Yay, the moment you’ve been waiting for! In the final installment of my Aging Well Series let’s Get Centered and Grounded to help us age well. In this post, you’ll learn how to get centered and grounded, and why it’s important. We’ll take a look at my last three tips, the benefits of grounding your body (like walking barefoot), of having a centering practice (like meditation), and of keeping a daily gratitude practice (gratitude check!)
And if you missed Aging Well Parts 1, 2, and 3, be sure to check them out. I covered the importance of good quality sleep, hydration and moving your body every day in Part 1: Love Your Body; how and why to read labels for healthier eating and aging well in Part 2: Detox Your Pantry & Fridge, and what to look for as you detox your health, beauty, and home in Part 3: Detox Your Health, Beauty & Home to age well.
While all four areas in my aging well series are important, if you’re going to pick one place to start, it’s perhaps most important to get centered and grounded. After all, you can eat well and use toxin-free products, but if your monkey-mind is taking over your life, or your life is stressing you out, you won’t be healthy, nor able to age well.
1. Get Centered and Grounded with Earthing
So let’s start with Earthing. Have you heard of Earthing? I’ll admit I hadn’t heard of it prior to about six months ago. It’s a relatively “new” trend to get us back to the old way our bodies evolved to function. To be grounded to the earth. And recently I’ve been reading a few things about Earthing, including the book Earthing. And I’ve been really fascinated by what I’m learning. So I wanted to share this info in case you’ve been in the dark about Earthing too.
What is Earthing?
The basic premise is that connecting to the Earth’s natural energy is key for vibrant health. After all, we are electrical beings that have always walked the earth being grounded, directly connected to the earth for electron transfer. That is, up until the past 100+ years when we started wearing rubber-soled shoes. And if you remember anything from your high school physics class, you might remember that rubber is an insulator and doesn’t allow electricity to pass through it. So when we started wearing rubber-soled shoes, we stopped being able to easily transfer electrons from our body to the earth, or get grounded.
These days we’re likely to get out of bed and put on rubber-soled slippers or flip-flops, then rubber-soled shoes, getting into our rubber-tired cars, and on into sky-rise buildings working high off the ground. You could go for months of the year where your feet never actually touch the ground, dirt, grass, or sand. Considering humans have been walking the Earth for hundreds of thousands of years barefoot, this is pretty shocking to think our modern footwear could be a cause of our modern illness!? While water is grounding, and you do get a bit of grounding in the shower or bath, it’s not like going barefoot 24/7 as our ancestors did.
Is Earthing Backed by Research?
Interestingly, recent studies are showing that this lack of grounding is contributing to our overall chronic inflammation. From a study at UC Irvine (1)(2): As modern lifestyle separates humans from the vast supply of electrons on the surface of the Earth, research suggests “this disconnect may be a major contributor to physiological dysfunction and unwellness. Reconnection with the Earth’s electrons has been found to promote intriguing physiological changes—including better sleep and reduced pain—from walking barefoot outside or sitting, working, or sleeping indoors connected to conductive systems that transfer the Earth’s electrons from the ground into the body.”
“Since the late 20th century, chronic degenerative diseases have overcome infectious disease as the major causes of death in the 21st century.” Could a remedy to mitigate these chronic inflammatory diseases be located right under our feet?
The study concluded: “Emerging evidence shows that contact with the Earth may be a simple, natural, and yet profoundly effective environmental strategy against chronic stress, autonomic nervous system dysfunction, inflammation, pain, poor sleep, disturbed heart rate, hypercoagulable blood, and many common health disorders, including cardiovascular disease. The research done to date supports the concept that grounding or earthing the human body may be an essential element in the health equation along with sunshine, clean air and water, nutritious food, and physical activity.”
Give Earthing a Try
Since learning about Earthing a few months ago, I’ve been striving to get outside barefoot every day. It’s one of the easiest things you can do, walk on the dirt, grass, sand, or sit on the ground. And it’s been amazing! Try it for 15-20 minutes a day and see if you start to feel better. I know it has really helped me to get centered and grounded.
So now that you’ll be outside sitting on the ground, how about trying a little meditation while you’re there?
2. Meditate to Get Centered and Grounded
Do you have a current meditation practice? Or have you heard about the health benefits of meditation and always wanted to try it? Maybe you have a monkey-mind like me and think you can’t possibly learn to meditate. My personal experience is that having a regular meditation practice is a great way to calm the monkey-mind and get centered and grounded.
