The Healing Powers of Nature: Earthing, Natural Water Bodies, Forest Bathing
We are surrounded by natural resources that can help us to heal, restoring balance to the mind, body, and spirit. We are beginning to truly recognize and value the importance of these life sustaining healing energies: Earthing, Natural Water Bodies, and Forest Bathing. They are essential to our wellbeing.
This is very old wisdom, dating back to ancient times, but only recently have we begun to explore the benefits on a scientific level. Cultures from around the globe are studying our natural resources, and we are gaining a better understanding of the powers at hand.
There is a growing awareness that we spend much less time in the natural world than we once did, with little physical contact with our earthly surroundings. This has had adverse effects on our health and overall wellbeing. It is time to reconnect.
Earthing, also known as Grounding, is the process of coming into physical contact with the Earth’s surface to channel its natural energy, electrons. These electrons are absorbed through bare skin and have the ability to promote healing and rebalance the body’s natural state.
Long ago we walked on, sat on, and slept directly on the Earth, or on natural animal hides. We slowly transitioned to a life indoors and began wearing rubber-soled shoes. Without our conscious realization, we were completely disconnecting ourselves from physical contact with the Earth.
Without direct Earth contact, we become positively charged overtime due exposure to radiation from Electro Magnetic Fields (EMF) from our modern-day electronic devices, airborne pollutants, pesticides, GMOs, water contamination, stress, and inflammation if we have been injured. This creates an overabundance of damaging free radicals in our bodies that we hold onto if they are not properly stabilized. With the help of our Earth’s energetic force, we can ground our bodies and restore inner balance.
Gaetan Chevalier, engineering physicist explains, we exist in a natural battery. More than 60 miles above our Earth lies the ionosphere, which is charged by the powerful rays of the sun, splitting the molecules into positive and negative electrically charged particles. The electrons are released from the Earth’s ionosphere as lightning, leaving behind the positively charged particles. When lightning strikes the ground, it transfers these electrons directly to the Earth, creating an electrically charged surface. (Tickell, 2019).
When the electrons from the Earth’s surface are absorbed by our bodies, they neutralize the harmful free radicals, grounding us. When free radicals are neutralized, there is a reduction in chronic inflammation that can lead to disease and the body can repair itself as intended. This energy from the Earth also slows down the aging process and restores the body’s natural biological rhythms. We were meant to stay balanced by direct contact with the electrical currents from our Earth.
Although ancient cultures have held this wisdom for thousands of years, and a few forerunners have brought it to light over the centuries, Clint Ober is the leader in Earthing’s most recent popularity. He worked in the cable television industry for many years and is the developer of the cable modem. Upon contemplating his understanding of the necessity to ground cable systems, and his observation of the prevalence of people wearing rubber-soled shoes, he wondered if we were missing out on the benefits of physical contact with the Earth. His ingenuity led him to experiment first on himself, then with friends using a rudimentary grounding system. He discovered improvements with sleep as well as a reduction in chronic pain. With these encouraging results, he took it to the next level with scientific research to determine if the findings could be replicated.
His first randomized study completed in 2000 included 60 participants. The results were remarkable. The volunteers that slept grounded reported significant improvements with sleep and from chronic pain, and many test subjects also reported substantial recovery from asthmatic and respiratory conditions, rheumatoid arthritis, PMS, sleep apnea, and hypertension. The control group did not report any improvements. This initial study ignited research that continues to this day. There are now more than 30 studies with validating results.
A rather heartwarming study worth noting examined the vagal tone of 26 premature infants in an NICU. Vagal tone is an essential element of the parasympathetic nervous system that helps manage stress and places our bodies in a state of relaxation, a healing state.
After the newborns were connected to grounding wires, there was an immediate reduction in skin voltage by 93%. There was also an increase in heart rate variability of 67%, indicating monumental improvements in vagal tone. (Passi, et al, 2017).
Benefits of Earthing
Reduces/eliminates chronic pain
Increases energy level
Lowers stress levels
Decreases anxiety and depression
Creates hormonal balance
Speeds up healing time
Improves facial blood flow (healthier skin)
Decreases chronic fatigue
Alleviates muscle tension
Restores the body’s biological rhythms
Stabilizes blood pressure
Improves athletic performance and recovery
Reduces/eliminates jet lag
Supports adrenal health
How to Ground Yourself
Connect with the Earth at least 20 minutes a day, the longer the better. Walk barefoot, sit, or lay on the grass or beach with exposed skin touching the ground. Brick, concrete, and water are electrical conductors as well. Nonconductive surfaces include wood, asphalt, and sealed surfaces.
There are some fabulous products to ground us while indoors via simple conductive systems. You can find Earthing mats for the bed, floor, or armrest at the computer, bedsheets, pillows, wrist bands, hiking shoes and flipflops.
Natural Water Bodies
As noted with Earthing, water is also a conductor of electricity. Our oceans and lakes are loaded with the Earth’s electrons. What better way to absorb this healing energy than to surround yourself with it, allowing your entire body to be a conduit. Sit, stand, float, or swim in these natural bodies of water and you will rebalance your electrically charged body. In addition to this phenomenon, the buoyancy of water has a wonderful soothing effect on the mind, creating a relaxed state of being. When we are in a relaxed frame of mind, the body is able to access its own self-healing faculties.
