The science behind grounding mats is a bit of a mixed bag, but they're thought to help with managing stress, pain, and more.

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grounding earthing mat , Barefoot woman standing on mat in class. Woman legs doing tree pose in studio
Credit: Adobe Stock - Design: Alex Sandoval

Something as simple as taking off your shoes and standing in the grass to reap health benefits might sound too good to be true — even meditation requires a certain amount of effort to gleam results — but, there is some evidence that shows simply standing on the earth with bare feet, a practice known as grounding or earthing, can have real improvements on how the body manages stress, anxiety, and even inflammation and autoimmune disorders.

If your interest is piqued, there are two names you need to learn: Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D. and Clint Ober. Both are considered pioneers in the industry and have written some of the first books and research materials on the subject. Here, Stephen's son, Step Sinatra, a writer, healer, and co-founder of grounded.com shares more about how the practice of grounding works and why you might want to give it a try.

What is grounding?

"The earth is like a battery," says Step. "High up in the ionosphere is where the earth is positively charged and, on the surface, the charge is negative. The human body is also a battery." Essentially, when you directly connect to the earth, you tap into the natural rhythmic pulsations flowing through and emanating through the earth's surface, he explains. (Related: The Health Benefits of House Plants and How to Decorate with Them)

What are the purported health benefits of grounding?

One 2011 study from Gaétan Chevalier, Ph.D. and Stephen, found that after observing 27 participants, those who participated in man-made grounding methods (specifically, placing adhesive electrode patches on their hands and feet) for 40 minutes had improvements in heart rate variability (HRV) after grounding. This translated to a slower heart rate and reduced anxiety and stress. The study authors concluded that "grounding appears to be one of the simplest and yet most profound interventions for helping reduce cardiovascular risk and cardiovascular events."

If that bold promise gives you pause, your skepticism is understandable.

"Electromagnetic grounding has no role in a positive physiologic change in the body," explains Satjit Bhusri, M.D., F.A.C.C., founder of Upper East Side Cardiology. "The only true example of human grounding is lightning striking the body and using it as a condition to ground to the earth. I would be highly cautious with experimental electricity transmission as a means to a positive impact on health."

Still, Anup Kanodia, M.D., M.P.H., I.F.M.C.P. founder of Kanodia M.D., has an alternative theory. "A couple of hundred years ago there were no cell phones, Wi-Fi, all this electricity, and various things that give off positive electrons, and our body isn't used to that," he says. "I think our body is more used to being in grass, on earth, barefoot — so we made this rapid environmental change to the body which can lead to, for some people, more inflammation, higher stress markers, worse blood flow, or decreased HRV. Standing on the earth barefoot probably does discharge some of the positive electrons that the body is accumulating. That's why many people feel better around the ocean or beach."

Divya Kannan, Ph.D., the lead psychologist at Cure.fit, a digital health and fitness company that aims to make fitness goals and mental health visits more accessible, also recommends grounding to patients — namely those who have experienced anxiety, trauma, PTSD, and flashbacks. "As per what I've observed with my patients, even a few minutes of this practice can help an individual come out of a flashback," says Kannan. "I encourage my clients to practice this as often as they can or when they feel anxious or zoned out." (Related: Try These Mantras for Anxiety When You're Feeling Overwhelmed)

How do grounding mats work?

If climate or lifestyle doesn't make it easy for you to practice grounding outside in the traditional sense, there is a way for you to mimic the effects indoors. Enter: grounding mats. A grounding mat is designed to mimic the effects of grounding outdoors by plugging into the ground port of home outlets. So, you're not plugging into an electrical outlet, but rather electrons from the earth passed through the ground wire of the home. Don't worry, most grounding mats come with instructions on how to find the ground port of your home. A grounding mat should be "a non-toxic, mostly carbon-based that looks like a big mouse pad," says Step. "When you touch your skin directly to it, it's almost as if you're touching the earth. The mat is conductive, and it's also connected directly to the earth if you set it up correctly. You can plug it into an outlet that only touches the ground wiring in your home or apartment." (Related: Science-Backed Ways That Getting In Touch with Nature Boosts Your Health)

Step recommends practicing it consistently for the best results. "Studies have shown that benefits happen immediately, yet for measurable effects, 30-45 minutes is advised," he adds.

So, should you try grounding or grounding mats?

Despite promising research, there is limited evidence of the impact of grounding (whether outside or indoors using a grounding mat) on your health and wellbeing. But, while more research is needed, there's no harm in giving it a try for yourself.

"The risk-benefit ratio is very favorable to grounding vs. many of the different things you might do to lower inflammation, stress, and improve blood flow," adds Dr. Kanodia, who practices grounding himself. "I've been doing it for more than a decade and do recommend it to my patients." (See more: How to Tap Into Your 5 Senses to Find Peace and Be Present)

Ready to invest? Here are some of the best grounding mats to buy.

NeatEarthing Grounding Therapy Sleep Pad

Neatearthing Grounding Therapy Mattress Pad
Credit: Amazon

Grounding mats can be more than just an elevated yoga mat — you can even buy a grounding mat for your bed. Grounding sleep therapy pads like this one from NeatEarthing are thought to bolster pain relief, accelerate healing, and promote more restful sleep. You can get a grounding pad to cover your entire bed, or opt for a half-size to just try it on one side. (Related: How to Sleep Better When Stress Is Ruining Your Zzz's)

Alfredx Earth Connected Universal Grounding Mat

Alfredx Connected Large Grounding Mat
Credit: Amazon

This grounding mat also includes a 15-ft cable cord so you can use it for grounding on the floor while you watch TV, or even place it at the foot of your bed and get the benefits of grounding therapy as you sleep.

SKYSP Grounding Pillowcase Mat for Sleep

Yunbless grounding pillowcase
Credit: Amazon

Grounding pillowcases work just like grounding mats, by plugging into the wall that's connected to a grounding port. Sleeping on a grounding pillowcase is said to help target and relieve pain in the neck and head, and while the science behind those benefits isn't proven, Amazon reviewers claim to notice improvements.

Earthing Sticky Mat Kit

Earthing Sticky Mat
Credit: Earthing

This grounding mat kit is actually produced by Clint Ober and comes with a stamp of approval from Step and the team at grounded.com. The Earthing grounding mat comes with a chord, mat, safety adapter, outlet checker, and user's manual so you can understand the best place to plug your mat into to get access to the ground wiring in your home or building.

Ultimate Longevity Ground Therapy Universal Mat

Ultimate Longevity Grounding Mat
Credit: Ultimate Longevity

This grounding mat was also created by Ober. If you're a first-timer interested in grounding mats, this is a great place to start. Along with the mat, you get Ober's book Earthing (co-written with Stephen), which explains everything you need to know about the practice of grounding and digital access to three films/documentaries on the subject, as well.