As a Naturopathic doctor, I believe that lifestyle techniques and practices are an incredibly effective and essential part of each patient’s treatment plan, especially for the patients who are struggling with their moods, or anxiety. Practices like yoga, deep breathing, mindfulness, and meditation have been shown to help reduce stress and anxiety. One of these practices is grounding. The practice of grounding can help to keep your mind in the present, and reduce feelings of being overwhelmed or anxious.
The general concept of grounding comes from the belief that as human beings we have a relationship with the ground and the earth since we are born. As babies, we crawl and roll around on the floor. We use the push of the ground beneath us to take our first steps. The ground gives us stability, strength, and a sense of security. We use the ground for support and balance when we are starting to trip or fall. Using the ground to replicate these feelings can be incredibly valuable in our adult lives, especially when we are feeling anxious, stressed, or just overwhelmed and stuck in our own heads. A recent study in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry, stated that “grounding, the subjective feeling and objective state of being more stably connected to the ground, helps to increase a sense of self-efficacy, balance, and confidence, and might help to stabilize mood swings and reduce depression and anxiety.” Grounding practices also work through both cognitive and sensory awareness, which helps you re-focus and re-gain clarity during emotional states.
Grounding has become a bit of a trend in the health and wellness community, and you might have heard of different products like grounding mats. These things are great, but you can get the benefits of grounding for free and without any products at all. I try to ground myself any time I need to relax, calm down, or refocus. I find it especially helpful when I’m stuck in my own thoughts, and need to remind myself that my problems are not as large as I am making them out to be. For example, when I was stressed from school, planning my wedding, or feeling hurt or upset in relationships, I would often just concentrate on pressing my feet floor below me. I know it sounds too simple to effective, but it quickly sends a signal to my brain, reminding me that there are other things around me. This helps me get out of my own head and realize that everything around me is so large, and I am so small. It helps me gain perspective in just a few seconds, and is very comforting.
// Here are a few very easy and simple ways you can quickly ground yourself:
// Lying Down:
Yes, it really is that simple. Just lie down on the floor, preferably outdoors, and let yourself sink into the ground below you. Take a moment to take a few deep breaths starting from your belly. Try to pay attention to the parts of your body that are making direct contact with the floor. Take another deep breath and try to let those parts sink even deeper into the floor. Also, note any areas of tension in your body and try to relax them with each inhale and exhale. To bring about the cognitive and sensory awareness pieces of grounding, think about where you are, and think about 3 things that you can feel. Lastly, think about how the ground is fully supporting you, giving you the ability to completely relax and let go.
You can use this easy method anytime you are feeling stressed or tense at the office. Sit back in your chair and plant your feet firmly on the floor, and remove your shoes if you can. Wiggle your toes, lift up your heels, and then slowly let your feet sink into the ground as deeply as possible. Take 3 deep breaths starting from your belly. With each breath, allow yourself to sink further into your seat and your feet to sink further into the ground. To include the cognitive awareness component, name 3 things around you that you can see and feel. You can also roll your shoulders back, stretch out your neck, or lift your arms above your head for a nice full body stretch.
// Standing or Walking:
This is one of my favorite methods of grounding, especially when I am able to do it on the grass or sand. It’s so simple, but helps me relax and refocus almost more than anything else. Take your shoes off, and plant your feet firmly on the ground. Try to stand up as straight as you can, and imagine something pressing directly on the top of your head through to your feet. Take 2 deeps breaths, roll your shoulders back and continue to sink into the ground as much as possible. Then take slow steps, starting by pressing the weight into your heels, then moving up into the arch of your foot, the balls of your foot, and lastly your toes. Really pay attention to each part of the foot as it touches the ground, this helps with the sensory awareness. Notice how the ground supports and holds you up, and just allow yourself to relax and let go.
By becoming aware of, and feeling the ground below you, and the safety and security it provides you, you can help to calm down your emotions. It can help you feel less overwhelmed, and help to get you out of your head, and bring you back to reality. Grounding has been really helpful for me and many of the patients that I’ve worked with. I hope this technique can help you also!
// Dr. Nikka Kanani, ND