the main idea is a certain beneficial strain of bacteria found in most soil actually helps increase serotonin (a feel-good hormone). If you’ve ever gardened or even potted a plant, you may have noticed how good you felt afterwards. As spring approaches, it’s a great time to think of planting something and getting a bit dirty.
- The Earth has an ionic field (as do you)! When you step on the ground barefoot, you are connecting with a huge reservoir of negative ionic charges. This is actually a good thing. You may have heard of “free radicals”- the dangerous molecules which are associated with things like cancer and inflammation. A free radical is simply a particle with an excess of positive charge. Immersion/connection with negative ion sources can help reduce your risk of cellular damage. While the scientific study of grounding is early, here’s one article demonstrating positive impacts on immune function and chronic pain reduction.
When I was having a rough time about a year or so ago, I read about grounding and found it was very helpful for re-centering me when I seemed to be spiraling. It happened to be Winter during the worst of it, so I didn’t stay out long. But even a few minutes really helped bring a sense of calm and quiet.
There are some companies which sell “grounding shoes” which supposedly help you tap into the Earth’s magnetic field even when not barefoot; though the science on these isn’t strong. If you’re down to experiment you can find here, but personally I haven’t bothered to do so. Mostly because I just like the feel of the Earth directly under my feet.
Side note- you can get similar benefits by swimming in large bodies of water. The ocean is ideal since it’s saline-nature makes it more negatively ionic than say a lake or river. Swimming in the ocean also helps increase absorption of minerals through the skin and can help improve dermal and respiratory conditions!
There are other less literal ways you can “ground” as noted in the link below. This can be particularly good for those with anxiety or PTSD. My favorite of these is 5-4-3-2-1. Use all of your senses to see 5 things, hear 4 things, touch 3 things, smell 2 things, and taste one. If you struggle with a sense of disembodiment, this can be a quick way to get back to center.
In conclusion— If you needed an excuse to play in the dirt – this is it!