• Allison Millar, LAc

Exploring Gratitude with the 5 Elements


The 5 Elements of Traditional Chinese Medicine are Water, Wood, Fire, Earth & Metal. Each of the Elements refer to a specific energy. Together, they represent a collection of energies that govern the function of the human body.

The energy of each Element is described by the following: a specific time of year, emotional state, color, taste, sense organ, tissue, odor, environment, developmental stage, direction, body type, and 2 organ systems (one yin and one yang). Each Element also has a virtue, which describes how the Element’s energy manifests into action via the human mind/spirit/soul. (For a chart of the characteristics of each Element, see this link)


In this blog post, I’d like to explore the sensations of gratitude and the feeling and thoughts that those sensations invoke. I’ll invite you to explore how gratitude feels in your body, share with you my personal experience and interpretation of gratitude, and discuss how gratitude may fit into play within the lens of each of the 5 Elements.


What is Gratitude to you?

Many of us think of this time of year, especially Thanksgiving Day, as a time be grateful. We choose to turn our attention to what we have, and not what we don’t have - to see what there is, not what there isn’t. We reflect on the positive and beautiful things and people that bless our lives in all ways, large and small.

Take a moment to feel this.

What is your personal experience of gratitude? Do you feel a shift of energy? Do you feel it in your heart-space? What thoughts do these feelings elicit? I invite you to close your eyes and become the observer for a few moments.


For example purposes only, I’ll share my personal experience: Firstly, I observe my body: I can feel the muscles of my mid back soften and my shoulders descend downward and backward. I begin to breathe more fully and deeply. My sitting position shifts so that I am putting more weight on my sit bones, which makes me feel grounded, further relaxed, and more engaged with the present moment. I also feel a stirring-type sensation in the area of my heart, which I associate with energy flowing toward and throughout this area.

My personal interpretation of these sensations is trust because it seems somehow, that a greater force has somehow alleviated some of the weight that I had been carrying. My mind opens to the possibility that a greater force has always been present, guiding and assisting me. I recognize that seemingly troublesome experiences in my past have all influenced the person I am today and as such, I and would not choose to un-live them. It is a supportive, uplifting, and comforting feeling. As I bear witness to my mind as it ponders my life, I realize that my focus is on past and present events, circumstances, and people- not on the future; I recall things and connections that I have, not of things or connections that I want. This is what gratitude is to me. Your experience and interpretation may be completely different.

Let’s explore gratitude within the lens of the 5 Elements:


The Fall season is the Metal Element; this Element speaks of a connection with the heavens, purity, refinement, and discernment without judgment, between what’s right and wrong. To me, gratitude comprises a sense of something bigger- a guiding force either inside or outside of myself. For me, gratitude is the energy of the Metal Element.

Our hearts are the organ of the Fire Element, which speaks to the summertime, a lack of rules and boundaries, and the emotion of joy. If gratitude creates an uplifting sensation in your heart space, this is energy of the Fire Element. For me, gratitude is the energy of the Fire Element.


The virtues of the Wood Element are patience, forgiveness, and kindness. The yin organ of wood, the Liver, governs the free flow of energy throughout the body, allowing a sense of peace, ease, and going-with-the-flow. The relaxed sensation I witness in the muscles of my back and shoulders proves that for me, gratitude is the energy of the Wood Element.


The Earth Element gathers people together. It is about cultivating community, sharing, and nourishing others but also, ourselves; it is the energy of the mother. There is a sense of support and camaraderie. For me, gratitude is the energy of the Earth Element.


And, the virtue of the Water Element is wisdom and inner peace. It is the connection with an inner knowing of truth. It is clear that for me, gratitude is the energy of the Water Element.


Indeed, we find parts of gratitude in all 5 Elements.


Perhaps, gratitude is a broader state of energy, in which all of the 5 Elements are working together in a balanced way? Perhaps, gratitude is the vibration of that harmony, if only felt for a split second. We’d love to know what you think. Please share your comments in the thread below!


Whatever gratitude means to you, we hope that you connect with it this Thanksgiving. With sincere thanks for prioritizing your health and for trusting Tracy and I with your care, we wish you the very best this Holiday.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Allison, pp. Tracy LAc & Sandra

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