Of the four quadrants, the environment is the one that people think least relates to their own health. There is a lot of focus on the Body quadrant as it relates to health—nutrition, exercise, sleep. There is a fair amount of focus on the Mind quadrant and its connection to health in the form of stress management. Although we may not think about Relationships in terms of our connection to health, we get it. When we spend time with toxic people, we don't feel good. In contrast, the Environment is seen as somehow separate from us. It is viewed as external rather than internal. But the truth is, we are intimately connected to our environment. If we keep the environment healthy, we keep ourselves healthy.
According to the World Health Organization, 25% of health problems are caused by environmental factors. Toxins in the environment have been linked to numerous diseases and health conditions, including asthma, allergies, premature birth, learning disabilities, early puberty, diabetes, reduced fertility, and even many cancers.
Environmental factors that affect our health can be found everywhere—both indoors and outdoors, as well as at work and at home. We ingest the toxins in many ways—through our skin, nose, mouth, and ears. This includes polluted air and water, excessive noise, radiation, hazardous wastes, chemical-filled cleaning products, pesticides, and food and food container contaminants. Some we have control over and some we don’t, but the idea is to lower our toxic load where we can— to do our best to make our environment healthy so that we can be healthy.
According to the Federation of State Public Interest Research Groups, scientists have found more than 100 potentially dangerous industrial chemicals and pollutants in the body of the average American. Read that sentence again. That's scary. Many of the chemicals used in products are introduced into our society and are only later realized to be harmful to our health. Unintentionally, we are the guinea pigs for these chemicals, and the price is high. For example, DDT and PCBs, once used abundantly, were banned in the 1970s when it was recognized how harmful they were. What chemical that is commonly used today will we find out in the future is actually toxic to our health?
I think about the Environment quadrant in connection with health in a variety of contexts. For example, I think about it in terms of cleaning up my personal environment which includes using green cleaning products in my home, using air purifiers to clean the air, removing shoes to keep toxins out, and gardening organically to keep chemicals out of my yard. I also think about it in terms of cleaning up the larger environment which includes reducing my use of plastic bottles, carrying my own reusable shopping bags, stopping catalogs, being kind to wildlife, and using less energy. In addition to greening my personal and expanded environments, I also think about the Environment in terms of the solace and peace it provides me. Creating my home as a safe and clean sanctuary is not only good for my physical health, but also my mental health. Being out in nature is also good for my health. Studies show that even just five minutes of exercising outdoors can be beneficial to us—increasing our self-esteem, improving mood, and decreasing anxiety. There are many ways that our health is intertwined with our environment.
if you are ready to dance with the belle of the ball instead of ignoring the ugly stepchild, here are some ideas from past blogs and the Four Quadrant Living website to help you create an environment that can promote your health. You can just read through the list as a reminder or click on the links if you want more detail.
- Environment Topics - reduce, reuse, recycle, stop catalogs, clean green, properly dispose of toxic waste, use less energy and water, walk or bike instead, say no to plastic, save lives (adopt & spay), travel lightly, simply be (in nature)
- Plastic At Home, Really? - say no to plastic, use cloth instead of paper napkins, be creative with gift wrap, print on both sides
- Shoeless Sanctuary - leave shoes at the door, clean green, avoid non-stick cookware, remodel green, set bugs free, get an air cleaner, garden organically
- Don't Judge A Weed - garden organically
- Free Space, Free Mind - remove clutter (a decluttered environment makes for a decluttered mind)
- Frying the Birds - be kind to wildlife
- My Love Affair with a Mountain, Peace by Nature - find solace (and health) in nature