A few weeks ago I shared these tips in Maria Shriver’s Sunday Paper, so today I wanted to share them here with my readers too!
If you feel run down, tired, discouraged, sad, anxious, or any other mood that you just want to shake, getting grounded outside for a few minutes is probably the quickest way I know how to do it. Exercise can help, a really good night of sleep can help, even medications (when appropriate) can help, but if need support right this very minute, grounding can shift your mood by supporting brain function — literally in just seconds — as this study published in 2011, this study published in 2015, and my favorite, this important study, published in 2018, show by looking at EEG measurements of the brain.
I think of grounding as hitting a reset button.
And you can reset any time of the day or night in just a few minutes. Grounding is good thing to know about (and share with others) because all day, every day, around the clock, we are bombarded with horrific world events, stressful local news, court rulings and more, that reasonably leave us feeling discouraged or even defeated. It’s normal to feel stressed out, unsure, depressed and anxious over these current events, but it’s also possible to find relief and hope through the power of grounding.
By connecting with the earth, we can release tension from our muscles, shift the brain from high strung beta waves to calming alpha wave patterns, decrease the stress signals in our body by supporting vagal nerve function (which helps loosen that knot you feel in the pit of your stomach pretty quickly) and boost your mood, all naturally.
And the best part is that the earth is free and always available to you. If you are feeling utterly overwhelmed, all you have to do is walk out your front door, step out of your office, or pull over your car at the nearest rest stop and touch the earth.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
1. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the news, try this: Grounded deep breathing.
It only takes three deep breaths to calm your heart rate, decrease muscle tension and feel more centered. Combine that with grounding outside and you’ll get exponential benefits. Grounding has been medically shown to decrease stress, help release fight or flight mode, and even shift the brain into calmer brain wave patterns. It can be as simple as sitting outside on the earth and just taking three deep breaths.
To go further with it, consider adding a longer session of meditation to this practice. Focus on breathing slowly in and out, starting with a few minutes and working your way up to 10 or 20 minute sessions. You will feel a complete reset of mind and body.
For some easy breathing techniques plus a video where you can do some deep breathing right along with me, hop over to this article I wrote on the power of breath to decrease stress:
2. If you’re feeling sad or despondent, try this: Grounding in morning daylight.
Medical studies on grounding have shown that being grounded can significantly boost our mood. Combining that with morning light exposure helps to take that even further, reducing feelings of depression and boosting outlook.
As I blog about here, light therapy has been actually shown to naturally treat depression better than a prescription anti-depressant! And yes, you can do all three at the same time (take an anti-depressant and use light therapy and grounding, together) for additional benefit.
So try your best to go outside and get as much natural light as possible in the morning hours, ideally at some point between 6:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. Try to get into a daily routine of taking just a few minutes every morning when you wake up to step outside — you can even take your coffee with you — to greet the day grounded, and feel your mood brighten.
3. If you need a break from stress at work, try this: Grounding on a sidewalk.
More surfaces than you think will ground you — you can get grounded on a city sidewalk just as easily as at the beach. You get just as grounded by touching a metal signpost anchored in the earth as you do by touching a living tree. So if you are at work, or traveling, or live in an urban setting and just need to take a breather, head outside and find your favorite sidewalk square.
Stand with a foot touching it or sit down and let your hand touch the sidewalk and allow grounding go immediately to work, stabilizing your autonomic nervous system, decreasing muscle tension, calming your racing heart and deepening your breathing. You’ll return back to your task at hand feeling much more centered.
Didn’t know that sidewalks will ground you? There are lots of other surfaces waiting outside to ground you, no dirt, mud or mess (or even bare feet) required! Hop over here to read an article I wrote for you and watch a quick video where I take you around and show you 15 other surfaces that you can turn to for a quick grounding fix:
4. If you need a boost of positivity, try this: Touch a tree outside.
Multiple studies have found that having access to a garden or other green space — even simply viewing plants — decreases depression rates, anxiety rates, and dramatically reduces stress. We have such an innate need to be submersed in a world with foliage and plants around us that one study found that patients who simply had a view of plants through a window while recovering from surgery had better moods, used less pain medications, had less surgical post-op complications, and even decreased their length of stay in the hospital.
You can get all of those benefits by seeking out a favorite tree, and taking it one step further by touching it. In fact, all plants that are growing in the ground — including trees, bushes, flowers, even a single blade of grass — are grounded and will ground you instantly when you touch it. So reach out and hold on to your favorite tree, and visit it often, through all the seasons, to add the healing benefits of grounding for a powerful energy boost and mood lift.
You might become such a fan of ground through touching plants that you consider gardening — whether a small container garden or a few edible bushes to a large in ground garden, read through this article I wrote for you and see if you are inspired to create a late summer or even a fall garden to get your daily grounding dose:
5. If you are feeling fatigued or run down, try this: Eat lunch outside.
The midday slump is real, and dealing with stressful news when we are already feeling depleted makes us feel even worse. That’s why one of the best habits you can get into is taking your lunch outside and eating it grounded, to help you power through the afternoon. EEG studies of brain activity show that connecting to the soothing energy of the earth instantaneously shifts our brain wave patterns and reduces ambient stress levels. Another study on participants who grounded while at work showed that this significantly boosted mood and energy levels while decreasing feelings of depression, pain, and fatigue.
Head outside with your lunch and sit at a bench, slipping your shoes off and resting feet on the ground while you eat, or sit on a sidewalk or cement steps, or even simply touch a metal railing while outside on your lunch break, all of these will ground you. If you are lucky enough to have a park within walking distance, sit at a picnic table and slip a shoe off to touch the ground while you eat, and don’t forget that the cement floor of picnic shelters are also grounded.
As an added bonus, grounding actually boosts digestion by supporting your vagal tone, and allows you to process the nutrients you are eating even better. For more details on that, plus a free printable poster I created for you to remind you to take one meal a day outside, hop over here:
6. If you are having trouble sleeping, try this: Look up at the night sky.
One of my favorite ways to ground — especially when I’ve been too busy to ground all day long — is to ground on my way up to bed, standing outside looking up at the stars and moon. Turning my gaze upwards, reconnecting with the wonder of being a human being standing on a rock that spirals through space and seeing the earth for the vast support network it is, feeling your place in this mysterious beautiful alive universe, can’t help but lift your spirits for the better. Doing it while grounded helps even more, as grounding helps deepen sleep and allows the sleep you do get to be even more restorative, letting you get deep recovery from stress.
So if realize you are carrying the stress of the day into bed with you, stop. Go outside and look up. When the rest of the world is shut up tight at bedtime, taking a few minutes to ground outside under the night sky is wonderful for clearing the mind, grabbing a few minutes of beautiful fresh air, and preparing your body for sleep.
7. If you are feeling anxious, try this: Go on a walk.
Movement gives your body a natural opioid fix, and other neurotransmitters get a boost too. Endorphins decrease pain and boost a feeling of wellness, serotonin improves mood and decreases anxiety, and anandamides decrease stress.
If you are feeling anxious, with pent up nervous energy, move that beautiful body of yours! Do it grounded and you will be adding an even deeper level of support from the earth that will decrease anxiety and help you feel more centered. Go on a walk barefoot, even if that is just up and down a small patch of grass or a few squares of sidewalk. If you can’t go on a walk barefoot, sit grounded outside and move your body in other ways, like giving yourself a foot or neck massage, or doing a few yoga stretches.
Grounding helps move the body from fight or flight mode towards feeling calm and safe. If you feel a panic attack approaching, stop everything and touch the earth. Pull over if you are driving, go outside if you are home or at work or in a crowded shop or restaurant and let the stability of the earth ease your panic and calm your anxiety with its power.
For more information on how grounding supports your muscles and movements (and even recovery from exercise) hop over here to read the article I wrote for you, along with a free printable poster to remind you to go outside and move your body each day:
Grounding is an instantly accessible healing tool that can provide immediate support during periods of stress no matter where you are or what you are doing. Whether it’s just a few deep breaths as you sit on a patch of grass, taking a walk through a local park, or standing outside at night looking up at the stars… grounding supports your outlook and stabilizes the body.
The earth is waiting out there to center and support you.
So the next time you are having a panic attack, or a pounding tension headache from stress, or a knot of worry grow in your stomach, just go outside. Get out there. Don’t force anything, just touch the earth and let nature work its magic. The earth can hold even your worst of days and remain an immovable source of strength.
The effects of grounding the human body start instantly, so there is no time too short for getting grounded — if it can only be 30 seconds, so be it. If it can be 15 min, or 30 minutes, all the better.
If you have one rock outside you can touch, one blade of grass (even a weed!) you can touch, one leaf on a tree or bush outside, one corner of a cement driveway or garage or one square inch of sidewalk you can stand on, you can be instantly grounded. Even in an urban location, or in the winter, or when you travel… you can and should get grounded outside.
Want more inspiration to make grounding into a daily health routine?
Just like brushing your teeth or wearing a seatbelt, grounding is another one of those non-negotiable health care practices. So I’ve got you.
I wrote The Earth Prescription to tell you about how to get outside not matter what the season, no matter what the weather, no matter what the location, no matter if you have green spaces outside or not, no matter if you have 5 minutes or 5 hours to ground, urban settings, winter temperatures, no matter what the circumstance.
It’s an easy, uplifting read filled with tons of easily actionable ways to stay connected to our planet and boost your health during 2022 and beyond. Order signed copies directly from me right here, or find it anywhere books are sold.
To your resilient mind and body…
xoxox, Laura Koniver MD