What is Meditation?
At its basic form, meditation is a mind-body connection that helps you to get centered and grounded. It can be as simple as paying attention to your breath, or the soap bubbles as you’re washing dishes, or using a mantra to quell your monkey mind.
Meditation comes in many forms and has been practiced around the globe for tens of thousands of years. From gurus in India to monks in the Himalayan Mountains, to anyone who practices yoga, because yoga is a form of meditation too.
Meditation takes you from doing into being, from activity into silence. Meditation today in the modern world is perhaps most well known as a form of stress management. So let’s take a look at chronic stress, and why we need to manage it to help us age well.
Hunter-Gatherers vs the Saber-toothed Tiger
You’ve likely heard the age-old “saber-toothed tiger” analogy about stress. But it’s worth repeating here because it’s an important concept to wrap our heads around. Our bodies were designed to handle stress in short, quick bursts, not repeated stress, ongoing over time. So as the hunter-gatherer ancestors we were out gathering food and a saber-toothed tiger came after them, this is how the body would have responded:
- adrenaline and cortisol levels spike
- blood goes to the heart, organs, and large muscles, not the extremities
- digestion stops
- blood pressure increases with running
- blood sugar increases
- adrenals are on overdrive mode
- blood platelets get sticky so if attacked, blood will clot
- all the energy is pulled out of the cells for this fast sprint to “run for their life”
- finally, they were in a safe place and could rest and relax, the adrenal response returns to normal, and cortisol levels drop
What Happens to Our Bodies Under Chronic Stress?
Today, however, it’s a different picture. What happens instead: you get stuck in traffic 2+ hours a day on your commute to sit in a cubicle for 12 hours a day, in a very stressful environment. Your boss is breathing down your neck, with deadlines coming up…you’re working so hard and never seeming to make enough money. How will you pay your bills? And your child is sick at home so you have to take unpaid time off work, you don’t know how you’ll pay for health insurance… and your phone is beeping and flashing text messages, emails, facebook messages, Instagram messages, badges and buttons lighting up your dopamine center, on-and-on until you’re exhausted. And what happens to your body is this:
- your adrenaline and cortisol levels spike
- your blood goes to the heart, organs, and large muscles, not the extremities
- you stop digesting
- your blood pressure goes up
- your blood sugar goes up
- your adrenals are on overdrive
- your platelets get sticky which causes your blood to clot
- all the energy gets pulled out of your cells for this “fast sprint to run for your life” — except there IS no end to this sprint, the marathon just keeps on going, no end in sight…
- and your body never gets a chance to rest and relax, and the adrenal response never returns to normal, and your cortisol levels never drop, all of which leads to chronic inflammation and disease.
Stress in the Modern World
Of course, that might be slightly exaggerated for some people. But as a whole, that is what has become of modern “civilization” (not so civilized actually when you think about it!) And in the past 100+ years, since the Industrial Revolution, where the world seems to revolve on more, bigger, better, faster, keep-up-with-the-Joneses, consume, consume, consume… the stress continues to build.
And so oftentimes, by the time you reach your 30s your adrenal glands are shot. And you may turn to stimulants like caffeine to get you through your day. Then it’s alcohol at night to bring you back down so you can sleep, rinse and repeat. It’s interesting to note that caffeine actually pulls energy out of your cells without replenishing that energy. It’s like going to the ATM and taking more money out of an account that’s already overdrawn. Something’s got to give, and generally, that’s your health.
Luckily meditation can help turn the tide of chronic stress and help replenish your body.
Health Benefits of Meditation
Well as you can see, all that stress is no bueno! But isn’t meditation kind of woo-woo, or just for monks? While that might have been the old misperception, these days modern science has done numerous studies on the health benefits of meditation.(3)
In fact, the Mayo Clinic (4) states that a regular meditation practice can “help to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression… and some research suggests meditation can help manage symptoms of conditions such as insomnia, heart disease, pain, cancer, and digestive problems.” Other studies have shown that meditation actually preserves the aging brain.(5)
Here are some other benefits from meditation:
- meditation reduces stress which has been proven by numerous studies to improve health benefits and helps us to sleep better
- it gives this clarity of thinking increased creativity
- it increases our intuition
- meditation is inward-looking so it helps us connect with our essential Self and understand better who we are
- it promotes new choices and takes us beyond conditioned responses and habits
- thereby increasing joy and happiness by reducing stress and enriching whatever we do, enhancing all aspects of our life
- it helps you get centered and grounded
- extrapolating that onto the grander scheme it means we could have more harmonious communities, and cooperative countries, which can actually create world peace
Here is an informative info-graphic showing visually what meditation does to your body.(6)
How Meditation Helps Your Community and the World
The amazing thing is that the benefits of meditating can expand beyond improving your own wellbeing to that of your entire community as well. Research indicates that in areas of the globe with higher numbers of meditators, crime rates have fallen significantly.
