By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP
Another year is upon us! The arrival of the new year always causes me to reflect, and think about what I would like to improve upon in the coming year. Health, happiness and well-being are always top of the list, so here is a list of some things that we can all do to be a little healthier and happier in 2017.
Take Time for Yourself
This is a hard one. Our lives seem to get busier and busier and we all seem to be working more and sleeping less which means less time for, well, us. Even though taking time out for ourselves is often not easy, it is an important part of our health. Psychologically, it is you caring about yourself enough to take the time to do something that feeds you, whatever that may be. Go for a walk, read a new book you’ve been meaning to start, have a bubble bath, start a new art project… do something that feeds your soul. Your whole body, mind, and spirit will thank you for it.
Now I know the thought of meditating is scary for a lot of people, especially if you have never done it before. But meditation doesn’t have to mean spending hours on a mountainside in complete seclusion. If you are new to it, start slow. Spent ten minutes a day, either when you get up in the morning (the energy of the day is so calm and lovely at this time), or if it is easier, at the end of the day before you go to bed. Just sit or lie quietly without distractions (the TV, your phone, computer, etc..) and just relax. For the first many times you do this, your mind will no doubt be racing and it might not feel relaxing at all, but if you think about it, you never just “let your mind go” like this. We are always forcing our minds into doing things, like work, cooking, driving or what-have-you. Your mind also needs time to empty itself out, but once it does and goes quiet… it is wonderful. With some practice, you will be able to drop into a quiet meditation easily, and your body and mind will crave it because it is so nourishing to every part of you. I find that the benefits of a little daily meditation spill out into the rest of my life causing me to be calmer, more patient and generally happier which is a wonderful thing.
Find a Local Farmer
Reconnect with your food. Food does not arrive at the grocery store wrapped in cellophane and politely organized and placed onto carts. That food is grown and tended by farmers – people who have one of the most important jobs on the planet – feeding us. Our food is the medicine we use every day to keep us healthy, and many of us have lost our connection to where it comes from. If you are able to, find a local farm where you are able to visit and buy fresh, organic (if possible) foods for your family. If this is not possible, then find a local farmers market and meet the farmers there. This will give you a new appreciation for where your food is coming from, who is growing it and in turn, you will be eating local (very good in terms of Chinese medicine) and supporting your local farmers – who absolutely need and deserve the support of their communities. Farmers markets are also a wonderful place to meet other local, health conscious people, eat local treats and reconnect with your community. Win-win!
Reconnect with Nature
this lovely image from www.drjimtaylor.com
I know I say this one a lot, but it is so imperative to health on every level. One of the reasons we see disease on such an unprecedented scale is that we have lost our connection to nature. We live in huge cities where we spend our days behind desks in buildings under florescent lights instead of in forests and jungles, which is where we belong. We were not designed to live this, well, unnaturally. Obviously, it is not feasible to go completely wild and live in forests (unless you are really hardcore) but in Chinese medicine, we are always striving for balance. So, even if you work in an office or a factory and sit behind a desk or stand on an assembly line, eat your lunch outside. Take off your shoes and put your feet in the grass. Feel the earth, it is talking to you in a language you have probably forgotten. It is feeding you in a way you desperately need to be fed. When you have time off, go for a walk in a forest, swim in a lake or ocean, or instead of working out at the gym, go for a run outside. Our connection to the planet feeds us as much as what we eat and drink, so think of your time outside as food for your body and soul. You will notice how much better you feel, inside and out.
I love this one, and doing it helps your mental state more than you can imagine. Zooming out just basically means, keeping things in perspective. When you are having a problem or something disastrous is happening in your life, just take a moment and back up. Zoom out of your situation. Zoom out of the building, the street, the neighbourhood, the city, the country, the continent, the planet, and so on. The farther out you go, the better you will feel. It is so easy for our lives to become very small. Problems become huge and often seem insurmountable, but zooming out will help to keep things in perspective. Think to yourself… in the grand scheme of things, does this really matter? In a week, will I be thinking about this at all? Zooming out is a sort of meditation, and one I do often if I am struggling with something. Instead of feeling small, I am always trying to be as big, as expansive with my mind and my awareness as possible. Not always easily done, and certainly takes practice.
Gratitude is something I try to practice every day. It has been one of the most beneficial practices that I have in my life, and I am so grateful for it. Ha. Being grateful doesn’t mean that life is not going to present challenges. Life is full of them. But spending some time each day to consciously think about what in your life you are grateful for will put you in a happy, loving state of mind, which will attract more happy, loving energy to your experience. This energy will help you to cope when difficult situations arise and help you to fully appreciate all the wonderful things/people that you have in your life. Absolutely everyone has things that they can be grateful for, and focusing on this positivity will only draw more of it into your life and that is a wonderful thing.
We are all connected, and now this is even more true with the advent of the internet and the miracle of cell phones which allow us to communicate with one another from almost anywhere on the planet. This wonderful technology has allowed access to information by millions of people who would otherwise not be able to benefit from it. There are so many positive aspects to our ability to connect, but there are drawbacks too. The pendulum seems to have swung quite far in that direction so that in our attempt to stay technologically connected to each other, we have lost our human connections. I see groups of teenagers sitting together, each looking at their cell phones, instead of talking to each other. People live is vast cities, crammed into apartment buildings, but never interact with each other. As with all things, we are going for balance. Many people could not live without the internet of god forbid, their cell phone, but trying to unplug, at least for parts of the day or week is a good way to bring about that balance. Call a friend, then go and meet with them. Have a coffee and a conversation. We are social animals (not social media animals, although sometimes it seems we certainly are) and human contact is good for us and we NEED it.
Be of Service
A part of being human, and one of the reasons that I think we are here, is to serve our fellow human. This doesn’t have to mean volounteering in a cancer ward or an old age home (as these are big commitments – but wonderful things to do), it may be as simple as helping someone struggling with their groceries, opening the door for someone with their arms full, giving someone directions when they ask you on the street. These small things make a huge impact. No one makes it through life alone. We all need each other, and by being kind, generous and helpful with our fellow human being is the glue that holds us all together. In a time where there is so much divisiveness in the world, it seems there are so many reasons for us to fear and hate each other, all it takes is the conscious effort to not let in that darkness and to treat each person with love and compassion, just as you would like to be treated. It will go a long way to healing the negativity on this planet and it happens to feel really good too. <3
How to Get Healthy in 2017 with Chinese Medicine : Chinese Medicine Living