Sea water is also used for its therapeutic properties, known as thalassotherapy. Ocean water contains high amounts of minerals that are beneficial to our wellness. Many of these minerals are also found in the sea air. Some of these minerals include sodium, potassium, calcium, chloride, magnesium, zinc, and iron. Studies have shown that both sea water and sea air promote the health of the mind and the body.
Another advantage of natural water bodies are the negative ions that are in abundant supply near moving water. Spend time by a stream, river, or waterfall and you will reap its wonderous benefits feeling refreshed, a boost in energy, mental clarity, enhanced mood, and a relief from stress. Negative ions are prevalent in the forests and mountain areas as well.
Forest Bathing: Shinrin-Yoku
Forest bathing, at its roots, is the age-old practice of connecting with nature. Being out in the natural environment, a walk in the woods or a trip to the park, enhances our wellbeing on every level. Walking in nature refreshes us and invigorates our souls. It offers us a wonderful, rejuvenating pause in the midst of our daily lives, and helps us to live in the moment, freeing us from everyday worries. This puts our bodies in a state that allows for self-healing.
Japan began the practice of forest bathing, shinrin-yoku in 1982 as part of their national health program. The program was implemented to help protect the country's forests and was based on an intuition that spending time in nature is necessary for our wellness.
As more people are living in crowded cities, working excessive hours at their jobs, facing insurmountable workloads, and exposing themselves to the harmful elements in the environment (EMF, pollution, etc.), stress levels have skyrocketed along with an increase of illnesses that are greatly affecting our existence. Since shinrin-yoku was implemented, research validates that forest bathing not only has the ability to relieve stress but also helps to balance and heal our physical bodies.
Benefits of Forest Bathing
Dr. Qing Li, a leader in forest bathing research has summarized the results of the incredible studies completed thus far in his book, Forest Bathing: How Trees can Help You Find Health and Happiness (2018). These benefits include:
Relieves stress and helps to induce relaxation
Lowers heart rate and blood pressure, increases heart rate variability
Improves cardiovascular and metabolic health
Decreases blood sugar levels
Enhances concentration and memory
Increases cognitive functioning (creativity and problem-solving ability)
Fosters positivity and helps to release negative thought patterns
Diminishes irritability, depression, anxiety, and anger
Improves pain thresholds
Increases energy levels
Advances the immune system (increases the number of cells and activity of cells that fight off viruses and cancer)
Boosts anti-cancer protein production
Assists with weight loss
How to Forest Bathe
Shinrin-yoku is the process of being fully present while in nature and experiencing the environment on a deep intentional level, with all of your senses involved. It is not meant to be a fast-paced hike in the woods.
Leave technology devices at home. Take in the sights that surround you, the sunbeams streaming through the trees, the dappled light dancing on the forest floors, the brilliant colors and patterns that only nature’s brilliance can design. When we appreciate the ingeniousness of nature’s creations, we enter a relaxed state of mind, one of awe at its magnificence. Bask in the blues and greens of nature and allow them to invoke the sense of tranquility they are known for.
Observe the smells of nature, the soil underneath your feet, the scented oils coming from the evergreen trees (phytoncides, known for their therapeutic healing effects), the earthly scent after a rain, the distinct fragrance of the pine needles. These scents connect us to the environment on a powerful level and help us to feel grounded. These smells help put us in a positive mood. Bringing these woodland scents indoors have the same effect. Give aromatherapy a try in your home or office with the use of essential oils.
The sounds of nature have been found to be some of the most relaxing, the mystical hooting of an owl, the gentle melody of a babbling brook, the rustling of leaves as the wind blows. These sounds place us in a relaxed state and walking in nature surrounded by these comforting sounds helps us to feel at peace. Nature recordings can be used indoors as well to help promote sleep, meditation, or simply to help us feel at ease.
Be aware of refreshing breezes as they pass over your skin, touch the vibrant pine needles of the trees, walk barefoot on a soft, spongy blanket of moss, dip your hand in a meandering stream. Take deep breaths and enjoy the taste of the fresh air. You can even forage for food if you know what is safe. If you have the time, take a two-hour journey but you can reap the benefits of nature in as little as twenty minutes.
We need forests for their preservation and their renewal of our beloved Earth, as well as our own personal wellbeing. The forests allow us to let go of negativity, to live happier, healthier, and longer lives. They are in need of protection. When we value and appreciate something, we protect it. Take the time to make forest bathing part of your lifestyle. It’s worth the trip!
The Earthing Institute
Li, Q. (2018). Forest Bathing: How Trees can Help You Find Health and Happiness, The Japanese Art and Science of Shinrin-Yoku. New York: penguin.
Passi, R., Doheny, K., Gordin, Y., Hinssen, H., & Palmer, C. (2017). Electrical Grounding Improves Vagal Tone in Preterm Infants. Neonatology, 112.
Tickell, J. & Tickell R. (Directors), Chevalier, G. (Performer). (2019). The Earthing Movie. [Documentary] Gaia Television.