One inner-city school program in Baltimore turned out excellent results.(7) The kids who used to get sent to the principal’s office or detention were offered meditation instead. And their behaviors completely modified, resulting in a huge decrease in behavioral issues in that school. And leaving parents wondering WHAT had happened to their formerly unruly child?
Meditation has also been taught to incarcerated prisoners with great success.(8) Violence rates inside the prisons dramatically reduce when the prisoners practice meditation. And studies show that 60% of prisoners with addiction issues who learned to meditate in prison are still clean two-years after release.(9)
What if I Can’t Learn to Meditate?
I’ve had several friends tell me they can’t possibly learn to meditate because their brains won’t calm down enough. And believe me, I know the feeling. I have one of the most active monkey-minds around. Some mornings my mind is so active, I don’t really feel like I meditated at all. But it’s important to keep in mind that meditation is called a “practice” because that’s what you do: practice, practice, practice, every day. So I practice again that evening and the next day. And I can tell you with certainty, the more you take this personal time for yourself to practice, the more your monkey-mind does eventually calm down, and the more benefits your body will reap.
If this sounds like you, or you would like to learn to meditate we can help! My husband Kirk is a Chopra Certified Primordial Sound Meditation Teacher. Kirk offers a complimentary Intro to Primordial Sound Meditation Session, where you’ll learn the basics. Please contact him if you’re interested, he’d love to share mantra meditation with you.
Here are a few of our favorite meditation resources:
- 3 Easy Meditation Techniques with Deepak Chopra
- Guided Meditations for stress, healing, gratitude, love, and more from Chopra Center
- Oprah & Deepak 21-Day Guided Meditations
- Insight Timer guided meditation app
3. Gratitude Check to Get Centered and Grounded
“Gratitude Check!” It’s like an attitude check with gratitude. And the health benefits of a daily gratitude practice are numerous. Research shows it’s not happy people who are grateful, it’s grateful people who are happy. A regular gratitude practice can:
- improve physical health
- improve mental health
- enhances empathy
- reduces aggression
- improve sleep quality
- improve self esteem
- increase mental resilience
- reduce stress
Kirk and I call out “gratitude check” to each other several times during the day. We also do a “gratitude check” every night just before bed. When someone calls “gratitude check” the other person has to stop whatever they’re doing and say three things they are grateful for at that moment in time. We try to ensure that we’re not just repeating the same gratitudes over and over again, but consciously make new ones each time.
It’s also a great tool if someone is in a bad mood, to turn that frown upside down, and help them realize that they have so much to be grateful for! Are you grateful for your strong legs that let you walk all over town? Your good eyesight so you don’t need glasses? Your strong teeth that rarely have issues? When you really start thinking about it, there are a million things to be grateful for.
While saying your gratitudes out loud helps you get centered and grounded, ad reinforces them in your brain, research has also shown that writing down 3 things you are grateful for every day can lead to feeling happier and fulfilled in life.(10) Here are a couple of other ways to express your gratitude…
Start a Gratitude Jar
Take a mason jar and get some small notepaper where you can write three gratitudes a day on the paper, fold it up and put it in your jar. At the end of the year empty your jar of gratitude and read them all to see what a fantastic year you had!
Keep a Gratitude Journal
You can also keep a gratitude journal by your bedside and write down three things you’re grateful for every night before bed, or every morning when you get up. Anytime you’re feeling down, take a look through your gratitude journal and see how good life really is.(11)
Hopefully, some of these three practices or a combination of all of them resonate with you. Before you know it that saber-toothed tiger will be long gone, and you might be surprised at how good you feel! As your stress levels start to diminish, your adrenals will start to repair, and you’ll start to feel more energetic and happier about life. And that’s the real ticket to aging well.
Please share with your friends and family to help them unwind too. Then leave a message to let us know your favorite take-away from this article?
Photo Credit: Brian Mann, Unsplash.com