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Growing up in a tropical environment, I was very fortunate. The sun shone almost daily, beaches and lush forests were nearby, and I regularly enjoyed the cleansing effects of rain and a warm ocean breeze. OK, I admit it: I was downright spoiled!
As a child, I took all these things for granted. Like many people in warm climates, I often complained about the heat and humidity. Then I moved to the concrete, human-made jungle of New York and realized how much I love heat and humidity and how blessed I was to grow up connected to Mother Earth and her many wonders.
My parents and grandparents were not keen on children wandering around barefoot, but they intuitively knew the importance of being in touch with the earth. Growing up, my cousins, sisters, and I spent our summer days at Mami Eva’s house. My mom dropped us off before 8 a.m. on her way to work, and after breakfast, Mami Eva announced to the household full of loud children: “Time to head outside and play in the sun.”
We took our shoes off and ran around, playing and chasing one another in the yard, allowing our toes to enjoy the fresh-cut grass and our skin to be kissed by the tropical morning sun. We were often outside for about two hours before Mami Eva called us back in because it had become too hot to be exposed to the sun.
Those are some of my fondest memories of my carefree childhood and my connection with the land we called home. My elders unknowingly gave me a great foundational gift that many decades later proved instrumental in my healing journey. In order to reclaim my natural state of wellness, I had to learn to get back to nature, to “ground” myself and connect to the earth.
Connection to Nature
We all have this connection to nature and to the whole world: to earth, to water, to air, and to all living creatures. To me, the easiest analogy for imagining this is mycelium. Mycelium is a network within fungus that’s equivalent to the root system in plants. It is like a network within a network of tiny, fine, white, veinlike filaments that provide food and nutrients for mushrooms.
Mycelium is both directly and indirectly connected to everything in the forest: both living and dead. Mycelium is responsible for creating high-quality soil in the forest, decomposing dead leaves and other forest debris, providing nutrients to plants and animals, and supporting plant and animal life as a whole. This almost invisible force supports all life on earth.
Like mycelium, we are connected to the cycles of growth, death, and rebirth, and our lives impact, and are impacted by, all other life. Every single choice we make affects not only us but everyone and everything directly connected to us and, ultimately, the earth as a whole. Our ancestors many thousands of years ago understood this inherent interconnection among all life and the need to support Mother Earth’s natural regenerative processes. They knew our own survival depended on it.
The Benefits of Grounding
Our connection with the earth is undeniable. We rely on Mother Earth for the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the foods that keep us alive and well.
Sadly, however, modern life has made us increasingly disconnected from nature. We spend more hours inside buildings than outside them, and no matter where we are, our faces are glued to an ever-growing number of screens: on our phones, our tablets, and our computers, on our TVs and in theaters. Indeed, many urban dwellers might go weeks or even months without touching any part of the earth.
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People in urban centers have limited access to grassy areas, sandy beaches, and forests. We don’t always have regular contact with natural bodies of water or even get to breathe clean fresh air. Even when in nature, the shoes we wear block direct contact with the ground.
Many people don’t consume living foods regularly (that is, raw fruits and vegetables), and some have no idea how or where food is grown. Given all this, it’s no wonder we’re not well!
The modern comforts designed to make our lives easier, more efficient, and seemingly happier are contributing to growing incidences of chronic stress, physical and emotional fatigue, anxiety, and other mood disorders. Even when we’re with other people, we can feel increasingly isolated and disconnected. I wholeheartedly believe that our disconnection from the natural world is exacerbating these issues.
This is why the wellness practice of grounding, or what’s also called “earthing,” has become so vital. This involves any activity that helps us reconnect or “ground” to nature and the earth. At its most fundamental, this means literally touching the earth with our hands, feeling nature on our skin. It means walking barefoot in the grass and swimming in the ocean and feeling bark on our palms.
One theory behind the benefits of grounding is that the earth is one giant antioxidant. When we come in contact with nature, our electrical frequencies sort of synchronize with the earth’s, which helps our bodies to fight free radicals, inflammation, and disease.
