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  1. Now More Than Ever Now more than ever, we need to be in charge of taking the best care of ourselves! So let’s get started so you can get started right away too. First step is to frame your retreat into a model for you to follow. Since “mother nature” is our best source for natural healing, we can follow the frame work of the elements of nature: Fire, Water, Earth, and Air. Humans are intimately connected to nature, and our physical and mental health is influenced strongly by our environment. The "elements," classically described in humoral theory as Fire, Water, Earth, and Air, all may impact our mental health. Harnessing the Four Elements for Mental Health. Element of Fire This element pertains to the influence on our mood of direct exposure to light (sunlight or artificial light) or heat (including sauna, or heated objects applied to the body, e.g., hot rocks). The effects of sunshine exposure on mental health may in part be mediated by vitamin D since low levels of vitamin D appear to be associated with depression risk. Fire strategies to enhance your personal retreat Exercise to warm your body Warmth and cozy glow of a candle Fire in a fireplace or wood stove Blanket or shawl for extra warmth if you get chilled Artwork incorporating actual fire Red rug, or carpet, or pillows, etc Turn on a table lamp for the warm glow of light Set your life on fire. Seek those who fan your flames. Rumi Element of Water With the body consisting of 60% water, adequate hydration is necessary for electrolyte balance, intracellular function, and extracellular communication. Dehydration can affect mood and pain levels. This element also pertains to the exposure to water, including the use of general hydrotherapy, balneotherapy (treatment of disease via bathing in natural mineral springs), and water-based physical activity. Water Strategies to enhance your personal retreat Have water nearby and drink frequently Set a goal of drinking 8 glasses per day Small table-top water fountain running and relax with the sound Picture of water - rivers, oceans, lakes, rain, mist and snow Blue pillows, rug, etc We forget that the water cycle and the life cycle are one. Jacques Yves Cousteau Element of Earth Adequate exposure to nature provides benefits for general and mental health and even impacts the health of the microbiome which can be related to improved mental health. The benefits of spending time in nature for mental health are related to increased exposure to sunlight and fresh air, in addition to psychosocial interactions. While this may be beneficial, when interacting with soil, some caution is needed in terms of potential contaminants (e.g., chemicals and harmful pathogens). This element pertains to the influence of direct exposure to earth/soil and flora, time spent in nature (in particular wilderness environments), “forest bathing”, “greenspace exercise,” interactions with animals, and novel interventions such as clay art therapy. Earth strategies to enhance your personal retreat Add plants or flowers to your home environment Stretch breaks every hour Walk barefoot outside daily Sit in the grass while you eat lunch Lay in the grass for relaxation Plant flowers or vegetable garden Have fruits and vegetables ready for snacks Prepare healthy plant-based meals Artwork that incorporates landscape or forest-y images Brown pillows Pottery Taupe furniture Sandy area rugs. “Stay close to nature and its eternal laws will protect you.” Max Gerson Element of Air Increased urbanization and exposure to excessive industrialization have increased air pollution and caused health issues such as inflammation, COPD, asthma, etc. If there is one bright spot in this pandemic, the shut down of industries and many automobiles has led to better air quality, we see sights we never saw before and the planet is beginning to heal. This element pertains to the influence of direct exposure to fresh clean air, conscious and more effective breathing, and specific breathing exercises (such as utilized in yoga, known as pranayama) which reduce stress and anxiety. Air strategies to enhance your personal retreat Open a window for fresh air Sleep with windows open Incense smoke Fragrant flowers Practice slow deep belly breathing hourly Provide “conscious” breathing breaks outside using Yoga, Tai Chi, etc Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air. Ralph Waldo Emerson Final Words of Wisdom Hopefully, this will provide you with multiple strategies honoring the 4 elements that can reduce stress and anxiety, improve your life balance, and enhance your level of wellbeing. Here is an easy way to incorporate all 4 elements into your day from another wellness blogger: My grandmother had four daily rituals in with which she honored the four elements. To honor water, she put her feet in running water. For earth, she made sure her feet felt grass. For fire, she made sure she saw the sun. And for air, she stood underneath the canopy of stars each night. Balancing the Four Elements for Health and Wellbeing Resources: BLISS WITHIN RETREAT Harnessing the Four Elements for Mental Health Feng Shui: What it is, its Five Elements, and Basic Strategies for Modern Interiors Please share your ideas related to the 4 elements and how you use them to create your own at-home retreat. We can always learn from each other during these challenging times.
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