Discovering Grounding, an Ancient Healing Practice
It is what nearly every one of us is seeking right now: a free, immediate way to decompress, be less anxious, and just feel better.
Enter grounding, the ancient therapeutic practice of connecting to the earth outside. It one of the simple yet fascinating techniques explored by Laura Koniver MD, a medical intuitive and physician. Dr. Koniver posits that by touching the earth—whether with bare feet on grass, a hand on a leaf, or another way—our bodies electrically connect with it, resulting in instant positive effects on our brain and skin, as well as a reduction in muscle tension and pain. And that is just the quick fix. More than twenty years of research in the field shows that consistent, long-term grounding may lead to benefits “reflected in every major organ system we have,” says Dr. Koniver.
Whether you have only a minute to spare or hours to lay on the lawn, Dr. Koniver makes an intriguing case that grounding (also called earthing) can help us all this instant. “It’s immediately accessible, immediately supportive, and incredibly simple.”
1. What is grounding and how does it work?
Grounding is simply our human body directly touching the ground or plants growing out of the earth outside. This conductively grounds the body, similar to a building being grounded to the earth.
Our entire body is conductive. Our brain, our heart, our muscles, our blood, our breathing, our digestion, our sensory organs—every organ system that we have—operates on the basis of conductivity, even down to our individual cells. And because we are so fully conductive, the very second that one single cell on your body touches the earth, it becomes fully grounded to the earth, like flipping on a light switch. While the exact mechanism of action is not known, one theory behind grounding is that the body utilizes free electrons from the earth to neutralize inflammation and reboot the body’s conductive set point. The result is a discharge of inflammation throughout the entire body, from head to toe. Stress and tension lift as your body becomes stabilized and neutralized. This often can feel like an immediate relief as your tissues, organs, blood, brain, bones—literally everything your body is composed of—becomes grounded.
2. How is grounding done?
Grounding is something you can do anytime, anywhere. All you need to do is touch your wonderful, conductive body directly to any part of the earth’s crust — soil, sand, rocks, water — or anything living on the earth’s crust — trees, bushes, flowers, even a single blade of grass. These can all ground your entire body the moment you touch it. Aim for ten minutes or more daily and watch every aspect of your health improve over time.
3. In your book "The Earth Prescription" you offer a variety of grounding practices. What are a few simple methods for getting started?
Here are four easy ways to introduce grounding into your daily routine:
#1: Find a grounding tree. Most people walk by a tree on their way to work, in their neighborhood, in a park… and all of these trees are grounded. Find one and make it your grounding tree. Simply touch a bare finger to a leaf or the bark. Return to this tree daily (or often), if you can.
#2: Discover a patch of sidewalk: Seek out little patch of sidewalk somewhere that you feel safe to touch. Sit on it and touch it with your hand. Or slip one foot out of a shoe and stand there on your little patch of sidewalk for a few minutes, taking a few deep breaths. You can even bring lunch out to your sidewalk spot or sit down and catch up on a phone call. Even doing this for one minute makes a difference, don’t let time constraints stop you.
#3: Eat outside: Another way to transform how your body feels is to eat one meal a day outside. I like to start each day with a cup of coffee and some breakfast while sitting on my front doorstep with my food on the sidewalk. That way I get a few minutes of grounding and early morning light on my face, and some nutrients to start the day—a win-win-win. If you can expand this to having your lunch outside each day, or a picnic dinner, or meeting up with friends for a potluck at a park, the longer time outside grounded the better.
#4: Look to the moon and stars: This only adds one minute to your nightly routine. Go outside and look up. Standing barefoot (in the warmer months) or touching a tree or rock (during the colder months; you can wear fingerless gloves), look up at the stars, see what phase the moon is in, and reconnect with the fact that you are an absolute miracle — a beautiful human being standing on a planet that is orbiting through space. Take three deep breaths and soak this moment in on your way up to bed each night.
I offer many more of my grounding methods through my videos.
4. For those of us who live in a city or do not have easy access to nature, what are some other options?
There are also some conductive man-made surfaces we can get grounded through: any metal that touches the earth directly (like a sign post) or any cement or concrete that is poured directly on the earth (like a sidewalk, a driveway, a garage or basement floor) are all grounded to the earth as well, so touching a sidewalk for a minute, standing barefoot in your garage, holding onto a metal signpost as you wait to cross a street, these are all ways to get grounded without even getting dirty or touching the planet at all. Even brick and slate and gravel are grounded when they are on the earth, so you may even have a patio or walkway to connect with.
