Perhaps one of the most overlooked Earthing dividends–and so beneficial in these stressful times–is the rapid calming influence that takesplace within the autonomic nervous system (ANS) that regulates functions like heart and respiration rates, digestion, perspiration, urination and even sexual arousal.

This effect may be one of the first, and possibly the first, of the major

body systems that react to Earthing. It begins pretty much instantly.The ANS shifts from a typically overactive sympathetic mode, associated with stress, into a parasympathetic, calming mode. The sympathetic and parasympathetic systems are the two branches of the ANS.

Stress throws off the balance between the two branches. Too much sympathetic “arousal”–from stress–leads to the well-known “fight-or flight”mode, an alert and readiness state that humans automatically switch on when in imminent danger, like fighting in a battle. In today’s world, unpredictable social, financial, and political events conspire to keep stress levels at an unhealthy high level as well. Many people live day-to-day in a state of physiological arousal. Whenever you can turn down the stress volume body it’s good for the heart and all the rest of you.

Revved-up sympathetic activity overwhelms the calming parasympathetic influence. The result, among other things, is a heightened risk of hypertension, arrhythmias, and even sudden death. One major yardstick of sympathetic overdrive is disturbance to heart rate variability (HRV),a measurement of nervous system balance on heart function.HRV refers to imperceptible beat-to-beat alterations in heart rate. People with low variability are less able to “go with the flow”when faced with stress and are more prone to stress-related disorders, including cardiovascular disease. HRV is different than when your heart beats faster as a result of exerting yourself or becoming stressed, and slowing down when you relax.Variations of HRV are seen on electrocardiograms and sophisticated computer analyses. You can’t feel the difference, but when you breathe in,your heart rate increases just ever so slightly. When you breathe out, it decreases ever so slightly.HRV superbly indicates your ability to cope with both internal and external changes. It is, in fact, “the most accurate predictor of sudden death and the most accurate reflector of stress,” according to Paul Rosch, M.D.president of the American Institute of Stress in New York City.“If you can alter HRV, that is, increase it, you can reduce the likelihood of stress related disorders, including cardiovascular disease”

Exercise, tai chi, yoga, and meditation are examples of activities that improve ANS and HRV. You become more relaxed and you sleep better.This effect is precisely what many people report after they start Earthing and prompted another study that I conducted with electrophysiologist Gaetan Chevalier.

Earlier Earthing investigations (see Chapter 8) had demonstrated a marked alteration in a variety of biological parameters after about twenty to thirty minutes. Others in several days. Some showed even a dramatic change immediately at grounding (in less than a second or two). In the HRV experiment,we monitored twenty-eight men and women (average age, forty-eight) before,during, and after forty-minute grounding sessions while seated comfortably in a recliner chair. They were also monitored, for comparison sake, for an identical forty minute period while sham grounded.

When grounded,there was an instant change in HRV that kept improving all the way to the end of the session, suggesting a greater benefit with time.There was no change in HRV when the same participants were sham grounded. The experiment, showing a positive trend in HRV, was published in 2011 in Integrative Medicine: A Clinicians journal.

For individuals who experience anxiety, emotional stress, panic, fear,and/or symptoms of involuntary muscle contractions and spasms, including headaches, cardiac palpitations, and dizziness, Earthing appears to represent a promising strategy that can be felt rapidly.

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