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Isn’t it ionic: And other reasons to unplug for your health

by Aleza Freeman

As we strive to live a happy and healthy life, we spend a lot of time avoiding the negative: Negative thoughts, negative people, negative bank balances …

So, we understand if you’re confused by our fascination with negative ions.

But here's why:

Negative ions can be good for your health. Breathing them in may even bring about energizing and anti-depressant results.

Found in abundance near trees and moving water, there’s evidence to suggest that exposure to negative ions may help increase:

  • Serotonin levels
  • Mental health
  • Productivity
  • Overall well-being as well as relieving symptoms of allergies to dust, mold spores and other allergens

These healthy ions are more prevalent in the air during summer, which can be another excuse for you to head outside for some fun under the sun this season.

The Yin and Yang of Ions

An ion is a microscopic atom or group of atoms that have lost or gained an electron due to atmospheric or environmental forces like sunlight, moving air, crashing waves and radiation.

Negative ions are generated when an electron is gained, and positive ions are generated with an electron is lost.

An imbalance of positive and negative ions can disrupt our body’s magnetic field.

As a Fayetteville State University report explains, all living systems including humans, animals and plants are bioelectric in nature; so electrically charged atoms might affect the way we feel and act.

With that in mind, it’s thought that negative ions (or anions) have a positive influence on our health.

Negative ions are found in and near: 

  • Dense forests
  • Waterfalls
  • Beaches
  • After heavy rain
  • In your shower

Pierce J. Howard, PhD tells Web MD that negative ions “increase the flow of oxygen to the brain” and “may protect against germs in the air.”

Some scientists are studying the use of negative ions to combat the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). While more research is needed, studies, like this one from the American Psychology Association, suggest that negative ions may be a helpful form of treatment.

While negative ions may enhance our lives, it’s thought that excessive exposure to positively charged ions (or cations) may do quite the opposite.

Positive ions may contribute to lack of energy, tension, anxiety, irritability, asthma, allergies, migraines and depression.

They’re formed when an atom’s protons outnumber the electrons.

Unfortunately, positive ions are hard to avoid in modern society—especially at work and at home.

Positive ions are generated from anything with electromagnetic capabilities:

  • Electronic devices (including your smartphone and laptop)
  • Fluorescent lighting
  • Carpet, upholstery, curtains, paint
  • Air pollution
  • Weather fluctuations

In other words, we might even be putting ourselves at risk for positive ion poisoning just by writing this article. Now that’s dedication!

A breath of fresh air

Have you ever wondered why you feel so good in the great outdoors? In part, it may be the negative ions.

You can’t taste them. You can’t see them. But the natural air is teeming with what are thought to be microscopic brain boosters.

According to the Daily Mail, there are 4,000 negative ions per cubic centimeter in fresh country air and up to 10,000 negative ions in waterfalls and sea water. By contrast, in crowded cities, the amount is barely 100.

Summer air is more concentrated with negative ions than other seasons, according to SAD studies at Columbia University. Just one more reason to put down your electronic device, pack a picnic and head outdoors.

More ways to naturally increase your exposure to negative ions 

  • Hike to a waterfall
    No disrespect to TLC, but we urge you to go chase some waterfalls this summer. It’s one of the best ways to soak up tons of healthy negative ions.

    The crashing water generates these ions due to the Lenard effect, also known as spray electrification or waterfall effect. Theorized by 20th century Nobel prize-winning scientist Philipp Lenard, the Lenard effect shows that air molecules charge themselves negatively when water droplets collide. 
     
  • Spend a day at the beach
    Ah, the sweet ocean breeze. You always suspected it was therapeutic, and as it turns out, you’re probably right. Much like the science behind waterfalls, negative ions are generated at the beach when the waves splash against the shore.

    The salty sea air is also charged with negative ions. Just one more reason to break out your beach towel, grab your sun hat and dig your bare feet into the sand (you may even end up absorbing negative ions through your feet).

  • Go camping in the forest
    If you’ve ever read Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree,” you already know how generous trees can be. But this isn’t just fiction.

    Trees are like nature’s toothbrush. They not only produce fresh oxygen but also ions. Australian researchers from Queensland University of Technology discovered that radon concentration was nearly doubled in some wooded areas versus open grassy areas.

    This is significant because the radon is absorbed by the trees through groundwater then released into the air as negative ions.

    Along with spending more time in the forest or the mountains, you might also want to try surrounding yourself with plants at home.

  • Take a shower
    Ok, ok, your shower isn’t out in nature, but it’s probably where you’ll spend a few minutes after several hours in the sweltering sun.

    Your steamy shower is like a waterfall for your home and also produces negative ions. While not the same as a day at the beach, it’s a convenient way to get soak up some ions, especially for city dwellers.

    Speaking of showers, rain showers also produce negative ions. Next time there’s some wet weather in your neck of the woods, don’t be afraid to leave the umbrella at home and let the good vibes reign.

In today’s digital age, the average person spends about four hours a day on their smartphone. That can add up to a lot of positive ions!

While there’s more research needed to determine the exact impact of these microscopic atoms, we’re using them as another excuse to unplug and enjoy time with family and friends without the constant nagging of your digital life.

A little alone time away from your smartphone may do wonders for your health.

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Aleza Freeman