Jillian L. Capodice, LAc suggests ways practitioners can use the principles of TCM when considering environmental health.
According to the World Health Organization’s definition, environmental health deals with “physical, chemical, and biological factors external to a person and the related factors that impact behaviors.” The fundamental principle of environmental health is to assess and control environmental factors that may adversely affect health. Environmental hazards include: climate change, pollution and items that may pose risk to humans such as radiation and exposure to chemicals in everyday materials.
Some ways that practitioners can begin to use the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) when considering environmental health are through:
- Balancing the office
- Reducing waste
- Creating a healing environment
The principles of yin, yang and qi are the pillars of balance in TCM. While it is not a branch of TCM, feng shui is a Chinese system of aesthetics that is based on the concept of qi and how qi flows. Feng shui can be applied to anything as it relates to the office such as choosing a location, decorating the interior and keeping healthy qi flowing through your doors. One of the main pillars of feng shui is the ba gua that represents eight directions and each direction’s respective elements, colors and properties.
For example, the center of the ba gua is related to core, earth, health and well-being and the color yellow. In addition, many of the other properties it characterizes are similar to those utilized in the five element system, which some TCM practitioners utilize for diagnosis and treatment strategy. The figure below shows a basic orientation of the ba gua and its main corresponding traits.
Even if you aren’t a ba gua or feng shui expert, you can still utilize basic TCM principles to consider the environment of your office and its surroundings.
Balance: Balance is fundamental in Chinese medicine as evident by yin and yang. In relationship to the ba gua and placement, first remember the principle that balancing opposite sides is imperative. More intricate principles can be applied when balancing, such as utilization of the engendering and the controlling cycles. For basic office balance, begin to look at objects in your office with regard to placement, weight (for grounding purposes), shape and the material(s) they are made from. Also consider where windows, doors, closets and vents are when placing objects and attempt to remove obstructions and objects that may be made of hazardous materials.
Color: By means of the principle of balance, color is quite important in harmonizing the office. While red is the most traditionally auspicious Chinese color, the placement of items in the color of their representative ba gua area can enhance a particular region of your space. Moreover, this can be done simply with art, pictures, flowers, or furniture.
Objects: Certain items characteristically have abundant qi such as living plants and running water. However other common things that are regularly used to balance the office include mirrors, clocks and meaningful objects like pictures or awards. Items that can drain spaces include toilets, garbage, and things that have negative meaning. For those objects that are necessary (such as garbage), be sure to have a cover or lid in place and make sure that it is emptied often and not allowed to overflow.
An important component of environmental health has to do with waste and how its by-products or ability to decompose affects the environment. In the office setting, waste reduction can be implemented by doing simple things such as purchasing larger volumes of water and non-disposable cups or mugs instead of single-use bottled water. Another way to begin to assess waste in your office is by beginning to look at items that may be made of non-biodegradable or non-recycled material. Regardless of whether your practice is more conventionally decorated or a traditional Asian-styled décor, waste reduction can also be implemented by changing things such as table covers and paper, types of cotton swabs or alcohol preparation pads. While this might seem insignificant to you, becoming mindful of reducing or changing commonplace practice items can help you to reduce your waste and get rid of items that might contain harmful chemicals.
Creating a healing environment
While creating a healing environment does not fit the technical definition of environmental health, generating a therapeutic space by utilizing environmental health tenets such as having clean circulating air, reducing exposure to potential allergens and protecting yourself and your patients from potential electromagnetic fields is important. A healing environment can also mean different things to different practitioners and your space may be calm, cheerful, or medicinal, to name a few. The bottom line is to look at your office as a microenvironment and assess how you can begin to enhance it utilizing TCM principles. The significance of balance when creating a healthy surrounding environment can only positively influence the physical condition and well-being of your patients, your workspace and yourself.