As a cardiologist for nearly four decades, I have seen stress take a lot of people down and out. Now, after all these years, I have found a natural and simple solution for stress from the most unexpected place, something right beneath my nose--and yours as well.
Chronic stress triggers an excess release of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. They, in turn, raise your blood pressure, constrict your arteries, and help generate clots associated with heart attacks and stroke. Stress also disturbs the balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, the two branches of the autonomic nervous system (ANS). Too much sympathetic "arousal"-from stress-leads to the well-known fight-or-flight mode, an alert and readiness state that switches on in reaction to imminent danger, like fighting in a battle. In today's volatile world, many people live in a constant state of physiological arousal. In NASCAR terms, their engines are always racing.
Revved-up sympathetic activity overwhelms the calming influence of the parasympathetic nervous system. The result, among other things, is a heightened risk of hypertension, arrhythmias, and even sudden death. Clinically, we can determine sympathetic overdrive by measuring heart rate variability (HRV), the beat-to-beat alterations in heart rate. HRV represents an indicator of nervous system balance on heart function and simultaneously a yardstick of both acute and chronic stress. People with low variability are less able to "go with the flow" when faced with stress and are more prone to stress-related disorders, including cardiovascular disease.
Years ago I learned that stress reduction does the heart a huge service and in the process promotes quality and quantity of life. Unfortunately, in this time-strapped, discipline-phobic society of ours, the pursuit of stress reduction gets a lot of lip service but little actual servicing.
However, I bear great news. I have found what may prove to be the easiest form of stress-busting on the planet. The method is, in fact, none other than the planet itself--connecting with the ground beneath your feet!
Here's the amazing background.
The Earth's surface is charged with natural, subtle electric energy. I like to call it Vitamin G. The G stands for ground. Throughout practically all of history humans were naturally connected to this energy. They walked barefoot. They sat and slept directly on the Earth. Modern living, however, has erected artificial barriers between people and the natural energetic surface of the Earth--barriers such as shoes with synthetic soles. And, of course, we no longer sleep on the ground.
Although we supposedly live on the Earth, we actually live above it, and disconnected to it. We have essentially lost our "electrical roots" to the Earth and may be suffering as a result, and more seriously than you could ever imagine.
I recently co-authored a book about the discovery of how reconnecting to the omnipresent and gentle energy field on the surface of the Earth has a phenomenal effect on health.
The surface energy takes the form of a virtually unlimited reservoir of negatively-charged free electrons, subatomic particles absorbed by your body when you make physical (barefoot) contact with the ground. Once in your body, the electrons appear to stop the rampage of positively-charged free radicals involved in chronic pain and inflammation. This is a landmark discovery because so much pain and so many major diseases, among them cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and autoimmune disorders, are linked to chronic inflammation. Earth's energy also appears to restore a natural electrical state inside the body, stabilizing the intricate bioelectrical circuitry that runs your physiology. In the process, the nervous system shifts towards a parasympathetic and calming direction.
Observations and research over the last dozen years have shown that when people sleep on conductive sheets connected to the Earth's energy they experience better sleep and more energy, relief of chronic insomnia and pain, and faster recovery from injuries. Cortisol normalizes. People feel better and report feeling less stressed.
In 2008, I participated in an experiment to measure the effect of Earth's energy on HRV. In this study, patches were placed on the bare soles of twenty-eight healthy individuals sitting in an office chair. The patches were connected by a wire to a ground rod inserted into the Earth, simulating the effect of being barefoot outside. Electrophysiological measurements were taken for forty minutes while each participant was connected to the Earth and then for a similar period while unconnected. The results, to be published later this year, showed a trend in a very short period of time toward improved HRV and balancing the nervous system that goes beyond mere relaxation.
Whether through being barefoot outside or working, sitting, or sleeping on indoor systems that conduct the Earth's energy, this concept offers a surprisingly simple and natural way to help alleviate chronic stress and pain, poor sleep, and many common symptoms. We are largely disconnected from the Earth. We need to reconnect.
If this concept seems far-out or far-fetched to you, think of a time you walked on the wet sand at the beach or on grass wet with dew. Do you recall feeling a warm, tingling sensation, or a feeling of ease and well-being? If so, what you felt was the Earth's energy. When your body is exposed to it regularly, this same energy is amazingly restorative and healing to the body.
Whenever you feel stressed or have pain I invite you to try the barefoot test. Go outside and plant your bare feet on sand, grass, or even concrete, preferably a bit moist for added conductivity. Read, listen to music, or just watch the birds or passing parade, but stay there in direct physical contact with the ground--the skin of your body touching the "skin of the Earth"--for at least a half hour or 40 minutes. At the end of that time you will notice the difference in your pain or stress level compared to when you started. You will be very surprised.
For more information, refer to the book I co-authored: Earthing:The Most Important Health Discovery Ever? (Basic Health Publications, 2010). The book tells the fascinating story of a great discovery, the science behind it, and the dramatic stories of people who have reconnected with the Earth and who have less pain and stress in their lives as a result. To read the scientific studies in full, visit the website www.earthinginstitute.net