You know that feel-good moment that happens when you sink your bare feet into sand at the beach or step onto a fresh, cool patch of grass? Well, the euphoria isn’t purely psychological—science says going barefoot has real physiological effects. There’s even a word for this phenomenon: earthing.

The average human has grown accustomed to life indoors, and stepping outside without shoes on is generally a faux pas. No wonder we feel we need all sorts of potions to get back to feeling well, relaxed, and normal—our physical contact with the earth is pretty minimal. Turns out the answer might be in simply spending a few moments each day with our feet firmly planted on the ground.

This practice is also known as grounding. Fact: The earth’s surface holds negative electrons. Inflammation-causing free radicals in the body are positively charged, so they’re attracted to these negative ions. Since the human body is full of water and minerals (just like Earth!), it conducts electricity well. So, when skin makes direct contact with the earth, the negative and positive ions bind together, and the free radicals become neutralized, which alleviates inflammation and chronic pain associated with it, and wards off autoimmune diseases.

As esoteric as earthing might sound, there’s actually been quite a bit of scientific research on its positive effects. Through infrared medical imaging, measurements of blood chemistry, and white blood cell counts, scientists have found it really can calm inflammation, as well as lower stress and improve sleep.

According to the book Earthing: The Most Important Health Discovery Ever?, all it takes is going barefoot on soil, grass, or sand, for about 30 or 40 minutes a day to diminish chronic pain and stress. As for those who live in a concrete jungle, cement won’t cut it—this practice calls for real, good old–fashioned dirt or soil, so head to a local park to get your fix. If you just can’t with the thought of getting your feet dirty, no big deal. Shoes with leather soles are acceptable since they’re essentially made from skin; it’s probably best to skip the socks in this case, though. Totally indoorsy types can purchase earthing kits with bed pads or floor mats that can be plugged into electrical outlets in the home, so the benefits are theoretically available without even going outside.

But come on, now—there’s nothing like the real thing. Engaging with the outdoors is part of the beauty of earthing after all. As living, breathing humans, we belong in nature; we share its rhythms and energies. When we tap into this innate connection, we just might experience some of the healing our bodies and minds need.

About the Author