Going barefoot almost all the time is not just part of who I am now…it formed a vital aspect of my recovery from severe mental illness.
The fact that my bare feet are constantly connected with the ground, drawing in the powerful energy from the earth, is a coping strategy devised when I was released from a psychiatric hospital in 1997.
Most exercises involving mental concentration are done barefoot – yoga, martial arts and tai chi. Not that I do any of those, but I’ve discovered over the years that walking barefoot has massive health benefits…both mental and physical.
We’ve all heard of reflexology. This involves freeing accumulated energy which, when not allowed to flow naturally, causes many types of diseases and ailments. Going barefoot on all terrains is a natural process of stimulating parts of the sole of the foot which are connected to our organs and other parts of the body.
Abandoning shoes in almost all situations stimulates my blood circulation; helps my body eliminate a fair amount of fats and toxins; prevents varicose veins; and improves my posture and balance. Many podiatrists and sections of the medical profession now recognise the enormous health benefits of going barefoot when it comes to fighting sleep disturbance, muscle and joint pain, asthmatic and respiratory conditions, rheumatoid arthritis, hypertension, stress, heart rate variability, and immune system activity and response.
But to me, as well as these physical benefits which I believe have kept me young and fit, belying my 62 years, going barefoot has had an enormous impact on my mental and spiritual well-being.
When you’re barefoot, whether it be on urban streets or woodland, you become so much more aware of your surroundings. You are one with the terrain, not just a spectator. Focusing on your steps and not your problems, clears your mind, putting you at ease, considerably reducing stress and tension.
For the last 20 years, I have rarely given myself the option of shoes – and it’s meant that with every step I take my thought process becomes more focused on the path I’m treading. Consciously, I try to steer clear of stones, thorns, glass, and yes…dog poo, too! When that happens, all negative thoughts vanish and I’m able to focus solely on walking.
While it works for me, making me much calmer and largely stress-free, I’m not saying being barefoot all the time is right for everyone. You need to find your own way…your own coping strategies. But for me, having bare feet has changed my world.