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G is for...GROUNDING

When I was little I was obsessed with my mums black and gold patent high heels. As a four year old I would slip them on and pretend to be as grown up as could be! I remember being so excited to finally have feet big enough for ladies shoes, which meant a higher heel than my flat and unappealing Clarks sandals. Even aged nine, I wanted to walk tall, be elevated and feel the heady rush of wearing a glamorous shoe!

This didn't last long however, as I soon discovered the pain of a pointy toe and lifted heel - the blisters, cramping, rubbing and pinching. The burning sensation, and subsequent hobbling effect, of walking and dancing on the ball of your foot was too much to bare! In fact, during my teenage years I gave up high heels altogether and opted for trainers, Dr. Martins, CAT boots and Kickers. And then I eventually found my true footwear love - the flip flop!

Yes, the humble flip flop became my go to shoe, and not just for the beach, no, I wore them in every shape and colour, come rain or shine (I once wore them on a night out in the snow!). And they weren't simply rubber, in the early noughties they came in all manner of designs, and the more colourful and embellished the better. My prized pair were a simple double strap made of tan leather by a father and son in a little village on the Greek island of Rhodes. I even wore a beautiful white leather pair covered in sequins (albeit with a kitten heel) on my wedding day!

I am so thankful that for most of my life, my feet have been close to the ground. Whilst there is an allure to the red underside of a Louboutin, these days you will find me frequently without footwear at all, preferring to be barefoot. I don't own house slippers and so walk around most of the day with my feet firmly on terra firmer. And there is good reason to go barefoot more often. As there is science backing the crippling effects of high heels on our body and posture, so too is there a growing body of new research supporting the benefits of grounding or earthing.

This new area of alternative medicine proports that placing your bare feet (or any other bare part of your body) onto the earth reduces stress, decreases inflammation and can heal chronic pain. The research samples are small and there fore do not have the clout or recognition of larger studies. However, I have tried grounding for myself, and have certainly noticed the difference it makes to my mood, sleep and overall wellbeing.

The go-to father of grounding is Clint Ober, and his book Earthing shares the science and stories of the effects of grounding on our bodies. From the book there were results that demonstrated dramatic changes in the participants wellbeing:

85% went to sleep more quickly, 93% reported sleeping better at night, 82% reported significant reduction in muscle stiffness, 74% experienced elimination or reduction of chronic back and joint pain, 100% reported feeling more rested on waking, 78% reported improved general health.

How does grounding work?

Our earth and seas are electrically charged - they have a strong negative energy. In fact, a constant and endless supply of electrons. Anything above the ground has a strong positive electrical energy. This is why our electrical devices (specially with metal casing) are ‘grounded’ to prevent them from short circuiting. The third prong in the electrical plug is call the earthing or grounding wire which takes any additional electricity literally into the ground to prevent it from overloading and the appliance becoming live (causing electrocution).

Now, our bodies are electrical too. We are made of atoms, which are made of protons, neutrons and electrons. At rest, our bodies can produce up to 100 watts of energy - enough to power a light bulb. If we are moving fast, say sprinting, the energy output can increase to 2000 watts! We re also conductors of electricity, when our feet touch the earth or sea, electrons freely pass between us and equalise any imbalance In our bodies.

As most of us wear shoes, we are insulated from the earth - electrical energy cannot pass between our bodies and the earth. And so it is thought that as we do not regularly allow the excess build up of energy release and drain from our bodies into the ground (as the plug does for electric devices) and in turn receive the natural balance of free electrons from the earth, we too become overloaded which can lead to chronic inflammation in our bodies. And prolonged inflammation can contribute to or cause disease, pain and even accelerated aging.

This is a simplistic version of the science, but the fact is, as a result of our modern shoe wearing habit, we are disconnected to the grounding and rebalancing effect of the earth.

Get grounded!

How can we incorporate this free, natural and side-effect free way of improving our wellbeing? Simply take off your shoes and place your bare feet on the earth or in fresh or salt water. You can also place you hands, arms or legs on the earth with the same effect.

I know that after a day at the beach I feel more relaxed, sleep better and enjoy a boost to my wellbeing. Now, there are lots of reasons for this, but maybe one of these is the fact that I'm barefoot on the sand.

But with our increasingly busy lifestyles and insulated living, it can be difficult to make time for the recommended 30-40 minutes of grounding everyday. So, to start with I would suggest including it as part of an existing habit or activity. For me, I ground in the evening when the children are in bed and it's one of the last things I do. I make a cup of tea and sit outside drinking it, feet on the earth for 10 minutes. If it is raining, as it does a lot in Wales, I'm fortunate to have a porch I can shelter under and still have my feet on the ground.

I also take my shoes and socks off whilst walking my dog around the park. And will sneak in as many opportunities to go barefoot as possible. But something I would like to try, which isn't weather or location dependent is a grounding sheet and pad. I could quiet easily place a sheet under my feet whilst working at my desk or a pad to rest my hand on whilst writing on my laptop. The ultimate would be to sleep on a grounding sheet or mattress.

I’d love to know your thoughts on grounding in the comments below, or on my social feeds - @iamsarahalexcarter Do you think you could give it a go? Is it too 'woo' for you or are you already getting barefoot? You may want to share this with others who you know could benefit. You can also click to subscribe and join me on this journey from A to Z and be the first to receive updates and posts. 

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