By Dr. Isaac Eliaz, MD, MS, LAc
As a holistic medical doctor and licensed acupuncturist, I frequently draw on the wisdom of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for guidance and inspiration across numerous aspects of life. TCM provides us with a comprehensive lens through which we can view the relationships between our health and our environments, and this ancient approach to life offers practical everyday guidelines for optimal health.
A cornerstone jewel of TCM wisdom speaks to the importance of deeply cleaning and organizing your environment for greater health and happiness, and the New Year is a perfect time to do just that. This release of excess clutter allows us to create spaciousness, energy and inspiration on all levels. In turn, our innate healing potential can expand.
Physical and Mental Effects of Disorganization
We are all products of our environments, and vice versa, since the environments we create reflect and affect our health on every level. When life becomes messy or disorderly, our physical as well as mental/emotional health can also get muddled and we become less energetic and less efficient.
An excellent example of this is the digestive system. When digestion is functioning optimally, it is a highly efficient and meticulously organized sorting process. A strong and healthy digestive system dictates what to keep as nourishment, where to send nutrients and what to excrete as waste. As an integrative physician, I find that when patients describe their lives as messy, disorganized or inefficient, they often experience symptoms of bloating, congestion, inflammation and poor digestion. If left untreated, these symptoms can progress to more serious health conditions over time. But when people clear their clutter, discard unnecessary items and detoxify their surroundings, the spaciousness and resulting efficiency they create can offer more energy in addition to improved digestion, detoxification and overall vitality.
This process involves not just the physical clearing of “stuff,” but a much more subtle process of quieting down the mind and allowing for self reflection. By doing this, we can reach a heightened level of clarity and insight, as well as deeper compassion for ourselves and others. In this space, we can have a better understanding of where our disorganization may stem from and how to overcome it in order to create a life that is peaceful, spacious and functional.
The Stress Factor
Over time, being surrounded by clutter can slow us down, make us feel mentally and physically fatigued, and cause stress and anxiety. If we have a cluttered, disorganized living space, letting go of stress from work, finances, relationships and other areas can be virtually impossible. Even just sitting in a cluttered room can create stress, as the clutter provides a great deal of information for the eyes to process, as well as visual reminders of how much work is left unfinished. This constant, low-grade stress can subtly and steadily drain our energy, leaving us overwhelmed, exhausted and ultimately, physically ill.
In addition, the clutter that populates a physical environment can encourage an abundance of mold growth, bacteria and other toxins. These pathogens can cause inflammation, respiratory conditions, and toxin build up leading to chronic illness down the road.
Taking small, daily steps to clean and organize can provide you with the space to engage in stress management activities, such as yoga, meditation and others, while also bringing about a sense of satisfaction. Studies show that mild to moderate exercise – yes, even in the form of housework — boosts mental health, reduces stress and anxiety, and promotes healthy circulation. Organization in our home and work environments can carry over to other parts of life as well, facilitating the ability to make changes to areas like exercise and diet.
Health Benefits of Becoming Organized
Organization of our external environment can lead to clarity, efficiency and less energy consumption on all levels of our being — physical, mental and emotional. From an integrative medicine perspective, these three levels are inseparable. With better clarity and organization, all aspects of life are less congested and healthy energy flows more smoothly.
Overall, a simplified, organized life allows you to realize what is truly important to you. By eliminating the physical and mental clutter in your life, you’re able to focus on the bigger picture, spend more quality time with positive people, and accomplish goals you couldn’t have otherwise. Clearing the tangled cobwebs of disorganization in all aspects of life can allow for profound freedom in health and vitality. And that’s one of the essential keys which can open the door to true healing.
Enjoy a happy and healthy New Year!