The Four Elements: Earth
This month, the ladies at W&H are exploring the four elements: Earth, Air, Fire and Water. Each week we will explore how each element relates to our health and our world, starting this week off with Earth.
While sitting down to write this article, I reflected on what Earth meant to me. This series is somewhat different, as it isn’t governed by research articles and scientific literature, rather, a more subjective experience of the topic. My experience of ‘Earth’ encompasses a few different things. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), there are actually 5 elements (Metal, Earth, Wood, Fire and Water). Each one corresponds with different emotions, organ systems, times, colours etc. This is used primarily in diagnosis in TCM and may seem a bit random without context, but over the next four weeks, look at the connections between the elements and what they correspond to and notice if any in particular resonate with you!
Earth is associated with:
Organs: Spleen and Stomach (digestion and controlling blood in the body)
Season: Late summer
As seen in the element wheel below, Earth comes between fire and metal; it is that transition during late summer when everything is in perfect harmony between Yang (spring/summer) and Yin (fall/winter). It is when our bodies crave nourishment (Spleen/Stomach) to prepare for the seasons ahead.
Like I said, my experience of Earth includes a few different things. I also wanted to touch on the importance of nature connection, or connection to our Earth. A few weeks ago, I attended a conference on Naturopathic Medicine and there was one lecture in particular that stood out to me, “Sustainable Holistic Health and the Art of Deep Nature Connection”, delivered by Nicole Apelian (I urge you to check her out). I was slightly shocked at my own need for validated scientific evidence that nature is good for us. I had to take a step back and realize that this is a large piece of our overall health that I had been missing in both my personal wellness and in discussion with my patients. We already know that stress negatively impacts our health outcomes and we look to medications, supplements, herbs and even meditation to help mitigate that – all of which are valid, by the way. But there is something even more foundational than all of that, and it’s outside our front door: Nature.
There are studies exploring the effect of even simply viewing scenes from nature which stimulate the areas of the brain associated with empathy and love, while viewing a concrete jungle activated areas associated with fear and anxiety. Knowing the intimate connection between mental/emotional health and physical health, there have been direct correlations established between nature exposure and positive physical health outcomes (because that seems to be the most important metric for us). “Those who are more connected to nature tended to experience more positive affect, vitality, and life satisfaction compared to those less connected to nature” (Copaldi et al, 2014).
Over the next week, challenge yourself to step outside – even if you are living downtown, surrounded by concrete – and look for the Nature; take it in. See how you feel before and after and what changes you begin to see in yourself and your life. We were designed in nature, we learned to thrive in nature and now we are deprived from nature; it’s no wonder a large part of the population are sick and unhappy. Get back to it!
Capaldi, Colin A., Raelyne L. Dopko, and John M. Zelenski. "The relationship between nature connectedness and happiness: a meta-analysis." Frontiers in psychology 5 (2014): 976.
Apelian, Nicole. "Sustainable Holistic Health and the Art of Deep Nature Connection." 10, November. 2018, Ontario Association of Naturopathic Doctors, Toronto Congress Centre.
Elements Image: https://chinesereligiouslife.wordpress.com/cosmology/