Staying Grounded: The Benefits of Being Barefoot Outdoors
Welcome to the Friends of CMT Spotlight, where we celebrate adventurers of all types by asking them questions about the people, places, and things that drive them. For this installment, we sit down with Alex Xouris, a hiker who’s quite literally “down to earth”.
No, it’s not that he starts every day with a homemade oat milk latte and a meditation session, though we’re sure that helps. What’s his secret? We sat down with him to find out.
Hi Alex! Can you explain to us what “earthing” or “grounding” is in relation to bodily contact with the earth?
”Earthing” or “grounding” is all about connecting the conductive human body to the Earth’s natural electric charge. There are a plethora of benefits for both mental and physical health.
How did you become interested in “earthing”? Has a connection with earth always been important to you, or was it a particular event that set things in motion for you?
I first learned about “earthing” a couple of years ago. I’m a proud queer man, but at the time, I was in a very dark place, hiding in the closet that became my jail cell for over a decade. I was extremely anxious all the time and was searching for anything to help lift some of the weight—enter grounding.
I began walking barefoot outside for ten minutes a day, and within a week, I found myself able to breathe for the first time in months. Not only did it become a sort of meditative practice—being outside in nature, listening to the wind, feeling the earth beneath your feet—but the Earth’s electrons that I was taking into my body helped me sleep better at night and clear my mind. I became addicted to the feeling and started spending more and more time barefoot outside. I got to the point where I was going on multiple-hour hikes in the woods, totally barefoot. I felt so much peace, so much awareness of my body and the world around me.
What are the different types of “grounding or earthing,” and how are they performed?
There’s no one correct way to do it—as long as some part of your body is touching the ground, you are making the connection. I most often walk barefoot, but sometimes if I don’t have time for a proper walk or hike, I will just take a glass of wine or cup of tea outside and lay in my backyard.
Do you have any outstanding memories of a particular “earthing” session that you can share?
I remember one time in college, I was having a particularly rough day and started having a panic attack. If you’ve never had a panic attack, it kind of feels like what I imagine a heart attack feels like. Your heart starts racing uncontrollably, you start sweating and can’t breathe well, and your hands go numb. It’s not fun.
As soon as I felt it starting to come on, I went outside, took my shirt and shoes off, and lay on the ground. I let my body sink into the cold earth below me and just focused on my breathing. After about ten minutes, my panic attack subsided. My hands stopped tingling, my heart stopped pounding, and I found my breath again. I lay there for several hours after that, just watching the sun say goodnight and the stars say hello. I thanked the Earth for giving me the gift of peace and for helping me heal when I couldn’t help myself.
What are the benefits of “earthing”? Are there any risks people should be aware of?
Though I have mostly reaped the mental health benefits of earthing, there are so many physical benefits as well. It helps reduce inflammation and pain in the body, improves blood flow, helps give better sleep, boosts immunity, and balances the nervous system. The list goes on and on!
I don’t think there are any risks, though I probably would say be careful where you are barefoot! One time on a hike, I stepped on a cactus. So just be mindful of where you’re stepping. (Which helps to be more present, anyway!)
What are your top 3 tips for people who want to try “earthing”?1. Watch “The Earthing Movie.” It will explain it all so much better than I have and, hopefully, inspire you to start!
2. Just try it for yourself! You don’t need to know everything about it before trying, nor do you need to do some intense hike barefoot to start out. Just go into your backyard and walk around in the grass for ten minutes a day. See how you sleep that night and how your body feels the week after. Be conscious of how your body and mind feel before and after the practice.
3. Try building it into a daily practice you already have! I always meditate every morning, and when it’s nice out, I just meditate barefoot outside instead of inside. There are small ways to incorporate grounding into your daily life. I encourage you to make it easy on yourself and find those small ways.
Do you have any upcoming trips planned that include a heavy amount of “earthing”?
I’m actually planning a cross-country road trip from North Carolina to California in July and will be hiking and camping the whole way. I plan on doing all of my hikes barefoot. I find that there is no better way to connect with this gift of a planet we all live on than grounding. Sleeping in a tent isn’t always the most comfortable, so hopefully, all of the grounding I’ll be doing will help ease some of that pain, too!
Is there anything else you’d like to add? What did we miss?
I don’t think so! I hope you give it a try, and I hope it transforms your life how it has mine. I hope this practice brings you peace and allows you to feel deep gratitude for the world we live in. :) Happy grounding!
Follow Alex Xouris on Instagram: @alexouris
If you liked this article, check out other inspiring stories of people in the CMT community who live and breathe outdoor adventure like this one: The Health Benefits of Hiking — And Why You Should Consider Celebrating National Take a Hike Day