By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP
this adorable image from entrepreneur.com
As we are all beginning to realize, health is not just about the physical body, it is so much more than that. We all know how much better we feel when things in our lives are going well and we are happy. Staying positive is not always easy with the many stresses that our modern lives present to us, but it has been scientifically proven that people who are positive get sick less often and recover more quickly when they do get sick. Negative energy depresses the immune system as well as the psyche and makes us more susceptible to illnesses. Being cheerful has become more difficult as our lives become increasingly complex and we become more and more disconnected. This is why internal practices like meditation, qi gong and tai chi are excellent ways to cultivate the happiness and positivity we need to stay healthy. Also, zooming out and looking at the macro instead of the micro in any situation really helps to put problems into perspective. Zooming out also reminds us that we should be grateful for all we have and to try to focus on the positive instead of the negative (because it just FEELS better). Your attitude makes a huge difference when it comes to your health, a positive attitude will also ensure that you live a happy life. :)
What You Eat
this beautiful image from www.brigitte.de
The food that we eat every day is the best medicine out there. Eating clean, fresh foods, free of chemicals and as unprocessed as possible is one of the best ways to ensure that we never get sick. Chinese medicine was designed as a preventative medicine, and nutritional therapy is one of its most important aspects. In a culture that tends to wait until there is an illness to get treatment, the Chinese believed in living a healthy life, with balance in all things so that illness never had a chance to develop. In modern society, it has become more difficult to live in a balanced way. Our lifestyle is often full of stresses with relationships, finances, work, etc… and eating in a healthy way has become particularly difficult in the age of industrial agriculture with huge factory farms that use pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Our foods are much further from their natural state, and our health suffers. Another factor when it comes to food is the way it is prepared. This is also emphasized in Chinese medicine, with the energy of the person preparing the food and their intention when preparing and cooking it having an effect. A meal prepared with love and care is more delicious, and indeed more healthful than one put together at a drive through window by a stranger. Having a connection to your food makes a big difference in the healing benefits it provides you. There is nothing more healing that lovingly preparing a meal for yourself, then mindfully sitting down to eat it, taking in its nutrients as well as its good healing energy derived from this beautiful earth.
Expressing Your Emotions
this excellent image from livingstingy.blogspot.com
Expressing our emotions is essential for being a healthy, happy human being. Unfortunately, our emotional health is not something considered by many mainstream doctors, but it is absolutely vital for our health. In Chinese medicine, each organ is associated with an emotion, and often, symptoms in a particular organ can point to a disharmony with its respective emotion. People are more likely to come into clinic with complaints about physical problems, but their symptoms often point back to emotional issues. In Chinese medicine, not expressing the emotions can be a cause of disease, which illustrates how important emotional health is in the TCM model, and how powerful our emotions are and how much impact they can have on our health. It is difficult to know what to do when you are struggling with powerful emotions. It certainly isn’t always easy to express them. Acknowledging them is the first step, then working through your feelings and finding a way to express them in a way that is productive so that you can let them go and move on is a good road map of how to cope. Until you express emotions and let them go, they are taking up valuable space, which you could be filling with other, wonderful things. Suppressing emotions also uses an enormous amount of qi or energy and tends to stagnate and block the flow of things in your body and your life. Talking with a trusted friend, journaling or simply giving yourself the time to reflect and work through your feelings are some good ways to feel through things and be able to ultimately let them go.
Connecting With the Earth
this is beautiful Vancouver island. This image from blog.hellobc.com
One of the great joys of life is being outside and connecting to this beautiful planet. There is nothing more healing than taking off your shoes and putting your feet onto the earth. If you are sensitive enough, you can literally feel the earth’s healing energy being absorbed into your body and filling you with light. Chinese medicine was developed in a time when all people lived in complete harmony with their natural environment. People changed their daily habits according to the seasons and were very attuned to nature, their lives depended on it. A lot of illnesses today come from an almost complete disconnect from nature, and each other. If you want to do something good for your body, mind, and spirit, take a walk in a forest or on a beach, take off your shoes and walk through the grass, or sit outside and read a book. Instead of going to the gym, run outside, allowing yourself to absorb some of the earth’s energy. We spend so much of our time indoors, sitting at computers or in front of televisions when we were designed to run and jump and MOVE outside, at one with the elements. Our modern lives have pulled us away from nature when our happiness and indeed our health depends on being connected to it. So go outside, it’s good for your health!
In a recent TED talk on longevity, some National Geographic researchers were investigating why there were some places on earth where the people lived much longer than others. The researcher giving the talk cites a study that found that only approximately 10% of how long a person will live is dictated by their genes, and the other 90% is lifestyle. 90%!!! They looked around the world for the places on earth (called Blue Zones) where people lived the longest and tried to figure out what is was about their lifestyles that they all had in common. The one thing these places shared was that they were part of small tight-knit communities that all knew each other and looked after one another. It turns out that connecting to others and a feeling of belonging had a huge impact on how long people lived.
I know this from treating patients too. I see so many patients that have problems with depression, sadness, and anxiety who feel alone and disconnected. People used to live in small communities where everybody knew each other, but now, many of us live in big cities, away from our families and friends. Humans are social animals, and we need to be connected to each other to be healthy. This has become increasingly difficult, and the results manifest in many health conditions, especially emotional and psychological ones. We also live in a society, at least in the West, that values the “self” and not necessarily the “other”. Our connections, the love, and friendships we have in our lives, are just as important as the food we eat and the exercise we get when it comes to health. Even connecting with strangers – holding a door open for someone with their arms full, smiling at someone on the street who is looking like they need it, or just being friendly and open when you are out in the world lets people know that we really are all in this together and that we all care about each other. It will make you feel good too.
Trying to stay healthy can be daunting. There is so much information out there, and it is easy to get overwhelmed when trying to figure out what to do. Chinese medicine teaches us how to live a healthy, balanced lifestyle using common sense tools that are easy to apply. Nutrition, emotional health, exercise, internal practices like qi gong, tai chi, meditation as well as modalities like acupuncture, herbs, massage and listening to your body and knowing what you need when you need it, are all ways that this wonderful medicine teaches us how to live a long, healthy and happy life. Chinese Medicine Living is dedicated to helping you do just that. <3
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How to Live to be 100+ by Dan Buettner – http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_buettner_how_to_live_to_be_100