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Take a Walk, Not a Pill

Mother Earth is a healer.

The Native Americans knew it, our ancestors knew it and in the 1940s, the Canadian government knew it.

According to a recent article in The Walrus magazine, Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King took notice when wounded WWII soldiers were sent home to recover in a makeshift, “ramshackle” medical center in Toronto, where they lacked adequate light or recreational areas.

After conferring with other officials, King convinced the overnment to build a new facility in 1948, complete with running streams and a forest where soldiers received the healing power of nature in addition to their medical care.

For combat veterans today who may or may not exhibit visible injuries, immersing them in nature is being used as one of the most restorative therapies — far better than drugs and, in some cases, more effective than counseling.

Veterans aren’t the only ones who can benefit by reconnecting to the Earth. More people than ever say they’re experiencing a sense of unease and anxiety, especially with anything too far removed from modern life such as technology.

Our parents, grandparents and generations before us knew that nature, the essence of the living world and the wonders it holds, was essential for our physical, spiritual and emotional survival. And, with every high school graduating class, we move further and further away from embracing the very Earth we live and depend on.

And that’s sad because exposure to greenspace — open, undeveloped land with natural vegetation — leads to significant health benefits, including lower diastolic blood pressure, reduced levels of stress and decreases in Type 2 diabetes and mortality from all causes, especially those related to the heart. Other reported benefits included a lower risk of premature birth and increases in good self-reported health.

Even the U.S. National Park Service recognizes the benefits of nature by sponsoring the “Healthy Parks, Healthy People” movement, which encourages people to spend time in parks and public lands to create healthy societies.

One simple way to embrace the healing power of nature is to follow the example of children and go barefoot. This is called grounding, which is defined as placing your bare feet on the ground, whether it is dirt, grass, sand or unsealed, unpainted concrete (especially when humid or wet). It sounds “too easy,” but the simple pleasure of walking barefoot can be a powerful health-promoting activity. 

Because the Earth carries an electron-rich, negative charge, walking barefoot outside provides a powerful and abundant supply of antioxidant electrons that zap free radicals, lower inflammation and heal your body in numerous ways.

 

Think about the last time you walked barefoot on the beach and how great that felt. There was a reason it made you feel so good. When you ground to the electron-enriched Earth, an improved balance of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system occurs.

Free radical stress from exposure to pollution, cigarettes, pesticides, processed foods and electromagnetic radiation, just to name a few, continually depletes your body of electrons. The Earth, however, is always electron-rich and can serve as a powerful and abundant supply of antioxidant free radical-busting electrons, provided you make an effort to stay grounded.

 

When grounding is restored, many people report significant improvement in a wide range of ailments, including improved sleep and mood, a reduction in anxiety, chronic pain, muscle stiffness, soreness, and inflammation.

So, when you’re overwhelmed and stressed, head outside, shed those shoes and socks, take a walk, hug a tree and come back down to Earth.