Since the 1990s, researchers have been studying the connection between the earth’s electrical field and its effects on mood, physiology, and overall health. These studies have mostly focused on issues that affect millions of people — like pain, mood disorders, and inflammation — and so far, most of the data is anecdotal. However, studies are increasingly showing that grounding benefits a variety of health concerns.
Practices for Reclaiming Grounding
Whether these practices are called grounding, earthing, or simply reconnecting with nature, they accomplish the same thing. Most share an essential element: physically touching or making contact with the natural world.
This is an underrated but critical component of wellness: Allowing our body to physically connect with nature fosters emotional connection. We must all fall in love (or fall back in love) with Mother Earth, which will inspire more deliberate efforts to protect her.
This is as simple as it sounds. In a yard or park, it doesn’t get easier than taking your shoes off and walking around barefoot for twenty to thirty minutes each day. If you live in a city, find a suitable park or green space nearby. If the area is small, you can sit, take your shoes off, and simply allow your feet to touch the earth without walking. Let your feet get dirty; squish your toes in the mud.
If it’s warm, wear shorts and a T-shirt and let as much of your naked skin feel the earth, wind, and weather as you can. If it’s cold, still go barefoot. Walk in the snow for as long as you can handle without jeopardizing your extremities.
The more skin that gets in touch with the natural world, the better. Get as naked as possible, or as much as you feel comfortable and is legal, and lie down on the grass or on a sandy beach. Warm sand is a fantastic conduit for the electrical charges from the earth. Bury yourself in the sand up to your neck, then clean yourself off by swimming in the ocean.
Submerge in Water
Speaking of water, swimming is another awesome way to connect and ground with nature — whether in the ocean, a lake, or a river. According to experts, submerging in natural bodies of water is just as effective for grounding purposes, though swimming in concrete or plastic, chlorinated pools is not. If you can handle cold water, swim outdoors for as much of the year as you can stand.
Practice Forest Bathing
This wellness technique was originally developed in Japan. Forest bathing involves spending quiet, meditative time in a forest, taking in the atmosphere and surroundings with all your senses. People sit, lie down, touch and interact with the flora, meditate, smell, look, and otherwise use their entire being to become one with the forest. I’ve tried it, and the effect is similar to those of other forms of grounding.
Don’t have a green thumb? Don’t have space where you live for an outdoor garden? Doesn’t matter.
As somebody with the worst green thumb ever who practiced this while living in a tiny New York City apartment, I can tell you that buying a couple of little pots, some soil, and baby plants and connecting with them for a minute or two a couple of times per day can be highly satisfying. It is one way to reconnect with the earth even in an urban world.
Use Grounding Equipment
Grounding equipment is an indirect way to ground yourself, but in my experience, it is neither as satisfying nor as effective as direct contact with nature. However, it is very popular in some wellness circles, and you might find it useful. It requires buying and using special equipment like grounding mats, sheets, blankets, socks, skin patches, and bands.
Manufacturers and sellers swear by their products, which promise to help you recharge in the same way as other grounding activities. Personally, I’d only use these as a last resort if being in nature is difficult in your situation.
Copyright ©2022 by Jovanka Ciares.
Printed with permission from New World Library
BOOK: Reclaiming Wellness
Reclaiming Wellness: Ancient Wisdom for Your Healthy, Happy, and Beautiful Life
by Jovanka Ciares.
Reclaiming Wellness explores today’s most effective wellness practices — and their multicultural sources — in a way that makes overall health accessible to all. If you’ve ever felt left out of “elite” healthcare regimes or thought that being healthy shouldn’t be expensive, this book is for you.
For more info and/or to order this book, click here. Also available as a Kindle edition and as an Audiobook.
About the Author
Jovanka Ciares is the author of Reclaiming Wellness and several other titles. A certified wellness expert, integrative herbalist, nutrition educator, and coach, she offers lectures and workshops in Spanish and English..
She is the founder of Solana, an herbal supplement line for digestive health, and the creator of the #ReclaimingWellness initiative, aiming at educating BIPOC communities on the power of herbal medicine and plant-based living for their healing journey.
Visit her online at JovankaCiares.com.