Grounding is a term that is commonly used in new age, spiritual, or alternative health communities, but there is actually quite a bit of research to support the benefits of grounding and of different grounding practices. In this article, we will explore the top 5 tips for grounding.
What Is Grounding?
There are a few definitions for grounding and different ways the word is used. In the most general sense, grounding refers to calming oneself down and finding a sense of inner stability.
To best describe what it means to ground in this context, consider the state of mind of someone very excited, anxious, or agitated. Their mind is very active, their nervous system is stimulated, they feel emotionally disturbed or unsettled, and they may physically find it challenging to be still or relaxed. This would be considered an "ungrounded" state.
Someone who is feeling ungrounded can recognize the state they are in and may find tools or techniques to help them ground. In other words, if their head is in the clouds, grounding practices can help them come back to Earth. Grounding is essentially about shifting your nervous system and mental state from being stimulated to being stable and relaxed.
Grounding vs. Earthing
While grounding is commonly referred to as calming one's nervous system, the term "grounding" is also used to refer to a specific practice, also called "earthing." Earthing is a therapeutic technique for electrically reconnecting you to the Earth—typically by walking or standing barefoot on the Earth. This is compared to an electrical earthing or grounding system that connects an electric power system with the ground, typically the Earth's conductive surface, for safety and functional purposes.
Just as electrical grounding helps protect you and your home from the dangers of damaged circuits or electrical overloads, the practice of grounding helps protect you from the dangers of excess stimulation or nervous system overload.
When we stand or walk barefoot on the Earth, our bodies connect to the electrical charge of the Earth's surface. This has a regulating effect on our own nervous system and can have many health benefits. Research suggests that earthing may have anti-inflammatory benefits as well.
In fact, one study published in the National Library of Medicine states that: "Grounding appears to improve sleep, normalize the day–night cortisol rhythm, reduce pain, reduce stress, shift the autonomic nervous system from sympathetic toward parasympathetic activation, increase heart rate variability, speed wound healing, and reduce blood viscosity." (1)
Positive & Negative Ions
Another benefit to grounding, or earthing, is that it typically exposes the body to greater concentrations of negative ions. Air ions are molecules of air that have become ionized—that is, they have either lost or gained an electrical charge. The electrical charge of these ions may affect human health positively or negatively. (2)
Natural environments—such as forests, beaches, or mountains—are abundant with negative ions. Many of the technological devices and systems we use today—phones, computers, televisions, cars, tablets, electronic watches, WiFi signals, cell phone towers, etc.—emit positive ions that many suspect to have harmful effects on our health. Most forms of pollution, including toxic chemicals, pollen, mold, pet dander, and other harmful chemicals in the air, also carry a positive electrical charge, making them positive ions. (3)
It should not come as a surprise to us that connecting with the natural environment, physically and emotionally, has benefits to health, whereas artificial energies may have a negative impact on our health. After all, we are creatures of the natural world. Even though our human-created cities give us the illusion of existing apart from nature, there is no way to separate ourselves from the natural world, and we depend on the health of natural ecosystems for our own health and well-being.
Top 5 Tips for Grounding
Below we will share our top 5 tips for grounding. Grounding, in this context, is used to refer to the first definition of calming one's nervous system and mental state. Not surprisingly, the other definition of grounding, or "earthing," also fits into this list:
One of the best things you can do to ground yourself and restore inner calmness and stability is to consciously breathe. Our respiratory system and nervous system are intimately connected. When we are in an excited, nervous system state—i.e, afraid, stressed, anxious, excited, angry, etc.—our breath rate tends to be rapid, and our breath volume tends to be low. In these states, we tend to breathe short and shallow breaths into our upper chest.
When our nervous system is relaxed, on the other hand, our breath rate is slower, and breath volume tends to be higher. In these states, we tend to breathe long and deep breaths into our bellies.
This reflects the two modes of our autonomic nervous system—the sympathetic nervous system, which governs our "fight-or-flight" response, and the parasympathetic nervous system which governs our "rest-and-digest" response.
Though the autonomic nervous system—often also called the "automatic nervous system"—is generally considered to govern all of the systems that our out of our conscious control (i.e heart rate, digestion, elimination, etc.), we can consciously influence our autonomic nervous system. One of the primary ways we can do this is by intentionally taking long, deep breaths, and by focusing on exhaling longer than we exhale.
This longer exhalation stimulates the vagus nerve and activates the parasympathetic nervous system response, helping you relax and ground. (4)
So, the next time you are feeling agitated, over-stimulated, or in need of cultivating some inner peace, take a moment to breathe! Pause what you are doing, focus on your breath, and breathe long and deep breaths in and out, focusing a little more on the exhalation. A practice that can be useful is to breathe in for 6 seconds, hold your breath for 3 seconds, and exhale for 9 seconds—repeating as many times as you'd like.
2. Stand or Walk Barefoot on the Earth
The practice of earthing or grounding can, not surprisingly, help you ground. If you are feeling ungrounded, go outside and stand barefoot in the grass. Feel the Earth beneath your feet. Breathe deeply and allow yourself to simply relax and feel the calming energy of the Earth.
3. Spend Time Outside
One of the best things you can do to ground is to spend time outside in nature. Sunlight, fresh air, negative ions, calm surroundings, beautiful scenery, and no electromagnetic smog—all of these can help you restore and refresh.
In fact, doctors in Japan actually prescribe nature therapy for mental health and mood disorders. They call this therapy "Shinrin Yoku" or "forest bathing." It is simply to walk in the forest leisurely, opening your senses to the natural environment.
4. Follow a Daily Routine
Our body operates according to a 24-hour circadian rhythm. When we follow a daily routine, it helps to harmonize our circadian rhythm and can provide many mental and physical benefits. (5) In Ayurveda, they call the daily routine "Dinacharya," and it is considered one of the most important practices for health and longevity.
When we follow a regular routine, our body knows what to do and when to do it, and this can help us feel more stable, grounded, and relaxed in our lives. The most important elements of a regular routine are around eating and sleeping times. So, if you notice that you are sleeping, waking, and eating at random hours and also feel ungrounded, try creating more regularity in your eating and sleeping routine and see how it impacts your mental and physical health.
5. Come Back to Your Senses
Another thing you can do to ground is to pay attention to the immediate sensations that your body is experiencing. Often, we get stressed and anxious when we worry excessively about the future or about events in the past. This causes us to overlook the actual reality that we are experiencing in the present moment.
Being present in the moment is a great way to enhance your peace and joy. This is the basis of the practice of mindfulness. Your body and senses are always functioning in the present moment, so if you find yourself overwhelmed by your mind, try paying more attention to your sensory experience. Focus on what you hear, see, smell, taste, and touch, and practice experiencing these sensations as they are—without judging them in any way.
When we do this, we often find many beautiful things about the present moment. We also often realize just how much of our stress is caused by our own thoughts and how our thoughts are not the actual reality of life in the moment.
Other Ways to Ground
Some other things that may help you ground include:
• Spending time with loved ones
• Listening to music you enjoy
• Eating root vegetables or "heavier" foods
• Taking a bath or shower
• Sound meditations
• Going for a walk
• Holding a rock or heavy object
• Gently tapping your chest
There are many things that can help you ground. Try to find the grounding tools and techniques that work best for you.
Making Time to Ground
Most important of all, take time in your day to ground regularly. None of these tips have any benefit if you don't actually make the time in your life to apply them. Making a habit of creating moments for grounding can help you stay calm and centered throughout your day and can significantly improve your quality of life.
The more time you can make, the better, of course, but you don't need much. Even one minute of sitting in silence and focusing on your breath can have tremendous benefits. Incorporating grounding practices into your daily life is a great way to improve your mental health and keep your stress levels low.