By: Allison "Alli" Garner, M.S., LMHC
As eastern philosophy travels into the western Zeitgeist, many individuals have heard of the term “earthing” as a means of centering and calming one’s self. Now this term, coined by new age practitioners, has had some popular traction with the “woo woo community” but does it stand up to scientific rigor? Let’s explore.
Earthing, or as the NIH refers to as: “environmental medicine” is the means of taking one's bare feet and placing it on the earth. Those that participate in the practice note a sense of calm, well-being, and a decrease of anxiety and depression. Additionally, practitioners are encouraged to earth in a variety of environments (sand, dirt, grass, etc).
Although this concept is relatively new in our current vernacular, the Japanese practice of Shin-Rin yoko, or “forest bathing” has been prevalent since the 1980’s. Studies have shown “forest bathing improves sleep quality, mood, ability to focus, and stress levels. Chronic stress can contribute to the development of ailments like anxiety, depression, and insomnia, to name a few. It can also contribute to physiological problems, like high blood pressure, muscle tension, and lowered immune response. Spending time in nature, away from modern technology and big cities can improve your physical and mental health by reducing the effects of stress on your body. Prescribed forest bathing in Japan has led to a healthier lifestyle for people of all ages (Japan National Tourist Agency, 2019).
As psychological science has progressed, we have begun to see a distinct link between the body and mind. As we continue to understand how both are interconnected, taking advantage of alternative coping skills, like earthing, can be a positive and cost effective way to relax. So the next time you find yourself getting stressed, rather than reaching for that glass of wine, it might be helpful to take off those shoes and go outside first!