Self

What 'Earthing' Means — And How It Can Make You Happier

Photo: Jacob Lund / Shutterstock
happy woman hiking

In our modern world, we spend most of our time indoors. According to a study, Americans spend 93 percent of their time in enclosed buildings and vehicles. But our ancestors lived in the wilderness, walked barefoot upon the earth, and slept under the stars each night.

Spending so much time indoors has disconnected us from the natural healing properties of the earth, which is why practices like nature therapy and earthing can help us find happiness.

What is earthing?

Earthing, a type of nature therapy, is the process of physically connecting your body to the earth in some way by having your skin touch grass, sand, a river, lake or sea — like walking barefoot in the grass or running your hands over the bark of a tree. Earthing is also known as grounding.

Because the earth has a natural energy, when your body comes into contact with the ground, you are absorbing the earth's electrons and energy. And those electrical charges can affect your body in quite a positive way.

The practice of earthing, or grounding, can be traced back to Indigenous practices, Chinese medicine or Qi, and even 19th century Europe.

RELATED: 40 Inspirational Nature Quotes Celebrating Earth's Natural Beauty

How can spending time in nature make you happier?

Nature therapy, the practice of spending time outside in nature, cultivates a state of holistic balance and equanimity. Nature can make a big difference in maintaining a healthy mind and body. Being in nature connects you to "source energy," your true identity as a spiritual being.

Scientific studies are beginning to find evidence that being in nature and interacting with it have a profound impact on our brains and our behavior, helping us reduce anxiety, increase our clarity and creativity, and improve our ability to connect with one another and Divine energy.

I consider spending time in nature to be one of the key elements for how to be happy and healthy.

Here are 5 benefits of earthing:

1. Earthing restores balance.

Discovering the health benefits of earthing is probably one of the most important medical breakthroughs of the 21st century. Earthing has been shown to:

  • Reduce inflammation
  • Boost energy
  • Lower stress by reducing cortisol
  • Improve sleep
  • Balance hormones
  • Improve circulation

The way it works, according to the studies, is that the earth has a mild negative charge. Our modern indoor life causes our body to build up a positive charge. Connecting to the earth evens out this positive charge and returns our body to a neutral state.

In the book "Earthing," Dr. Stephen Sinatra presents research and personal experiences of people all over the world, showing that the earth naturally stabilizes our body's own electrical system, recharging and healing us.

To get the most benefits from earthing, walk barefoot or sit with your feet touching the ground for 30 minutes. You can also swim in the ocean, which is high in the minerals needed to conduct the electricity. Any direct contact with your skin will work.

If you are gardening you can kneel on the ground with your bare skin. To get results, you must have direct sustained skin contact. Laying in the grass at the park will work, too. You can even meditate while sitting on the sand, rocks, or grass.

2. It reduces stress.

I know from experience that walking in the woods calms me down. After a good hike, I feel relaxed and centered.

Any physical activity reduces the stress hormone cortisol, but research now shows being in nature has an even greater impact. The sights and sounds of nature have a soothing effect on your nervous system, further reducing the fight or flight response.

One experiment conducted in Japan showed participants who walked in forests had significantly lower heart rates and higher heart rate variability (indicating more relaxation and less stress), and reported better moods and less anxiety, than those who walked in urban settings.

RELATED: People Who Watch Nature Documentaries Are Way Happier, Says Study

3. It relieves mental fatigue and increases creativity.

In today’s world, there is constant stimulation from technology. This can lead to mental fatigue and burn out. We need something to get us back to a normal healthy state.

Researcher David Strayer showed that spending time in nature, without digital devices, allows the brain to rest and restore.

A 2012 study found that hikers on a four-day backpacking trip could solve significantly more puzzles requiring creativity when compared to a control group of people waiting to take the same hike — in fact, 47 percent more.

"Now we are seeing changes in the brain and changes in the body that suggest we are physically and mentally more healthy when we are interacting with nature," Strayer said.

4. Earthing makes you feel more alive.

It’s not surprising that being outside makes you feel more alive.

The natural environment is rich in prana, the life force that sustains all life. Breathing fresh, natural clean air allows you to absorb more prana. Breathing in prana energizes your system.

Prana is also found in the trees, flowers, rocks, sand, water and the star-filled sky. Spending time outside connects you to this life-restoring current that flows through all of nature.

5. It helps you feel happier.

Walking on the beach or in the woods always makes me happier and gives me a sense of joy. Part of it is the reduction of stress, but there may be more to it.

Gregory Bratman of Stanford University found evidence that nature may impact our mood by focusing our attention on positive things. In one 2015 study, he and his colleagues randomly assigned 60 participants to a 50-minute walk in either a natural setting (oak woodlands) or an urban setting (along a four-lane road).

Before and after the walk, the participants were assessed on their emotional state and on cognitive measures, such as how well they could perform tasks requiring short-term memory.

Results showed that those who walked in nature experienced less anxiety and focused less on negative aspects of themselves and their life. They experienced more positive emotions compared to the urban walkers. They also improved their performance on the memory tasks.

In addition, studies have shown that being in nature relieves symptoms of depression (i.e., clinical and manic depression/bipolar disorder) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and also stabilizes obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Nature therapy is always available to you. Make a commitment to get outside in nature every day. It does its magic automatically. No effort required. Isn't that great?

Appreciate your body walking on this beautiful planet. Your body is an incredible gift that connects you to the magnificent world we live in.

RELATED: 5 Easy Ways To Reconnect With Nature & Improve Your Wellbeing

Ingrid DeHart is a certified nutrition coach, EFT practitioner, food blogger, former chef and restaurant owner, and founder of Eat Well, Enjoy Life.

Sign up for YourTango's free newsletter!

This article was originally published at Eat Well Enjoy Life. Reprinted with permission from the author.