An age-old method of self-healing
We’d arrive at the holiday resort of Pennington on the KZN south coast in our VW combi, loaded to the gunnels with kids, umbrellas, bicycles, a canoe and bottles of +30 sun block.
You could cut the anticipation with a knife.
After months of routine at work and at school, we’d finally have the freedom to shuck the city slicker mentality like a snake shedding its skin, head for the coast and unwind on the beach. You can feel the tension start sloughing away.
My self-imposed rule, amid moans and groans every December holiday, was ‘it’s time to toughen up’. The kicker that we had come to accept amid groans was no shoes or sandals for the duration of the holiday unless dictated by decorum.
For the first few days, we had to mince our way carefully to the beach 400m away, taking care to protect our soft soles from sharp stones and hot tar. Our feet soon toughened up and we could stride to the beach with confidence, no problem.
I didn’t know then that apart from being a masochist I was forcing our family to indulge in grounding, an activity that has gained traction for years as a centuries-old self-healing process.
Wendy and I returned to grounding a year or two ago. We often join friends to walk barefoot on the beach for a few km, occasionally getting our feet wet in the freezing Atlantic Ocean. Or we sit on the grass on the promenade in front of our apartment building, enjoying the freedom of planting ourselves sans shoes or sandals.
I’m sure many of us will remember the scene in the 1989 movie Dead Poets Society when the inimitable Robin Williams lay spread-eagled on the grass staring up at the vast expanse of the night sky. That was a superb example of grounding if ever there was one.
Look, I’m not one of those people who believes in the imposing swathe of natural remedies while decrying all aspects of modern medicine. They both have their place.
Listen to the words of Dr Stephen Sinatra in the video below to get a glimpse of the origins of grounding. He makes a convincing case for our heightened sense of wellbeing when we take off our shoes and walk along the seashore, or pad barefoot over the grass.
I spent 30 minutes surfing the Web to locate research into grounding (sometimes called earthing) ahead of writing this piece. The activity refers to ‘connecting electrically with the Earth’. That sounds terribly scientific for describing the simple process of walking barefoot, something that most of us did routinely when we were kids.
Yes, there has been research into the health benefits of grounding. I wasn’t impressed as a layperson that the studies had the necessary gravitas.
An article in Healthline https://bit.ly/2USMW5B published in 2019 concedes that there hasn’t been much research into the impacts of grounding. The article states that ‘people have reported improvement for conditions such as chronic fatigue and pain, anxiety and depression, sleep disorders and reduction in blood pressure levels’.
Note that the article advises people suffering from the conditions already mentioned to ‘visit your doctor for these types of conditions first before relying on grounding therapy as the first line of treatment’ as the conditions may have underlying medical causes.
‘The benefits of grounding therapy may come simply from feeling like you’re reconnected to nature.’
For Wendy and me, taking time out to walk barefoot on the beach or grass has grown into a regular outing. The sand massages our soles, the wind wafts around our waists and the feeling of freedom seeps into our souls.
So take a chance and return to your childhood. It’s wonderful.
PS: As a runner from way-back-when, in the last few years I’ve taken to dipping in the sea for 10 minutes after a hard training run of 15 – 20 km. Admittedly, so far this winter I’ve managed to avoid a swim in the cold Atlantic.
I had no sooner loaded this story onto the Chronicle than a message appeared on my cell phone screen. I hesitated a few seconds, checked behind me to make sure no one had been reading over my shoulder, then shared the Post with my wonderful SAFREA colleagues. Here’s the message: