How Meditation Changes The Brain, Exterminates Depression

By Tiffany Harper

Meditation is an old spiritual exercise, commonly associated with Oriental spirituality. The method involves mindfulness, relaxation, and breathing patterns. The goal is to achieve a general state of well-being, specifically a psychological one. Today, meditation is a widespread wellness practice. You can find through meditation tutorials in books, on Youtube, or by taking classes.

So, chances are you tried meditation at least once. Therefore, you can agree that meditation is undoubtedly an excellent way to relax and unwind. But does it have real scientifically proven benefits on the brain? In this article, you’ll find out more about how meditation changes the brain and exterminates depression.

Meditation Against Depression And Anxiety

Mindful meditation is just as powerful as antidepressants. According to some research, the subjects experienced less anxiety, pain, and depression after practicing meditation. The result was incredible: meditation had a 0.3 effect on the subjects (moderate), which is just as much as the 0.3 of antidepressant medicines. Moreover, meditation can help reduce social anxiety. A precise type of meditation, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), which focuses on stress, showed significant results in research. The participants took a course of MBSR for eight weeks, and the results were reduced physical and mental anxiety and stress. Furthermore, the effects lasted over the years. Lastly, meditation was found as a solution to social anxiety disorder: mindfulness reduces the activity of parts of the brain associated with unhappiness.

Meditation Improves Focus

A common problem among the global population is the difficulty to focus. Meditation was found to help increase concentration and attention. In one study, participants had meditation training for a few weeks. Then, they were tested for cognitive skills, including focus. The results revealed that they improved by 16%. This means that people who teach, work, or use their intellectual power for tasks can tackle their jobs better.

Likewise, kids were tested for their concentration skills since they are often associated with a lack of focus. In this case, meditation had a massive impact on developing minds. It can help with cognitive skills as well as emotional skills. Some schools implemented short meditation breaks, which brought an increase in GPAs and attendances, and a decrease in suspensions.

Meditation Helps Against Brain Aging

UCLA conducted a study that linked meditation to brain aging. They compared the brains of participants who meditated regularly to participants who didn’t. The results proved that the brains of the subjects who meditated still aged. However, they had more gray matter volume than the others. Even comparing old participants with young ones proved that meditation could slow the aging process of the brain while reducing the loss of gray matter.

Meditation Decreases The Activity Of The DMN

The Default Mode Network (DMN) consists of various parts of the brain that regulate self-referential and mind-wandering ideas. These thoughts are associated with unhappiness, worrying, and anxiety. A study by Yale University proves that meditation quiets the DMN. The participants who meditated could switch back to the present moment, while non-meditators would get lost in negative and worrying thoughts easier.

Meditation Positively Changes The Brain

A Harvard study showed that meditation could change the volume and dimensions of various brain parts. The research studied the participants in the eight-week program of MBSR:

  • The subjects had increased hippocampus thickness, which means that they improved their memory, emotional control, and learning skills.
  • The subjects showed diminished amygdala, which means that they are less likely to be afraid, anxious, and stressed.
  • The subjects showed a different perception of moods and emotions.

Meditation Against Addictions

Since meditation is centered around self-control, it was found to be useful against a variety of addictions. One research study proved that smoking addicts were more likely to give up smoking after meditation training. So, mindfulness showed even better results than the “Freedom From Smoking” program (FFS) after the 17-week follow-up. The reason behind the study’s success is that meditation helps people resist temptations, withdrawals, or cravings because it interrupts the connection between those and the addiction itself.

How To Effectively Meditate

Now that we know how many benefits meditation can bring, it’s time to practice it. At first, meditation can seem a challenging activity to do, or that requires special techniques and training. Nevertheless, meditation is a simple method to refocus the brain on the present moment, thus reducing stress, anxiety, brain aging, and other issues. Initially, it may seem impossible to quiet the mind. Still, after a couple of sessions, you may improve your cognitive skills.

Here is a simple guide to meditation:

  • Find a peaceful place in your home. It could be your living room, or even in your backyard. You can light up some candles or open up the window to create a pleasant atmosphere. If you’re going to focus on your breathing, you might want to have fresh or lightly scented air in your space. You also might want to play some calming music, especially if the environment you’re in isn’t quiet enough.
  • Find a good position. You can sit upright on a cushion on the floor with your legs crossed. Alternatively, you can lay on the bed or a mat and blanket. Just make sure that you’re comfortable and that your back is straight. If you’re sitting horizontally, make sure that your belly’s facing the ceiling.
  • Close your eyes. If you wish to work with your mind, you might want to rest your eyes to focus better.
  • Start to breathe slowly. You can inhale for four seconds and exhale for four. Take as many as you need to ease into it.
  • Observe your thoughts rather than thinking about them. Your brain will inevitably want to wander off and think about chores, fears, and feelings. Please don’t beat yourself up for it. Just try to observe them and gently come back to your breath.
  • Continue breathing and observe every sensation in the body.
  • Try to reach a mental state where you’re focusing on your sensation and your brain instead of thinking thoughts.

Keep coming back to your senses and breathing every time you get distracted.

  • Accept that your mind may not want to settle down. Just keep trying.
  • Once you reach a calm state, continue to breathe.
  • When you’re satisfied with your session, bat your eyelashes open and slowly return to your day.

Conclusion

The spiritual practice of meditation has a myriad of benefits, from reducing brain aging to improving mood, focus, and self-control. If you want to start meditating, find a quiet place in your home to focus on your breath with your eyes closed. The first day you may not be able to concentrate on your breath well. Nonetheless, if you keep trying, you’ll get there.


Author Bio
Tiffany Harper is a freelancer and blogger from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She specializes in psychology, natural remedies, and wellness topics. Tiffany is also a yoga lover, so every Saturday if she is not working as a consultant with an essay writer from Write My Essay, she spends her free time meditating in the local park. Please do not hesitate to contact her on twitter


Sources:
1. https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2018/04/harvard-researchers-study-how-mindfulness-may-change-the-brain-in-depressed-patients/
2. https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/how-meditation-helps-with-depression
3. https://eocinstitute.org/meditation/depression-shrinks-our-brain-how-meditation-builds-it-back-up/
4. https://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2015/02/09/7-ways-meditation-can-actually-change-the-brain/#207157b71465
5. https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/what-does-mindfulness-meditation-do-to-your-brain/
6. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/mindfulness-in-frantic-world/201110/curing-depression-mindfulness-meditation


Other Sources:
1. [http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspxarticleid=1809754]
2. [http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/016383439500025M]
3. [http://scan.oxfordjournals.org/content/8/1/65.short]
4. [http://pss.sagepub.com/content/24/5/776]
5. [https://srcd.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1750-8606.2011.00215.x]
6. [http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10826-013-9784-4]
7. [http://journal.frontiersin.org/Journal/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01551/full]
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9. [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/ articles/PMC3004979/]
10. [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/ articles/PMC3927233/]
11. [http://www.pnas.org/content/110/34/13971.short]


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Emotional Healing In A Time of Crisis

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

We are living in unprecedented times in our world. We have just lived through a global pandemic of COVID-19 and the world we knew no longer exists. Anger and frustration are coming out in so many ways all over the world as people struggle with the new reality and many struggle to survive. 

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To me, it isn’t the physical challenges that the virus presents that worry me, it is the emotional state of our global population. In the US we see riots, campaigns to defund the police, racial tensions, destruction of property and businesses and unprecedented violence. No matter how many of us may want to politicize what is happening, I think it points to something much deeper that has been brewing for much longer than many people realize. People are angry. They are frustrated. Life is getting harder. People work more for less money. There is so much uncertainty about the future. Many have lost their businesses. Their jobs. Their abilities to support their families. People are exhausted and scared. And they see more and more corruption at every level of business and government - which only feeds the anger and frustration that a few profit at the expense of so many. 

 


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I can’t offer a solution to the problems we face as a global community, but I think that we need to be honest about what is happening and be able to express those feelings. We have a right to be angry, frustrated and afraid. And we need to give those feelings a place to go. There is so much “political correctness” that people these days feel that they can’t say anything for fear it will offend somebody. We need to be able to have honest discussions about what is REAL and TRUE. And yes, it might offend somebody. In the present climate, the truth seems to have become a dirty word. The truth might hurt someone’s feelings. The truth might not be what someone wants to hear. And this is part of the problem. Because the truth is what is going to save us. 

For most of my life and career, I have been very conscious of focussing on the good. The positive. Practising kindness. Being loving. Having compassion. But I don’t insulate my life and not let anything negative come in. That would be delusional. When you are healing, people come and they need those things. They are hurting so they need love, kindness, compassion and your positivity and light. Those are the things that start the healing process, and support it until the end. But now I see that we seem to be having a reality problem. Some people are unable or unwilling to accept what is happening in the world. I understand this, as often, the reality is dark. It’s hard. There are things that are difficult to accept. And they hurt. 

There have been a lot of difficult truths coming to the surface lately. And if you don’t know what I am talking about, then you aren’t paying attention. This has been causing a lot of pain and a lot of grief. The new reality, for many, is difficult to accept. 

Another theme I see that is contributing to a lot of pain is that there seems to be a conscious effort to divide us. Break us apart and make us fight with each other. This breeds fear, fear of the “other” and only compounds the feelings of grief, depression, anxiety and isolation that have exploded since this all began. They want you to feel that you are alone. But the truth is, that you are not alone. There are more than 7 billion of us on the planet. We are a global community, and we have the intelligence and creativity to solve any problem we may face. But we can’t solve problems when we are angry, sad and afraid. You cannot focus your energy on solving problems when you are fighting an enemy.

I have been thinking about how we might go about trying to heal from so many of the powerful emotions we are dealing with right now. Both ones that have been building up for years, and the ones that are a result of this new situation that we find ourselves in. Chinese Medicine is really unique in how it looks at our emotions and how important they are to our health and wellbeing. As many of you know, each of the emotions is associated with an organ or an organ pair and when that emotion is healthy and in balance, it is strengthening to the body and that organ in particular. But when that emotion is out of balance, in excess or unexpressed, it is depleting to the body and its respective organs, causing problems in all aspects of your life and health. Generally in our culture, we are not taught that emotions can make us sick, but I think that most of us instinctively know that this is true. How does your stomach feel when you worry? Or how about those headaches when you are angry and stressed? How does your heart feel when you are grieving?

The good news is that because the emotions are built into the system of Chinese Medicine, it also offers solutions and practices we can use to keep emotionally healthy. Each of the seasons, for example, offer us an opportunity to really work to clear old emotions we’ve been holding on to and balance and strengthen the system. I have been thinking that this wisdom is so needed right now. 

The emotions - things that hurt us, cause us grief or stir up anger can be an opportunity to learn something about ourselves. Why are we having these reactions to things that are happening? Why does one person respond to a situation in anger when another might feel grief?

Treating Emotions in the Real World

Helping us to manage the tsunami of emotions we are all feeling right now is the understanding that we must first become aware of the emotions, and then work to change not WHAT we are feeling but how we REACT to those feelings. Read that again. It's so simple, but it will likely change the way you think about how you may be feeling.

In my work with patients, we often start with simple awareness. Let's use an example.

If you are struggling with a particular emotion, let's say grief. Usually (but not always), the person is aware of the grief. The cause is the death of someone close to them, their loss is causing the grief. The lungs in Chinese Medicine are associated with grief, so there might be lung symptoms as well- shortness of breath, asthma, dizziness (not enough oxygen), coughing, etc. Their grief can literally be causing the lung symptoms because intense or excessive grief weakens the lungs' Qi. The person is describing how they are feeling, saying they feel consumed by their grief, out of breath, have no energy and are anxious and stressed because the grief is making it difficult to function because they still need to go to work and look after their young children. And this is it. The grief is a completely natural result of someone important in your life passing away. But the reaction is an increasing feeling of anxiety and panic because there is no space for the grief in their life because they have to keep going to work and looking after children.

So, we look at those feelings first - the anxiety and panic - and we figure out a way to help to manage them. Are you able to take some time off? Could the children go to stay with a grandparent for a few days? Can you take some time to allow yourself the space to grieve? Do you have someone you can talk to about everything you are feeling? All of these things will help release some of the pressure that can make these emotions so overwhelming. Just the acknowledgement begins the healing process. We start with the reaction - the anxiety because of the pressure to keep going normally while you are suffering - and work backwards to the grief itself.

When we get to the grief, there are a few ways that we can help reduce its intensity. We work to strengthen the lungs and build up their Qi, which very often helps lessen the grief's potency. We create a space for the grief to be felt, fully allowing those feelings to be expressed. In Chinese Medicine, the way emotions can be causes of disease is if they are repressed or unexpressed, leading to a stagnation in the body and eventual toxicity. Anyone who has a secret or something in their past they have been holding on to for years can tell you. It has an effect. Holding on to emotions isn't good for you, so finding the proper avenue for their expression is an important part of the healing process.

We are living in challenging times that are unprecedented in our history. Our struggles are multi-faceted right now. People are struggling to find their way in the new reality we face as a global community. The good news is that human beings have incredible intelligence, adaptability and resiliency. If we are able to stay positive, stick together and express what we are all feeling honestly, we can come out the other side of these difficult times stronger and with a new appreciation for everything good that still exists in this world.

If you need help working through what you are feeling right now or healing in general, I am here for you. My information is below.


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Nutrition for Every Season

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

He that takes medicine and neglects his diet wastes the skills of his physician.

Chinese proverb

Hippocrates also said, "let food be thy medicine" in the fifth century BCE. These two pieces of wisdom tell us that it was well understood many hundreds of years ago, in very different parts of the world that what we ate was an important factor in maintaining health as well as recovering from disease. And even today with advances in medicine and technology, food is still the best medicine and the easiest and most impactful way to stay healthy and disease-free.

Food As Medicine

Nutrition is one of the foundational elements of Chinese Medicine. The ancient Chinese understood very well that the best medicine is not the herbal remedy given when you have a cold or the salve when you scrape your knee, the best medicine is the food we ingest every day. It helps to build our immune systems, fortify us against disease, cool excess heat, drain dampness, move stagnation and warm us when we are deficient.

Our ancestors were intrinsically connected to nature, and this connection was necessary for survival. They paid attention to the seasons, but more specifically, changes in the weather, the cycles of crops, migration of animals, and the cycles of the sun and moon. They were attuned to the natural rhythms of the planet and were able to adjust their behaviours to maintain a sort of equilibrium with their surroundings. This focus on prevention was also very important and was knitted into the foundation of Chinese Medicine as it was practised then as well as today. But, the key to living preventatively is that we have to really be attuned to our bodies and our surroundings. We have to be able to hear what our bodies are telling us so we can give them what they need, and that is something that many of us have lost living in the fast-paced city life in the modern world. But this listening, this attunement is something that Chinese Medicine teaches. Your body is always communicating with you, you only have to listen.

The Thermal Nature of Foods & People

So, how does it work, to use food as medicine? Good question. Chinese Medicine has a pretty elegant system for understanding how to use food as medicine and stay healthy in every season. Foods have a thermal nature and so do people. It is that delicate balance of yin and yang. Some foods are cooling and some are heating. People also have a thermal nature. They usually have a thermal nature that occurs naturally when they are in a healthy state and knowing this is very helpful as you move forward. And then, the weather and surroundings also have a thermal nature, so it is a dynamic balance of these three ingredients that we are after. Granted, this can all get a little complex and you can get pretty deep into it (if you are a nerd practitioner like me), but there are some basics that will help you get started. Think about the seasons as a continuously fluctuating cycle of yin (cold) and yang (hot) energies. Summer is the height of yang or heat energies and winter is the peak of yin or cold energies. Summer gradually cools off and moves into fall, which cools further to transition into winter. Winter comes to an end and the yin energies gradually are infused with yang with spring, which further heats up as it moves into summer.

So, you want to balance the temperature of the season you are in with foods that are generally its opposite. Cooling foods in summer, and warming foods in winter. Gradually more warming foods in fall and gradually cooling ones in spring as those are the transitional months. You can also affect the thermal nature of the foods you eat by different cooking methods, which is why those change according to the season too. This is very very general, but it gives you an idea and a place to start. Then you can introduce the idea of constitutions and it adds another layer of complexity, but as you practice and becoming aware of the seasons and the thermal nature of the foods you are eating, it actually becomes this really beautifully nourishing and healing way to eat, and one your body will love. I will work on an article about constitutions to explain that a little bit more, but in general, a person is also a dynamic balance of yin and yang energies. Some people are naturally more yin and some are naturally more yang. When you know what you are, you work that into the equation too, which will only help you to keep all those energies balanced and this will help keep you healthy. When that article is finished, I will link it here.

The Seasons

Chinese Medicine was developed over thousands of years of observations of nature, human beings and their relationship to each other. In times past we have always had a symbiotic relationship, the earth nourished us with its bounty and we tended and nurtured the planet in a continuous cycle of loving interaction. Human beings followed the natural cycles of the planet and lived in harmony with the seasons.

The Summer Season

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Summer is the season associated with the heart, the colour red and the emotion of joy. In the hot summer months, people rose early and went to bed later to capitalize on the yang energy represented by outward expression and activity. They ate foods that grew in abundance, like fruits and fresh vegetables, eating salads and lighter fare, many of which are considered cooling to balance the external heat. People also took time to get together with family and friends, connecting and feeding their heart energy, as the heart is the organ associated with summer and with it, the emotion of joy. Everything we do in summer should be an attempt to cultivate the joy in our lives. Summer is the season to feed the heart energy, and in terms of foods, many red foods are good for the heart. Cooking methods should be lighter and of shorter duration to preserve all the freshness and nutrients the food has been soaking up from the summer sun. Eating should be lighter and in smaller portions and working to keep yin fluids plentiful to counteract the intense heat of the season.

The Fall Season

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Fall is the season associated with the lungs, the colour white and the emotion of grief. As the summer season winds down and the weather begins to cool, our behaviours go from the outward expressions of summer to the more inward and reflective activities of fall which will inevitably prepare us for winter. We eat foods that grow in abundance in this season (which varies greatly depending on where on the planet you are), but in North America, we see many foods with beautiful fall colours - squashes, gourds, sweet potatoes, carrots and pumpkins... foods that grow in the ground and have more yang properties nourishing our inner heat as we prepare our bodies and spirits for the coming cold. Fall is a time to clear out the old, making space for the new. The energy of the lungs is "letting go" so that is the focus. Cleaning, reorganizing and donating are good practices in fall and make space for all we will cultivate over the winter. Emotionally, making sure that we have let go of any emotional hurts that have lingered is strengthening to the lungs both physically and psychologically. Many white foods are beneficial to the lungs and are good to add to the diet in the fall season. Organizing life and becoming more introspective before winter is what fall is all about, checking in to make sure we are emotionally healthy and not hanging on to things that no longer serve us.

The Winter Season

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Winter is the season associated with the kidneys, the colour black and emotion of fear. Winter is the height of yin energies and even though it seems like a time of death, decay and inactivity, it is a season that is very active, just deep, deep beneath the surface in preparation for the regenerative activities of spring. It is a season of consolidation, gathering all energies and pulling them inward. Winter is the time of year to go to bed early and sleep later, profiting from the healing, restorative energies sleep offer us. In winter we eat less fresh foods as they are no longer available and eat more preserved foods we have prepared during the summer and fall. Eating warming foods, especially hearty soups and stews will help build our yang and counteract the cold. Our energies should turn inward in winter, while we focus on our fundamental energies, in Chinese Medicine, the kidneys are the source of our fundamental energy. Spending quiet time reading, writing or meditating are strengthening to our bodies and spirits. Keeping warm, especially our lower backs where our kidneys reside is especially important as they are the source of all our qi. Many black foods are strengthening to the kidneys and should be added to the diet in the winter months.

The Spring Season

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Spring is associated with the liver, the colour green and the emotion of anger. Spring represents the upward and outward energies of newly growing plants, flowers and trees. The energy in spring is expansive, so it is a good time to shake off the sleepiness of the winter months and slowly start moving our bodies with gentle stretching going for long walks outdoors, taking in the revitalizing green of new plants through our eyes, which are the sense organ associated with the liver. Spring is the best time to detox from everything we have accumulated over the winter. We can detox physically, as well as emotionally. Acknowledging and processing any feelings of anger, resentment or frustration will keep our liver energy moving freely. Many green foods benefit the liver and cooking methods should be lighter and shorter duration to the slow cooking of winter, and as things begin to thaw, we are able to introduce more fresh foods into our diet. Awakening and cleansing our bodies and spirits are what we need in spring as well as gentle exercises like tai chi and qi gong which, especially when done outside in nature nourish body, mind and spirit.

If we can become aware of our surroundings and make slight adjustments to our behaviours and diet depending on the season we will see a huge benefit physically, emotionally and spiritually.

 

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The Positive Impact Of Chinese Medicine On Men’s Health

By Sally Perkins

There is an undoubted disparity in how men and women engage with healthcare globally, with the global life expectancy of men five years lower than that of women, according to The Lancet. With this disparity more present in highly developed countries than the converse, this indicates that the problems are not merely related to gender but are actually a holistic reflection of the lives men are leading. In this respect, the all-encompassing approach of Chinese medicine can have a wonderful impact on men’s health.

Mental Health

Mental health is a key driver behind many of the problems impacting men. From simple mental illness to heart disease, there are a wide range of problems in men of which the risk factors are enhanced by mental health conditions. As one influential study published by The College of Family Physicians of Canada found, the idea of being masculine and keeping a stiff upper lip contributes to this. The impacts of mental health can filter into several areas of life that you might not expect. For instance, even a relatively mild diagnosis of depression can lead to weight loss or gain, feelings of resentment for family and physical conditions such as erectile dysfunction. The spiritual basis of Chinese medicine provides a good remedy to mental health conditions; Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism all provide a philosophical and spiritual basis on which to live life and ultimately keep people feeling mentally healthy.

Protecting the Heart

Mental health and the heart have a symbiotic relationship, and using Chinese medicine to protect against vascular disease and stress can have an all-round positive impact. Tomatoes, beef, cherry, saffron – there’s a long list of foods that will benefit the heart and also produce a feeling of wellness and content. With this feeling the body can protect against the types of stress that men will often harbor when not paying close attention to their mental health. In turn, this can provide a safety jacket against the stresses of the world as a whole and improve health overall.

Relieving the Strain

Prevention is one matter; remediation another. A powerful way that Chinese medicine can rectify issues is through acupuncture, which is noted by The Mayo Clinic to have studies showing it’s efficacy. The act of acupuncture itself is often described as relaxing and stress-relieving, and the impact after the fact is long-lived and has a great benefit on all-round health. Men can work towards all-round areas of health that intersect, like the heart and mental health, and likely feel greater ranging benefits as a result of the holistic treatment.

In holistic treatment lies the key to improving men’s health. The issues that predominantly impact men and lower their life expectancy have an impact on one another, with vascular and mental health being particularly interlinked. Reducing stress and protecting those vital systems is an ideal pursuit for Chinese medicine, and can possibly help to close that life expectancy gap wherever men are in the world.


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Chinese Medicine Aids Deep Sleep to Revitalize Mind and Body

By Sally Perkins

It is widely recognized that sleep is essential for good health, and new research confirms that irregular and insufficient sleep can lead to a greater risk of experiencing metabolic disorders. Chinese medicine places importance on preventative measures to help the body remain balanced and free from disease, and its treatments and formulas have been shown to be effective in aiding deep and restful sleep. This is when critical body restoration takes place, resulting in increased immunity, the correction of internal imbalances and the strengthening of organ function. In addition, quality sleep, during which REM is experienced, can help stimulate and heal the mind.

Sleep to Stimulate The Mind

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Reaching the REM stage of sleep is important as this is when neural connections essential to health and well-being are made. REM only takes place after 90 minutes of sleep, so to aid a deeper sleep, jujube seed is often prescribed as it strengthens circulation and calms the mind. REM is also the period of sleep where dreams most often occur, as activity in the brain resembles that seen during wakefulness. During REM sleep, it becomes possible to stimulate lucid dreams where control can be exerted over the unconscious self and the fabric of its surroundings. As the wonders of the mind are explored, lucid dreaming can promote emotional healing, help overcome fears and encourage problem solving.  Occasionally, even when the REM stage of sleep is successfully reached, some people may experience REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD) where they act out their dreams physically, so disrupting their sleep. However, studies have shown that, as well as aiding restful sleep, herbal remedies are as effective as tranquilizers and antidepressants in treating RBD.

Rest to Repair The Body

Sleep is vital for the body to grow and repair muscles, organs and other cells, so ensuring a good night’s sleep is essential to avoid serious health issues. For over 2000 years, a variety of Chinese medicines and formulas have been successfully used for the treatment of insomnia and other sleep disorders. In Chinese medicine, insomnia is typically linked to heart function and so the heart tonic Fu Ling is recommended as it also has a sedative effect. As well as herbal remedies, studies show that acupuncture can improve the quality of sleep. It triggers the release of neurotransmitters including serotonin, which helps to regulate sleep patterns and induce REM sleep.

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A good night’s sleep is vital for health and well being. Herbal medicines and alternative treatments aid restful sleep, and once the body and mind are relaxed, balance and health can be restored.


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The Theoretical Side of Guo Lin’s Anti-Cancer Walk: How and Why It Works

By John Voigt

This entry is a continuation of The Anti-Cancer Walk …Guo Lin New Qigong Therapy which appeared in Chinese Medicine Living, May 30, 2019.

[Walking] Qigong readjusts the mind, the body, and the breathing. The peace of mind, the strong motive and faith to get well, combined with all the benefits from this holistic exercise, promote the body's neuroendocrine systems to adapt to the new mental and physical changes, which in turn triggers the immune system to function at higher and more competent levels. The end result is increased resistance to fight off diseases.
Source.  http://www.orientalhealing.net/archive/03282000-2.html

Guolin Qigong can also transport our internal qi, dredge the meridians, harmonize the blood, improve the circulation, and adjust the balance of yin and yang in our body. Therefore, through practice, we can achieve self-regulation and self-repair in the body. This will improve the body's resistance. Our immune function is improved, it can cure cancer, but also prevent cancer.
Source.  http://www.guolinqigong.net/site/index.php?cat=18&page=16

Disclaimer. This article is not offered as a cure for cancer or any other illness. It is meant only for educational purposes. If you are sick, you must seek proper medical care. However, in the author’s opinion additionally to any standard western health providers, it is suggested that a person have a qualified licensed and skilled Traditional Chinese Medicine professional on their health team. Western Medicine can cure; Traditional Chinese Medicine can heal. Use them both, and then judge accordingly by the results, and not by the hearsay or propaganda. Contraindications: “Guo Lin Qigong is not suitable for the treatment of acute diseases, infectious diseases, trauma, mental illness and so on.” From: Guo Lin Qigong Training and Guidance 100 Questions.
Source.  http://www.maisondelamedecinechinoise.com/%E9%83%AD%E6%9E%97%E6%B

We will now briefly examine the following theoretical foundations of healing in Guo Lin New Qigong:

1. Oxygen enrichment Breathing.
2. Relaxation and Peaceful Thinking.
3. Bioelectricity and healing energetics.
4. Social gatherings as healing modalities.
5. Acupressure Points and Meridians.
6. Meaning.

Additionally, contact information for worldwide Guo Lin Associations, and more about Guo Lin’s life and powerful creative personality will be offered at the article’s end..

1. Oxygen Enrichment Breathing.

Guo Lin taught: An important cause of cancer is when the body, or a region of the body, is deprived of adequate oxygen supply at the tissue level. This condition is known as hypoxia. That is why I created my “wind breathing method” [i.e., inhale-inhale-exhale, repeat] where a large amount of oxygen is inhaled during the practice of my Walking Qigong. This encourages immune cells to destroy cancer cells. This is best practiced during all four seasons of the year, outdoors in clean air. It is important that the breathing be done without any exertion and that body movements are loose and natural; and that the mind is silenced. The length and intensity of the practice are dictated by the physical condition of the person. It is also necessary to study the theory of my new qigong therapy with a verified master. [Taken in part from “Why Does Guo Lin Qigong Fight Cancer?”
  http://www.360doc.com/content/18/0124/11/2901197_724675042.shtml . And from “[Guo Lin Qigong] Guo Linxin Qigong Therapy for the Scientific Mechanism of Cancer Treatment, Zhou Guangqing, Ph.D., editor.”
http://www.51-kf.com/plus/view.php?aid=806

2. The Mental Aspect: Relaxation, and Peaceful Positive Thinking.

Guo Lin repeatedly taught that the most important aspect of her qigong was relaxation: “The whole emphasis in this practice is relaxing.” …. “Relaxation is the core of all qigong, and [my] Guo Lin Qigong in no exception.” Guolin New Qigong: An Introduction; 2.1.2, p. 14.  http://www.cllam.com/contents/contenthtml/SSW-Doc/0804kuolin.pdf

Guo Lin also often emphasized that patients should constantly practice having a still peaceful mind where they exclude all distracting thoughts. She wrote:

For our healing work this is so important because the impact of negative emotions is another cause of the disease. Emotional depression can lead to a decline in the immune function and accelerate the death of cancer patients. I repeatedly stress to my counselors the need to listen and understand the thinking and emotions, as well as the pains and sufferings, of their patients; then to make a supreme effort to resolve such negative thinking by guiding them in increasing their mental confidence in an increased belief in the success of their fight against the disease.

Source.  ftpguolinxqg.cl543.4everdns.com

3. Bioelectricity and Healing Energetics.

Guo Lin taught that the potential of the bioelectric voltage of tumors is always lower than that of normal cells; and that people who practice qigong can produce a kind of magnetic static electricity. It has been reported in the medical literature that if treated with this positive potential magnetism, a cancerous tumor may disappear. The secret of this cancer treatment is that it mobilizes human bioelectricity through scientific practice methods [of breath, movement, and meditation], and uses this bioelectricity to transform puerile cancer cells into mature normal cells, and cancerous tumors disappear without a trace. Cancer patients recover rapidly, spontaneously, unconsciously and without pain.
Source.  http://www.51-kf.com/plus/view.php?aid=806

4. Social Gatherings - Oncology.

(“Oncology” means the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer. Humans interacting with other humans in ways to promote recovery from cancer is known as “Social Oncology.”) Guo Lin was instrumental in introducing the practice of social oncology to many hundreds of thousands of people in China. [For further information about Guo Lin and social oncology see Dr. Jerry Alan Johnson. “Medical Qigong Therapy and Clinical Oncology.”
  https://www.daoistmagic.com/articles/2017/12/15/medical-qigong-therapy-and-clinical-oncology and Roger Jahnke. The Healer Within, pp.168-170.

It is not going too far afield to say that if Guo Lin did not invent social oncology, at least she, and those who followed after her, developed its techniques so that hundreds of thousands of people began practicing it: They have Walking Qigong gatherings and yearly reunions in many Chinese cities, where ex-cancer patients come to sing, dance and talk about their experiences.

The atmosphere is always very alive, optimistic and at times dramatic when they describe what they have been through before discovering Walking Qigong. John Dolic. Qi Gong Chinese Health.
http://www.qigongchinesehealth.com/walking_qigong

Group Singing as a healing modality. Throughout Asia, Guo Lin Anti-Cancer groups perform singing social oncology in a variety of ways. For example, here is the “Song of Cancer” performed by the Malaysian Guolin Qigong Research Association.
http://www.guolinqigong.net/site/index.php?cat=48 .

Here are the words of the song translated into English:

You don’t have to be sad when you find out you have cancer.
You should not delay the surgical operation when it is needed.
Radiotherapy and chemotherapy have to be carried out timing.
Drink Chinese herbs as it helps strengthen the immunity system.
Don’t go for any improper treatment. Practice Guo Lin Qigong unceasingly.
Your recovery will bring great happiness to the entire family.

Guo Lin Qigong Dance.

Here the formal movements of qigong become transformed into a seemingly ritualistic dance performed by members of the Malaysian Guolin Qigong Research Association for their 20th anniversary and 3rd Cancer Warrior Celebration during 2013 in Xiandu, Kuala Lumpur. 郭林气功舞蹈 – [Guo Lin Qigong Dance]. YouTube.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dc5dcisj0w4

Note: For more examples in pictures and text of such colorful musical and dancing social oncology go to Jinan Anti-cancer Club 2013 Spring Festival Gala  http://www.jncajlb.xinwen365.com/710.htm

5. Acupressure Points and Meridians.

The Guo Lin Walking Qigong opens important acupuncture points in the palms of the hands and in the Gall Bladder channel (meridian) near the hip joints. The lifting of the toes opens the Kidney- 1 points. Lifting and stepping down on the heels opens the Yang Heel vessel, called the Yang Qiao Mai.
https://tcmwiki.com/wiki/yang-qiao-mai.

This extra-ordinary meridian tones and regulates the flow of Qi that connects to many other important life-energy channels. [More at “Guolin Qigong.”  http://albanycomplementaryhealth.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/Guolin-Qigong.pdf]

Yang Heel Vessel. Source: https://tcmwiki.com/wiki/yang-qiao-mai .

6. Meaning and Importance.

A basic factor that triggers healing is the meaning and importance that a person consciously or subconsciously gives to
the medical procedures that they are undergoing. Traditional Chinese scholars might explain this by saying that life energy is led and guided by what the mind is thinking—(as in vital qi follows mental intention). This is about the power of the mind, the power of imagination, and the power of the will. The power to heal is something that we ourselves have; it is not something only possessed by a doctor, druggist, or surgeon. (This relates to the power of belief and faith, and not to the negative filled connotations of such words “placebo.”)

Each of the components of Guo Lin New Qigong carry at least one positive meaning. Doing the walking exercises in a public park, early in the morning, with like-minded people, often dressed in a semi-official Guo Lin uniforms, moving qi in the body and ridding the body of pernicious qi, all create a meaningful sense of doing something worthwhile that will aid in the
conquering of a vicious disease. Add to this, working [usually] under a charismatic hard working and able leader to create even more belief in that its practitioners will once again become healthy. And even more so, all this directly connects to doing a qigong created by Guo Lin who brought herself back from certain death by doing the same qigong that you and those around you are now doing. Guo Lin, a woman who put her life in danger in adverse political situations, and brought her no-cost health treatment, largely independent from any governmental or medical industry control, to people throughout China.
It is no surprise that participating in such a grand communal ritual of striving together to gain personal health creates an overflowing sense of personal meaning which dramatically increases the potential of any healing effect.

And even if death is inevitable, the calming and relaxing exercises of Guo Lin Qigong done with other people in similar situations, in a natural setting, with a meaningful possibility and hope that life itself can be somewhat extended, can
create a sense of pleasurable wellbeing even as a person’s life draws to a close. Worldwide Guo Lin Associations. Given the legal difficulties, especially in the United States, in practicing any cancer healing modality that is outside accredited hospitals or governmental approved practices, it is difficult to find trained Guo Lin Qigong instructors and healers. However, the International Guolin Qigong Culture Research Association based in Hong Kong has a web site in English that does list worldwide organizations.
http://www.guolinqigonghk.com/contactus_en.html

More About Guo Lin:

During the dangerous time of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) with its continual personal criticism and life-threatening harassment, Guo Lin applied for and was granted a visa to come to the United States to live with her daughter. But she changed her mind; later she wrote why: I suddenly thought that Qigong was one of the treasures of the motherland's medicine. I saw many patients suffering from pain, and determined to bear the burden of humiliation. I resolutely withdrew my application abroad and became more active in qigong cancer treatment [and] practice. New Qigong therapy has been repeatedly validated in many cancer and chronically ill patients, saying that it has a unique therapeutic effect and that Guo Lin has explored a new path for Qigong to strengthen the body.
Source.  http://qigong.blog125.fc2.com/blog-date-201404.html

More information is at "Recall Guo Lin" written by her husband, Lin Xiao.  www.kangaiweb.com

Source: Today in History  http://history.04007.cn/en.php/HisMain/11443.html

Guo Lin with her husband Lin Xiao. They married in Macau when she was a teacher and he a student on December 8, 1941—one day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Source: https://wemp.app/posts/cfa28107-cdec-4b7b-a86d-f81e1cee09b0?utm_source=latest-posts

David A. Palmer. Qigong Fever. Columbia University, offers extensive information about Guo Lin, her work, and the China in which she found herself
https://books.google.co.cr/books?id=RXeuibmD2dsC&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=guo%20lin&f=false

Guo Lin was also a famous landscape painter and art educator. Here is a picture of her at work:


 Source: http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_55da355b0102wvr8.html

Here is one of them:

More of her paintings may be seen at www.dealshaker.com

Concluding Comments

This entry is no more than a short introduction of Guo Lin’s anti-cancer walking qigong to an English-speaking audience. In actuality her complete “New Qigong” Therapy is composed of much more than the one set of coordinated steps, arm swings and breathing as presented in this article—(although that regime is what is most commonly found in books and on YouTube. However, the reality is that are at least twenty-six kinds of her qigong that are applied to help heal different diseases. For example there is Stick Rolling Exercises;
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RRBwHi7EtWI and the vocal techniques of “Guo Lin Qigong Expelling Sounds”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g9X7P8gBNRY&t=681s .

Space limitations and the author’s limited abilities prevented any exposition here of that important information. And as always, consult your physician—trained in western medicine, traditional Chinese medicine, or preferably both—before commencing this or any other exercise program.


Living in Harmony with Spring According to Chinese Medicine

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Chinese Medicine Theory

Chinese Medicine has such a beautiful way of looking at us - human beings, our place in nature and in the universe. We are part of a greater whole and are inseparable from it. In Chinese Medicine, we are healthy when we are in harmony with our surroundings, and for much of human history, we have honed the skills needed to be able to feel slight changes in our environments, so that we could change behaviours, to remain in balance. In our modern world, we seem to be losing this connectedness to both our natural environments and ultimately, ourselves. Chinese Medicine can teach us how to regain this connection by giving us some simple guidelines on how to live in harmony with the seasons.

Spring - The Season of the Liver

Spring is the season associated with the Liver and the emotion of Anger. Its energies are expansive - moving upward and outward like newly budding plants, flowers and trees. It is a time for growth and renewal. Spring is the best time to strengthen the Liver, and to deal with any unresolved feelings of Anger or frustration as they can build up and cause stagnant Qi or energy in the Liver and elsewhere. The colour associated with Spring and the Liver is green. Eating green foods in the Spring strengthens the Liver. To keep your Liver healthy, be sure to be in bed and asleep before 11pm.

The Liver is the organ associated with Spring. In Chinese Medicine the Liver has the following responsibilities:

  • Opens Into the Eyes
  • Controls Planning
  • The Flavour that Supports the Liver is Sour
  • Houses the Hun (Spirit) The Liver is the organ associated with Spring.
  • Stores Blood
  • Responsible for the Smooth Flow of Qi & Blood
  • Controls the Sinews / Tendons
  • Manifests in the Nails

Behaviours in Spring

  • Engaging in uplifting and creative activities that expand our energies and consciousness (journaling, meditation)
  • Seek personal development and growth
  • Cooking should be of shorter duration and at higher temperatures
  • Sautéing with high-quality oil over high heat, or light steaming with water is best in Spring
  • Manage Anger (and frustration) - excess, intense and unexpressed anger congests Qi in the Liver
  • Liver time is between 1am-3am - this is the best time to strengthen the Liver
  • For optimum Liver health, go to bed before 11pm (the Gallbladder time - it is the Liver’s Yin/Yang partner organ)
  • Eat green foods to strengthen Liver

Photo by Dariusz Sankowski on Unsplash

Activities in Spring

  • Engage in activities that feed your creativity - drawing/painting/writing/photography/making music/dancing
  • Making plans for the future
  • Spring cleaning of your internal environment - physical, emotional, spiritual
  • Acknowledging, processing and releasing any unresolved emotions, especially Anger & frustration
  • Any activities that push our self-imposed boundaries
  • Gentle exercises on a daily basis, especially stretching as the Liver controls the smooth flow of Qi as well as the tendons
  • Walking meditation in nature (gentle exercise, feeding the spirit and taking in the green of new Spring plants through the eyes)
  • Avoid stimulants like caffeine, spicy foods, alcohol, tobacco, recreational drugs

Beneficial Foods in Spring

  • Lemon
  • Lime
  • Grapefruit
  • Sprouted Grains, Beans, Seeds
  • Many Green Foods Nourish the Liver
  • Radish
  • Daikon Radish
  • Tofu
  • Fermented Food
  • Legumes
  • Seeds
  • Dandelion Root
  • Milk Thistle
  • Mung Bean
  • Lettuce
  • Quinoa
  • Cucumber
  • Watercress
  • Celery
  • Millet
  • Seaweed
  • Mushroom
  • Beet
  • Carrot
  • Onion
  • Mustard Green
  • Rye
  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Asparagus
  • Alfalfa
  • Amaranth


Photo by Scott Eckersley on Unsplash

The Liver and Anger

Photo by Alex Iby on Unsplash

We've all seen that impressive display of anger. Someone losing it in the lineup at the bank, an exasperated parent yelling at a child having a tantrum, or someone, after being on a plane for a bazillion hours being told that they have missed their connecting flight and that the airline has lost their luggage. Yeah, we've all seen that. And it is most of our instincts' to back away a few steps because of how powerful that anger can be. That, my friends, is your Liver talking.

Now in the West, this doesn't make much sense. The liver, we are taught, is the body's filter, making sure that we stay clean and toxin-free. But in Chinese Medicine, each of the organs has an emotional component, which is just as important as its physical functions in the body - and the emotion of the liver is anger.

When the liver is balanced and healthy we are able to move freely because of the liver's responsibilities of governing the smooth flow of Qi in the appropriate directions. You may wonder what happens when Qi flows in the wrong direction? Well, each of the organs has a natural direction in which its Qi flows. For example, the Qi of the stomach flows downward, helping to move food and drink through the digestive system, but when the flow of that Qi is reversed due to pathogenic factors it causes belching, hiccups, nausea and vomiting. A healthy liver means a strong immune system because the liver is responsible for the body's resistance to exterior pathogens. Because the liver opens into the eyes, if you have a healthy liver your vision will be clear and your eyes moist. If your liver is in a state of balance you will have strong nails, recover quickly from physical activities, your movements will be smooth and your body flexible. Those with a healthy liver will also have great courage and resoluteness, and will easily be able to plan their lives wisely and effectively with a clear sense of direction.


Photo by Victor Freitas on Unsplash

Some Symptoms of Liver Stagnation & Imbalance

  • Frustration, depression or repressed anger
  • Hypochondriac pain
  • A sensation of oppression in the chest
  • A feeling of a "lump" in the throat
  • Abdominal distension
  • Women - pre-menstrual tension, depression, irritability, distension of the breasts
  • Belching, sour regurgitation, nausea, vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Bitter taste in the mouth, belching, jaundice
  • Contraction and/or spasms in the muscles and sinews, impaired extension/flexion, numbness of the limbs, muscle cramps, tremors
  • Dark, dry or cracked nails
  • Blurred vision, myopia, floaters, colour blindness, a feeling of dryness or grit in the eyes
  • Bloodshot, painful or burning sensation in the eyes
  • Irritability, outbursts of anger, red face, dizziness, tinnitus, headaches
  • Lack of direction in life, feeling of being stuck

Chinese Medicine gives us many ways that we can help our bodies, mind and spirits stay balanced and healthy - in every season. Eating green foods, spending more time turning inward, processing our emotions and being in bed by 11pm are only some of the ways we can live in harmony with the spring season, and keep our energies flowing freely so we can be happy, healthy beings all year long.


Beautiful featured image photo by Sylwia Pietruszka on Unsplash



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What is Yin & Yang?

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Yin Yang Theory in Chinese Medicine

The theory of yin and yang is at the foundation of Chinese Medicine. It was developed, over thousands of years, from observations of the natural world. Yin and yang represent the duality that is seen to exist in all things. Yin represents darkness, cold, slow, internal, reflective energies, and yang represents bright, hot, quick, external, active energies. According to this theory, all things are a dynamic interaction of these opposing forces. Yin/yang theory can be applied to literally everything and is not limited to medicine and health - although as the ancient Chinese discovered, it works extremely effectively in this context. Yin and yang is a way to see the forces of nature, our bodies, the food we eat, our emotions, and really, all things in existence. It is a lens through which we can see and attempt to understand ourselves and the way we interact with our world.

You are probably familiar with the taiji, or yin/yang symbol - an ancient Taoist symbol which is a graphic representation of yin and yang. The dark half represents yin, and the light represents yang,  but notice that there is a dot of each that exists in the other. They are mutually dependent and the two are never static but always changing, one into the other and vice versa. This symbol visually illustrates that although there is a duality, each part needs the other to be complete and both can coexist harmoniously.

 

Yin & Yang Personality Traits

Everything that exists, and indeed each one of us, are seen to have both yin and yang aspects. These can range from personality types, body types, physical tendencies and emotional states. Some people are more yin, and some are naturally more yang. Here is an example to help you to visualize it:

A shy, quiet person who enjoys time alone, meditation and going for long walks in the forest has a predominantly yin personality. And I suspect we have all met the gregarious and outgoing person who is very friendly, stands close, speaks loudly and is always the life of every party. This is a yang person. And the world certainly needs both.

Yin & Yang and Health

In Chinese Medicine, health is achieved when the body’s energies are in a relative state of balance. That balance is different for everyone, as was illustrated in the example above. Some people have more yin energies while others naturally have more yang. This is one of the reasons that a practitioner of Chinese medicine takes so much time to gather information from a patient in an initial visit. They are attempting to paint a picture of that person so that they can determine what they are made of, what their tendencies are, and where their imbalances lie. When yin and yang energies are out of balance, illness occurs. Thankfully, Chinese Medicine offers us many ways in which to restore the equilibrium we need to be healthy.

 

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Stages in a Woman's Life According to Chinese Medicine

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

One of the reasons that I fell in love with Chinese Medicine was the beautiful way that it sees the body, health - and when expanded outwards - everything in existence. It is simply a way of looking at things that, to me, makes perfect sense and resonates deeply and profoundly.

Women's medicine is the way that I came to Chinese Medicine - I found it when Western medicine was not able to help me. Just one session with my wonderful acupuncturist and I was left with an overwhelming feeling that this system was what medicine was supposed to be. At its foundation was true healing, empowered by the individual and facilitated by the practitioner.

The Concept of Jing

Jing is a concept that is unique to Chinese Medicine and is sometimes difficult to explain. Jing is considered to be one of the three treasures in Chinese Medicine. Jing, