The Health Benefits of Forest Bathing and Earthing

by Apr 14, 2021

Let’s take a moment to go back to our roots

Depending on when and where you spent your childhood years and what your family life was like, you may recall pleasant moments of being barefoot, running through the grass, dirt, or sand. Your feet were tough, a small pebble would hardly give you a second thought. You may also recall getting your hands dirty by making “mud pies” as we called them. 

Those times of playing in the mud have slowly been forgotten – on to more addictive activities such as television and video games. The screen has really drawn us all in. Many of us will spend the majority of our day, up to 8-10 hours, sitting either at a desk or in a car. We live in fast paced, urban environments. We eat on the go. We often don’t even remember what we ate because we are not being mindful of our movements. We are off in our head, worrying about the upcoming staff meeting or presentation. 

Can you remember the last time you took your shoes off and walked barefoot? Can you recall the feeling of sand between your toes, the smell in the air, the sounds of the birds singing? Before you read further, take a moment to really think about the last time you were barefoot outside or had your hands in the dirt. Hold that thought briefly, what do you remember? 

Earthing: What is it? How to try it at home?

A few years ago, I was reading a health magazine while in the waiting room at the doctor’s office. In this article, I learned that there is actually a term for this idea of having our feet in the sand or in the dirt – it’s called Earthing. Earthing, or grounding, refers to bodily contact with the Earth’s natural electric charge. It is common to hear people discussing moments of emotional intensity or a high stress time in their lives by saying things such as; “I am not feeling very grounded” or “I feel disconnected”. Earthing can be as simple as walking barefoot outdoors on natural conductive surfaces such as grass, soil, gravel, stone, and sand. When the body is “grounded” it tends to be healthier and more stable. Our ancestors were said to live less stressful, fast paced lives – they often wore traditional leather shoes that were natural conductors of the earth’s energy. Today, we mostly wear synthetic shoes and work in high rises – keeping us “disconnected”. 

In Germany, there are over 100 barfuss (barefoot) parks where children, as well as adults, can spend time walking barefoot – rediscovering what it is like to be connected to the Earth. There are also more advanced methods of Earthing such as using grounding mats and grounding cords but for our purposes here, we will stick to the simple and free options.

2 Simple Ways To try Earthing at Home:

  • Next time you plan to do some gardening, go barefoot or if this seems like too much, leave the gardening gloves off and get your bare hands in the soil – this will also provide an earthing effect.
  • Go for a short walk barefoot in the grass, sand, or even on the cement.

The Practice of Forest Bathing

The Japanese practice of Shinrin-yoku or “forest bathing” was developed in the 1980’s and today it is often a preventative treatment used in Japan’s national health program. The concept of being in nature is not an extraordinarily new idea. It has been around for ages; yet, our modern, technology-dominant culture has lost some of these practices that at one time were part of everyday life. 

In Germany, the concept of being in nature is called Waldeinsamkeit or “solitude of the forest”. Scientific research supports the fact that the natural world is important to human health. Forest bathing is both a physiological and psychological exercise.

How to practice Forest Bathing:

  • Turn off your phone 
  • Take a walk into the forest, or a wooded area 
  • Move slowly, you can spend several hours covering just 1 mile of earth. 
  • Start to consciously connect to what’s around you 
  • Think about your 5-senses: 

? What can you see? 

? What do you hear? 

? Are there any specific smells? 

? Can you reach out and touch the bark of a tree? 

? Can you taste anything? (Maybe coffee from the morning!)

These practices seem so simple, what are the benefits?

  • Reduced inflammation 
  • Less pain 
  • Decrease in cortisol (stress hormone) 
  • Increase in serotonin (happiness hormone) 
  • Improved blood flow 
  • Improved sleep 
  • More energy 
  • Better mood 
  • Frees up creativity

Source: US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health Published online 2012 Jan 12. doi: 10.1155/2012/291541 Source:

Forest Bathing and Earthing can be used as complementary practices to traditional psychotherapy and medical treatment. So, next time you are feeling stressed, disconnected, or just in need of some grounding – try going back to your roots by stepping into the forest or digging your bare hands into the garden. Happy Earthing! 

Disclaimer: Not responsible for injuries such as bee stings, thorns, nails, etc., on your Forest Bathing and Earthing journey – Keep an eye out for anything that might hurt!

Robin S. Smith

Robin S. Smith

Robin S. Smith, MS, LCMFT is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in clinical practice in Bethesda MD. As an MFT, he specializes in relationship issues for couples, families, and individuals, for improved quality of life. His areas of expertise include: transition to parenthood for new and expecting parents, infidelity, sex and intimacy issues, premarital counseling, and trauma. Robin has given talks to various groups including hospital administrators, graduate students, fellow psychotherapists, and child birth educators. He is the primary contributor to The Couple and Family Clinic Blog.

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