5. What are the long-term benefits?
Sustaining a grounded state over time has been shown in medical studies to improve the health of the human body in many ways, including:
- allowing blood to move more freely
- increasing circulation
- boosting vagal tone
- decreasing stress hormones and getting us out of “fight or flight” mode
- protecting muscles and bones
- boosting heart rate variability
- stabilizing hormones
- increasing metabolism and supporting proper digestion
- lifting mood
- boosting immune function
- deepening sleep
I have a full list of studies that support grounding on my website here.
6. This year has been a very charged, stressful time for many people. How can grounding help support our mental health right now?
Grounding directly helps relieve anxiety because it calms and centers a pounding heart (decreasing heart rate and boosting heart rate variability, stabilizing blood pressure), decreases muscle tension, decreases muscle soreness, and reduces muscle inflammation. Over time, it can help decrease stress so much that stress hormones, like cortisol, are reduced, which allows for deepening sleep and a boosted resilience to stress.
Grounding also directly helps with depression in similar ways: by decreasing inflammation, which is linked to depression; boosting mood; boosting thyroid function; correcting day/night circadian rhythm disturbances; and even boosting gut function. There is a huge gut/mind link, so anything that regulates gut function help regulate brain function.) It can even boost immune function.
7. Can anyone benefit from grounding?
Yes! Grounding is for every human being on this planet, even children. (And for anything living, including pets.)
All of us are reliant on healthy conductivity and energy flow through our body to stay alive and optimally function, so all of us need to be grounded. It’s so weird because we take better care of our non-living, electrical appliances than we do of our living, wonderous bodies, even though we are electrical too. We automatically think to recharge our cell phones and our laptops, but we never think of recharging our body. Staying ungrounded all day and all night, year after year after year, without ever touching the earth is like using your cell phone battery down to nothing and then never plugging it back in and recharging it.
We get frustrated and wonder why our body experiences pain, discomfort, inflammation, muscle tension, immune and metabolic dysfunction, and other issues, yet we never boost our body’s resiliency through conductive support. It’s simple to reverse this in an instant—simply touch the earth outside and you will be grounded, conductively supported by the earth’s healing energy.
Recharge your body as simply as recharging your cell phone. In fact, maybe that could be a new habit or reminder to you: Every time you plug your cell phone in to charge, walk outside and get grounded. You are worth more than your cell phone, so you are worth treating your body well!
8. For some people, grounding is a foreign concept. For something so accessible, why do you think it isn’t a larger part of our lives?
You would think since one of the most accessible, powerful sources of healing is literally the ground beneath our feet, we would be sure to get grounded every single day. Yet this support is almost always cut off from reaching our body because we have on rubber soled shoes, or are wearing clothing with synthetic fibers, or are traveling in cars that have rubber tires that lift us up off the ground. We also are so often inside, sleeping in insulated homes and working inside insulated schools, office buildings, stores, et cetera with no possibility of directly touching the earth outside.
9. What inspires you most about using the earth as a healing tool?
Seeing how children naturally feel better when they are outside grounded. It reminds me of what we all innately know deep inside but forget: that we are partners with this earth, and that connecting with our planet is delightful. Have you ever seen a child experience their first rain? As adults we tend to run inside or grab umbrellas or jackets to shield us from even getting wet, but those are learned behaviors. A child will look up, allow the rain to fall on their face, and laugh in delight as they splash in puddles. Same thing with dirt, mud, sand, trees—children love it all, unless we shame them for getting “dirty.”
It’s such a natural desire to physically connect our human bodies with direct contact with the earth, and when you remember this then your grounding time not only serves your physical body and boosts your physical health, it also reconnects your mind and spirit with something larger than yourself. Step outside your front door, as a child would, and try to remain as open as possible to the experience.
Laura Koniver, MD, is an intuitive physician, internationally recognized grounding advocate, and author of four books including her most recent, The Earth Prescription. She received her medical doctorate degree from Jefferson Medical College in 2000. Her work has been featured in many news and media outlets; she writes a regular health column in the national organic lifestyle magazine, MaryJanesFarm; and has been featured as an expert in several motion pictures, including The Grounded, Heal for Free, The Earthing Movie, and Down to Earth. Dr. Koniver runs the health care blog, www.Intuition-Physician.com, where she reviews medical literature in a holistic and intuitive way.
This interview was featured in the October 18, 2020 edition of The Sunday Paper. It is solely intended to provide information and inspiration. This interview is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment. The views are those of the expert.