It may come as a surprise to some, but staying on a farm can have proven mental health benefits. In acknowledgement of Mental Health Awareness Month, we have explored one of many therapeutic techniques that can be implemented on your next farm stay vacation: earthing.
Have you ever thought about how relaxed you feel when you sink your toes into the sand at the beach or when you’re lying on the grass at the park? It turns out there could be a scientific explanation for this.
Earthing, also known as grounding, is the practice of involving direct skin contact with the earth’s surface or using conductive materials to connect one’s body to the earth’s electrical field. While earthing has been practiced for centuries in many cultures, modern science has only recently begun to study its potential health benefits. In particular, earthing has shown promise in improving mental health.
Inflammation is well known to play a role in overall cognitive function and a range of mental health disorders including: depression, anxiety and Alzheimer’s disease. A growing body of peer-reviewed research suggests that earthing can have a positive impact on mood, stress, and anxiety levels by reducing inflammation. It turns out the Earth’s surface contains an abundance of negatively charged electrons which are believed to neutralize free radicals– subsequently reducing inflammation in the body. When these electrons are absorbed into the body, they may have a calming and healing effect on the mind as well.
One study published in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health found that earthing can reduce stress levels and improve mood. Using random assignment, participants were placed into either an earthing or control group. The earthing group spent 30 minutes sitting or walking barefoot on grass or sand, while the control group did not. After a 30-minute session, the earthing group showed a significant reduction in cortisol levels – a hormone associated with stress – and an improvement in their overall mood compared to the control group.
Other studies have incorporated earthing devices to wear passively while sitting or even sleeping. In another study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, participants with chronic pain experienced a reduction in pain and improved sleep quality after 4 weeks utilizing an earthing mat connected to the Earth’s surface.
Earthing is certainly not a cure-all, but it can serve as an easy, free, non-invasive therapeutic tool used in conjunction with other treatments to help prevent and treat dysfunction in the body that originates at bioelectrical levels of our physiology. Although more research is needed to fully grasp how earthing works and its impact on mental health, the evidence so far suggests that this is a practice worth exploring.
Venturing out into the rural countryside – away from noise pollution and urban environments – often enables us to relax and connect with nature. Farms offer the ideal atmosphere and often large areas of pasture or forest to practice earthing. Additionally, soil (not dirt) is richer in organic matter from animal waste and cover cropping. This organic matter further enhances the benefits of earthing due to its increased conductivity of the Earth’s energy.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month and staying on a farm could be a helpful step (pun intended) in the right direction towards a more natural approach to improving your emotional and psychological well-being. From earthing to forest bathing to goat yoga – there is something for everyone to engage in on any farm to help heal our bodies and minds. Though while you’re barefoot earthing on a farm, remember to watch out for the poop. 🙂
Reference and additional studies on earthing included below:
- Chevalier, G., et al. (2012). Earthing: Health implications of reconnecting the human body to the Earth’s surface electrons. Journal of Environmental and Public Health, 2012, 291541. https://doi.org/10.1155/2012/291541
- Murray, D. (2021, October 18). What Is Grounding or Earthing? Can It Help Improve Your Health? Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/grounding#the-science
- Ghaly, M., & Teplitz, D. (2020). The biologic effects of grounding the human body during sleep as measured by cortisol levels and subjective reporting of sleep, pain, and stress. Journal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine, 17(1), 1-10. https://doi.org/10.1515/jcim-2019-0053
- National Cancer Institute. (n.d.). Homeostasis. In NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms. Retrieved May 1, 2023, from https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms/def/homeostasis
- Ober, C., Sinatra, S. T., & Zucker, M. (2010). Earthing: The most important health discovery ever? Basic Health Publications, Inc.
- Oschman, J. L. (2007). Can electrons act as antioxidants? A review and commentary. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 13(9), 955-967. https://doi.org/10.1089/acm.2007.7048
- Oschman, J. L., et al. (2015). The effects of grounding (earthing) on inflammation, the immune response, wound healing, and prevention and treatment of chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. Journal of Inflammation Research, 8, 83-96. https://doi.org/
- Sharma, H., & Zhang, X. (2019). Effectiveness of Earthing (Grounding) in Promoting Health: A Literature Review. Journal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine, 16(3), 1-13. https://doi.org/10.1515/jcim-2018-0030
- Sokal, K., & Sokal, P. (2015). Earthing the human body influences physiologic processes. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 21(5), 301-308. https://doi.org/10.1089/acm.2014.0023