Originally appeared in Planet Jackson Hole

One of the many pleasures of summer is kicking off your shoes and walking barefoot. We all know how great it feels to walk without shoes on a sandy beach, on soft grass or on a gentle path in the woods. What's new, is that beyond our spontaneous smiles and "oh this feels so good," it turns out that sustained skin contact with the earth is the best antioxidant there is.

Healing electrons

We get oxygen from trees, and vitamin D from the sun. What we get from skin contact with the earth is a free and unlimited supply of healing electrons that the body can use to counter the unhealthy buildup of inflammation-causing free radicals. People who routinely sit or sleep on the ground, walk barefoot or wear animal hide shoes receive ample skin contact with the earth.

We all accumulate free radicals throughout the day from our own stresses, from chemical toxicity in the air, in the water, and in our foods. These are exacerbated by sedentary lifestyles, poor diets, too much time spent indoors and little or no skin contact time with the ground.

Researchers point out that the free radicals we build up throughout the day have a positive charge, and eventually overwhelm our immune systems.

On the other hand, the surface of the earth has a negative charge. Therefore, connecting the body to the ground allows the negatively charged electrons from the earth to permeate the body and rebalance the accumulation of free radicals. This can prevent and heal chronic inflammation, which is the role antioxidants play. In addition, electrons from the earth have no secondary side effects. Our bodies have evolved to require and benefit from the recharge from the earth for eons.

Beyond free radical management

According to research by Dr. James Oschman, grounding appears to improve sleep, normalize the day-night cortisol rhythm, reduce pain, reduce stress, shift the autonomic nervous system from sympathetic toward parasympathetic activation, increase heart rate variability, speed wound healing, and reduce blood viscosity.

Another physician, Dr. Laura Koniver, lists the benefits of regular skin contact with the earth to include: reducing chronic pain, improving sleep, reducing stress hormones, relieving muscle tension and headaches, speeds healing of wounds, and even eliminating jet lag.

Earthing and baring it all

The new name for getting grounded is Earthing, and there are ample books to read and products to get grounded to the earth without having to be barefoot outdoors. If you are curious, research "earthing" online and discover everything from bed sheets, sandals and body bands to computer mats crafted to facilitate grounding with the earth.

The recommended helpful dose of bare feet on the ground is a minimum of 10 minutes per day, even walking on the earth with natural fiber socks creates the grounding connection. This is so simple. Summer's here. Experiment on your own; it's free, and see how this works for you. PJH