As I shared last week, I celebrated the two year anniversary of the car accident that killed Max and his two friends on August 27. I anticipated that the pain and grief would be intense and needed to find a supportive way to spend the day and allow the emotions to move through me without overwhelming me.
I have noticed over the past two years that time in nature always made me feel better. In fact, whenever intense sadness or pain would bubble up to the surface, I would quickly slather myself in essential oils derived from nature, and whenever possible, physically spend time outside in nature. The connection to nature always seemed to calm my nervous system and allow any challenging emotions to more easily pass through me.
This past weekend, I had the luxury of hiking through some of the most gorgeous terrain in the Pacific Northwest. As an early riser, I was able to enjoy hours in solitude on the trails, which gave me ample time to contemplate how and why nature supports emotional detoxification.
Why Does Grounding Help Emotional Release?
It is painful and difficult to sit with unpleasant emotions like anger, fear, grief and sadness. Most of us don’t know how to move through and release these intense emotions, so instead we do everything we can to avoid feeling them. We over-work, over-exercise, over-medicate, drink, create distractions or drama, check out (also called disassociating) or do anything we can to help us numb, repress, ignore, lock away or hide from our intense emotions.
Sadly, when we don’t let emotions move through us, we trap them in our field where they can contribute to imbalance and ultimately present as physical symptoms or disease.
Fortunately, the earth is the ultimate dumping ground, absorbing, cleansing and neutralizing any negative energies and emotions that you are able to release.
On some level we already know this. We know that the earth helps us discharge, neutralize and recycle that which we no longer need. For example, we bury our dead in the ground where the minerals of their body decompose and recycle back into minerals that can then nurture and support other plant life. This is one reason that animal waste is recycled as fertilizer for new plants.
When you connect to nature and allow yourself to discharge your emotions, it gives those negative emotions somewhere safe to land where they won’t cause harm to you or anyone else but will just be neutralized and released. Animals in nature are known to physically shake on the ground after a stressful event has passed to help discharge and release stress chemicals like cortisol. While you do not need to physically lie on the ground and shake, moving through nature can help you discharge those unpleasant emotions. Nature also helps ground you into your body, which prevents you from continuing to dissociate and avoid your feelings.
How Nature Heals
Your body is electrical, equipped with electrical circuitry that harmonizes your basic biological rhythms, like the digestive and sleep-wake cycles and supports organ function. Your personal electrical frequency works in tandem with the electrical frequency of the Earth, also known as the Schumann resonance, which has a frequency of 7.83 Hz.
Remember that frequency, or cellular voltage, is the measurement of available energy and how quickly that energy circulates within the cells of your body. The greater the voltage within your cells, the faster your body is able to regenerate, heal and fight off external threats. The lower your voltage, the slower your cells move within the body which opens the door for pathogens and diseases to set in.
Spending time in nature allows you to connect to the natural energies of the Earth. Like the Earth, your body is comprised of water, minerals and electrical currents. Your body’s matrix of energetically charged biochemical circuits are coordinated through your central nervous system. The subtle electrical energy of the Earth influences your central nervous system to support biochemical reactions that positively influence your physical, mental and emotional health. This can help you feel safe to release anger, fear, grief, sadness and stress while increasing positive feelings.
For example, the Earth’s electrical rhythms play a significant role in the natural circadian rhythms that govern our sleep/wake cycle, hormones, mood and energy production. Studies of individuals who are disconnected from this natural electrical rhythm show abnormal circulating cortisol levels, indicating abnormal stress responses. Additional studies have found that disconnected people often struggle with issues such as insomnia, hormone disruption, chronic pain, headaches and fatigue among other things.
Finally, a study published in the journal of cardiology found that being in nature even for a few hours has a calming effect on the mind and body – lowering blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the levels of stress hormones like cortisol in the bloodstream. With the reduction in cortisol, the body automatically returns to the parasympathetic state.
Connecting to the electromagnetic energy from the Earth through barefoot exposure to the ground provides a powerful form of free electrons that help balance and reset your body and contribute to your physical well-being. As Jerry Tennant notes in Healing is Voltage, “voltage always moves from an area of high voltage to an area of lower voltage.” When you ground or connect with the earth, negatively-charged electrons from the surface of the Earth transfer into your body where they help neutralize positively-charged free radicals that can contribute to inflammation and other health concerns.
Grounding in Nature Shifts You into Your Body
In order to release intense emotions, you need to feel safe and allow your nervous system to calm down. This feeling of safety exists only in your body, not in your mind. When you feel unsafe, your mind speeds up to protect you which may cause you to disconnect from your body. When you are disconnected from your body, these painful emotions cannot be processed and released, but instead recirculated through your thoughts, which you might experience as anxiety, depression or other negative thought patterns.
The key to breaking this pattern is shifting out of your mind, into your body, so you might release the emotion through your body Remember all emotions are just energy in motion. When you are able to calm your mind, and redirect your focus away from any mental distractions, emotional energy is able to come into conscious awareness.
The easiest way to shift into your body is to ground into your five senses which forces you to drop into the present moment. Staying in the present moment allows you to feel safe and in-control by focusing on the physical world and how you experience it. The more present you are in your body, the calmer and safer you will feel.
Time in nature allows you to focus on your five senses though your physical body, rather than on your internal thoughts or overwhelming emotions. Nature allows easy ways to access your five senses:
Nature is full of beautiful mountains, lakes, rivers, streams along with colorful plants, trees and flowers that our eyes can settle on. These natural scenery can inspire awe which brings you completely into the present moment, so you become free from the any distraction or chatter in your brain.
A UC Berkeley study found that feelings of awe, such as those generated during time in nature like looking at a mountain peak or a beautiful waterfall, calms over-thinking and anxiety and allows for the expression of other positive emotions.
Sight and the eye movement associated with forward motion and movement (when you are walking through nature) also help calm you amygdala and activate your prefrontal cortex which help calm feelings of anxiety and depression.
What’s more, research conducted in Korea found that people who merely looked at natural scenes/images for a few minutes showed a marked reduction in Amygdala activity compared to those who looked at urban images. Your amygdala plays a major role in processing intense emotions, like fear and anxiety. An overactive amygdala, also known as amygdala hijack, triggers a heightened emotional response. Nature calms the amygdala response which calms the intensity of your emotional responses.
To this point, a 2015 study found that brains, and specifically the prefrontal cortex, of people who spent an hour walking in nature were calmer as compared to those who spent an hour walking in an urban setting. Activating the prefrontal cortex helps calm an overactive amygdala and reduce the intensity of emotional responses.
Nature is full of soothing sounds, including the wind, animals, running water from waterfalls and streams and even the sound of silence. Researchers at Stockholm University in Sweden found that subjects exposed to sounds of nature showed quicker recovery from psychological stress as compared to those exposed to urban noises.
There has been a lot of research on forest bathing, or the practice of walking around in a natural environment and consciously connecting with what’s around you, and health benefits. For example, a study done by Japanese researchers suggested that breathing in plant-derived essential oils and phytoncides (a beneficial chemical emitted by plants and trees), help lower blood pressure, reduces cortisol and improve your immunity. The study showed that subjects exposed to forest environments for more than a few hours demonstrated increased immune activity as measured by an increase (by more than 50%!) in the number and activity of immune supporting natural killer cells. The beneficial results lasted for over 7 days!
Trees actually communicate with each other through scent signals, like pheromones, according to Peter Wohlleben, author of The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate. For example, when a giraffe starts chewing acacia leaves in sub-Saharan Africa, the tree notices the injury and emits a distress signal in the form of ethylene gas. Upon detecting this gas, neighboring acacias start pumping tannins into their leaves, which can sicken or even kill large herbivores.
Wohlleben explains that trees can detect scents through their leaves, which he equates to a sense of smell. They might also have a sense of taste. A study from Leipzig University and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research shows that trees know the taste of deer saliva. When a deer bites a branch, the tree brings defending chemicals to make the leaves taste bad. When a human breaks the branch with his hands, the tree knows the difference, and brings in substances to heal the wound.
Your sense of smell is also tied to you breathing. Deep inhalations and exhalations both help you focus on the smells in nature, including flowers, plants, trees and the oxygen rich air. Try to focus on your breathing, taking time to slowly inhale and exhale while noticing the scents in the forest atmosphere.
The sense of touch helps you really drop into your body and feel your body. This can be as simple as digging your heels into the trail and literally “grounding” them! You might also notice how the shoes feel on your feet, or clothes feel on your body, or gentle graze your hands along the foliage as you walk, gently touching the plants, moss or trees. You can also carry a grounding object in your pocket, like a small rock or crystal, which you can touch whenever you feel anxious or overwhelmed by the intensity of an emotion.
I don’t recommend tasting random plants as some may turn out to be poisonous. But I do encourage you to pick recognizable berries, like blackberries, and savor their taste. I will occasionally taste a wildflower that local farm to table restaurants often add to salads You can also focus on the taste of water or a snack you might have brought on the hike to help ground yourself in that physical sense.
It can be helpful to engage several senses at the same time which helps you ground into your body.
How to Ground Outside
If you have easy access to nature, walk outside and let your body physically touch the Earth. You can literally expose any part of your body to ground, to plants or any natural waters like lakes, streams, rivers or oceans. Walking in salt water is one of the best grounding techniques due to the combination of earth, water and electrolytes.
Sit, stand, or walk on grass, sand, dirt, all of which are conductive surfaces from which your body can draw the Earth’s electrons. Wet grass actually increases the conduction of the Earth’s electrons. Sitting or leaning against a tree along with touching a branch helps give you an energy infusion of grounding energy.
Walking barefoot is one of the best ways to connect with the Earth’s electrical energy. You have approximately 1300 nerve endings per square inch on the sole of your foot that help support the balance, stability and coordination of the foot, but also help you absorb concentrated amounts of the Earth’s electrical energy.
Indoor Grounding Options
Please do not fret if you live in a city and cannot easily access nature. There are several ways to bring the healing power of nature indoors to help you easily ground and center from the comfort of your own home. Indoor grounding strategies include:
Essential oils, especially those derived from grounded plants like trees which are intrinsically grounded through their root structure into the Earth. Essential oils comprised from barks, roots, grasses, needles and resin of plants also help you pull your energy centers down into the Earth.
Plants that grow under earth entrain with earth’s energies. This is why stones, root vegetables or essential oils from root plants that share space with the Earth, match the frequency of the Earth and can be used for grounding. Rock, crystals and minerals, in particular, are able to hold a solid vibration so when you hold one in your hand or place it near your body, you have to change your frequency to match that of the rock or mineral. This is one reason that crystals are so popular for grounding.
Natural scents, like essential oils derived from plants, also carry a vibration and smelling essential oils forces you to entrain your energy with the plant and helps connect you to nature and ground you.
My favorite essential oils for grounding include:
Attention™ This blend helps ground you in your body. It contains Vetiver, a perennial bunchgrass with very deep roots that help ground it to the Earth. Vetiver essential oil is extracted from these deep roots and is known to ground you mentally, physically and emotionally, often helping you explore the root of your emotional issues. Attention™ also contains Frankincense™ and Cedarwood which helps us ground and feel connected to the planet and each other. Cedarwood is derived from a tall tree and gives you the strength of a tall standing tree that continues to grow over long years through all types conditions – weathering turbulent storms, fire, flood, and other such disasters only to bloom once more and stand strong. They remind us that “this too will pass with time.” Cedarwood enhances and facilitates this ability to stand tall and weather the storms of life, helping you endure dark, uncertain, and emotional events by instilling you with the strength to move forward. Apply 2- 3 drops of Attention™ on the bottom of the feet and back of the neck to help with grounding.
Frankincense™ is a resin extracted from trees that grow in the challenging climates of northeastern African and the Arabian Peninsula. These challenging climates make Frankincense™ uniquely resilient and supportive to help with grounding. What’s more, the resin and sap of trees is reminiscent of life’s blood in the sense that it protects, seals, and heals a wound. And, just like a physical wound, essential oils derived from resins are known for their ability to heals the wounds within us as well. Frankincense™ is known for helping to purify, sanctify and connect you to your spiritual path, calming the mental chatter of your nervous system. It also helps connect you to the healing energy of the Earth. Apply Frankincense™ to the bottoms of your feet to support grounding.
Parasympathetic™ : Supporting the Parasympathetic State can also help the body ground which further benefits the vagus nerve. Further, the Lime oil in the Parasympathetic™ blend can help promote emotional grounding, encouraging a balance between the heart and mind, the connection of which helps you ground. Apply Parasympathetic™ over the vagus nerve (behind the earlobe on the mastoid bone).
Epsom Salt Baths:
Epsom salt baths mimic sea water and serve as a great at-home strategy to gently loosen and move stuck energies and cleanse both your energetic and physical body.
As the philosopher Plato noted, “The sea cures all ailments of man.” For centuries, the oceans have been extolled for their healing powers, in large part due to their mineral content and the ability of those minerals to pass through our skin and support our healing. The mineral constitution of the human body is very similar to that of the sea water. In fact, seawater and our blood plasma are 98% identical. When immersed in warm seawater the body absorbs the minerals it needs through the skin. Water is the optimal carrier for nutrients as it both absorbs and magnifies their healing potential. One teaspoon of water can actually absorb 4 teaspoons of nutrients. This is one of the reasons that bone broth is so healing. Similarly, warm bathes with magnesium sulfate from Epsom salt and sodium bicarbonate from baking soda can create a similar healing experience. Here’s why: The combination of water, heat and minerals opens skin pores, allowing them to absorb the minerals and flush out harmful toxins through the sweat glands. Layering in specific essential oils, like Lavender or Rose can further enhance the grounding experience.
My favorite Healing Bath Recipe:
- 2 cups Epsom salt
- 1 cup Baking Soda
- 3 – 7 drops of Rose or Lavender Essential Oil
* *Mix Essential Oils with Epsom Salt before adding to bath water for optimal absorption
Focusing on your breath is the easiest and fastest way to help ground into your body. The breathing technique below can help support grounding and emotional clearing that you can do anytime or anywhere.
- Close your eyes. Breathe in through your nose while counting to four slowly. Feel the air enter your lungs.
- Hold your breath inside while counting slowly to four. Try not to clamp your mouth or nose shut. Simply avoid inhaling or exhaling for 4 seconds.
- Begin to slowly exhale for 8 seconds – the exhale supports the parasympathetic state so it is important to ensure that your exhale is longer than your inhale.
You can also layer in essential oils, like Liver Support blend, to help support greater emotional release. Just place the bottle under your nose and breathe deeply, fully inhaling the oil for 3 – 7 breaths. It helps you breathe into and work through the emotion.
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