We are living in stressful times. Emotions are heightened, division is prevalent, and anxiety seems to be the norm. We cannot deny that we are greatly affected by our surroundings: environment, people, media, and so on. We often forget that we have the ability to reduce our stress, lower our anxiety, and be the master of our bodies and spirits. It takes a bit of practice, but it is possible to calm our nervous systems, activate the Parasympathetic nervous system, strengthen our immune systems, reduce inflammation, and reconnect with ourselves at a deeper level.
As part of my practice, I have been using the journal developed by the 369 Project. It is based on manifesting what is already ours through affirmations, visualization, and reflection. In one chapter, the author suggested Grounding, Earthing, and Sungazing. I have found all three of these to be incredibly powerful in my own life, and the best part is that they are available to all of us free of charge!
Grounding has to do with reconnecting with the earth. We are electromagnetic creatures, and our earth is an electromagnetic field. Walking barefoot (when it is safe to do so) allows us to connect with the earth in a powerful way. Walking on rocks, grass, dirt, and sand can each offer the gift of grounding. Of course, being mindful while you are doing this is key! Pay attention and notice what you are experiencing.
Earthing can simply be described as experiencing the earth in its natural form. Walking in the woods, touching trees, picking up leaves and exploring them closely, feeling the dirt in your hands, connecting with the earth in all its forms. Again, mindfulness during the experience is an integral part of the practice.
Sungazing can be incredibly powerful and should be done when the sun’s UV index is at its lowest…at sunrise and sunset. The Creator knew it was good for us to gaze into the sun at those times and therefore made them the most beautiful and inviting. I don’t think any of us would deny how powerful it can be to experience a sunrise or a sunset in silence…no words are necessary. We know this can help reduce our stress levels, strengthening our immune systems and overall mood.
I sometimes use the “5-4-3-2-1” technique when working with my clients. This practice is helpful to those who are prone to panic attacks and can help them remain grounded, reduce the feeling of panic, and thwart the onset of an attack. This technique can be incorporated into the above three practices as well. If you don’t have access to a forest, no worries—this can be done anywhere.
While outside, take a moment to be still by sitting or standing connected to the earth. In silence, look around and find five things you see. I like to start with something really big (like a tree) and then find things smaller and smaller as I move from one to five. Really notice them.
Now find four things you can feel. Pick things up or try feeling the bark of four different types of trees. Have fun with it. Then, find three things you can hear. If you are in a truly quiet place, focus and listen closely. You can even create your own sounds by slightly moving your feet and noticing the sound it makes as leaves crunch or tiny twigs snap on the ground. Welcome the sounds of the birds, squirrels, chipmunks, and even the slight buzz of a bee as it hovers on nearby flowers.
Move on to finding two things you can smell. Breathe deeply. Notice what the air smells like. Hold something in your hand and smell it closely. Dr. Zach Bush recommends that we “breathe in the biome” in nature. He reminds us that in the breath of nature, we reconnect to the vast ecosystem around us. The trees, plants, mosses, and soil all offer us something beneficial to our systems. It’s a gift offered to us, free of charge.
Finally, find one thing you can taste. If you are not familiar with the plants in nature, it is not advisable to eat something unknown as it could be harmful to your system. Bring something small – a raisin, a small piece of chocolate, an apple. Truly allow yourself time to eat mindfully and notice how it tastes. This act alone can help reduce our stress, slow us down, and make us more mindful and connected to our bodies and our environment.
Give it a try! It’s amazing what these practices can do to help reduce our stress and anxiety and increase our sense of connection and calm. The earth is a gift. The earth is our home. Welcome home.
Charleen K. Miele, LPC, is a Licensed Professional Counselor who started her journey as a teacher, church music director, and fitness instructor. Charleen works with clients both in person and via telehealth and has recently added Trauma Informed Breathwork to her work. She offers her clients the opportunity to experience IFS and/or breathwork through in-person and online sessions and is currently offering group breathwork sessions online and will be hosting workshops and group sessions in person in the new year. Life coaching and spiritual life coaching, including breathwork and IFS work, are also available both as individual sessions and as packages of two, four, or six sessions. Charleen will soon be offering self-paced online courses as well as interactive groups that will meet for a series of weeks and will include lectures, discussions, journaling, and experiential somatic work through breathing and movement.