How Connecting To Earth Can Lower Your Stress
Recent studies suggest walking barefoot can work as an effective stress-buster. Read on to explore the effects of grounding on stress hormone cortisol.
Ever thought your key to stress reduction and a healthy life could be lying beneath your feet? Most probably not. For sure, there is nothing wrong in not knowing how grounding lowers cortisol levels in the body. However, after reading this article, we expect you will observe a major shift in your thoughts about this practice.
It’s a pleasant surprise that nature has gifted us with many healing powers. No wonder, the modern science cannot exactly capture the subtleness of these benefits. However, during the last few years, scientific interest in such areas of study has seen an upward trend. One such mention-worthy field of study is something called grounding, connecting to the earth. Also called earthing, this traditional practice offers a myriad of health benefits.
What is Grounding? Know Its Health Benefits
Grounding is a practice of staying connected to the earth for at least some minutes every day. In fact, this is the oldest and simplest form of practice that restores electrophysiological balance in the body.
Our body consists of numerous ions, the charged particles like sodium-, potassium-, calcium-, magnesium- ions. Their movements in and out of the cells regulate physiological functions like heartbeat, nerve conduction, and muscle contraction. Thus, when you come in contact with the earth, the free electrons on its surface flow into your body. Thus, it helps to set your biological clock that affects hormone secretion.
In addition, the free mobile electrons from the earth surface act as antioxidants. It is a well-known fact that the antioxidants neutralize harmful free radicals (reactive oxygen species or ROS). That way, they may prevent heart disorders, asthma, cancer, hormone imbalance, arthritis and memory disorders, and slow down aging.
The benefits of grounding on human health are:
- Lowered stress.
- Improved mood.
- Hormone balance.
- Enhanced immune response.
- Better sleep.
- Relief from the symptoms of asthma, joint pain, and breathing problems while sleeping.
- Thin blood. This can be specifically beneficial to the patients who have a high blood viscosity.
How Grounding Affects Cortisol Production?
According to a 2012 study published in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health, grounding significantly relieved the sleep, stress, and pain among the patients who had high levels of cortisol. Moreover, the patients also experienced higher energy during the day and reduced fatigue in the morning.
Grounding Shifts Your Brain Functions From Fight-or-Flight Mode To Rest and Digest Mode
Our brain controls the functions of visceral organs (like heart, intestines, and stomach) through Autonomic Nervous System (ANS). ANS has two divisions- Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) and Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS).
Cortisol is an integral part of the SNS. When your mind senses a stressful stimulus, it increases the secretion of cortisol along with adrenaline. Remember the adrenaline rush during a bungee jump? As a result, your heart starts beating faster, the breathing rate increases and blood glucose level rises. That’s the reason why this basic survival mechanism is called flight-or-fight response.
On the other hand, PNS is concerned with more subtle functions like day-day to energy conservation and maintenance of the digestive activity. Thus, it is called rest and digest system.
When you practice grounding continuously, your brain switches its focus from SNS to PNS. Consequently, you become less stressed, your heart starts beating normally and the risk of other complication goes down.
A Quick Overview of Cortisol
Cortisol is a steroid hormone. When you are under a stress or your blood glucose level goes down, adrenal glands secrete this hormone. It plays a major role in immune suppression, protein breakdown, raising blood glucose levels (opposite to insulin), bone weakening, and sleep disorders.
What Does It Mean To Have High Levels of Cortisol?
An occasional surge in the levels of cortisol does not pose a major threat to your health. In fact, it is your body’s way of preparing for the perceived danger. When the stressor goes away, the cortisol level drops and your body processes get back to their original rhythm.
However, when it becomes a daily event, your health can be severely damaged. How would you feel to be under a constant stress without really knowing what is causing the stress? Long-term overproduction of cortisol increases the risk of:
- Anxiety and depression.
- Digestive disorders like indigestion.
- Heart disorders.
- Loss of sleep or poor quality sleep.
- Problems with memory and focus.
- Hormone balance problems like a spike in blood glucose levels. If your pancreas is producing enough insulin, this should not be a matter of worry. However, for those who have diabetes, this can lead to further complications.
- Grounding or earthing can keep you healthy and control the release of cortisol. Because cortisol has widespread effects on the body functions, keeping it under control is of paramount importance to your health.
- During grounding, the free electrons on the surface of the earth flow into your body. Inside the body, they affect how the ions move in and out of the cell. In addition, they also blunt the damaging effects of free radicals.
- Grounding lowers stress, improves sleep and boosts immune functions. When you practice it daily, it can also affect your weight and blood glucose levels.
How To Practice Grounding For Maximum Health Benefits?
It is as simple as walking barefoot on the ground. The soles of your feet should come in contact with the earth surface. You may also dip your feet in the sea water and feel its relaxing touch.
You have other options if you do not like the idea of digging your feet into the sand. In such case, consider using a grounding mat.
How Long Do You Need To Practice Grounding?
You should spend 20 minutes to 30 minutes staying grounded in order to get the best outcomes. In fact, the time to spend barefooting depends on the type of your illness.
Study shows the patients who experience anxiety, emotional stress, panic, and fear should practice grounding for at least 30 minutes. For some patients, the duration may extend to 40 minutes. Experts suggest a similar duration for the patients with headaches, racing heartbeat, and dizziness.
- Chevalier, Gaetan., et al. “Emotional Stress, Heart Rate Variability, Grounding, and Improved Autonomic Tone: Clinical Applications ” Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal.
- Chevalier, Gaetan. “The effect of grounding the human body on mood.” Psychological Reports 2015 Apr;116(2):534-42.
- Chevalier, Gaetan., et al. “Earthing: Health Implications of Reconnecting the Human Body to the Earth’s Surface Electrons” Journal of Environmental and Public Health 2012; 2012: 291541.
- Oschman, James L. “Can electrons act as antioxidants? A review and commentary.” Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 2007 Nov;13(9):955-67.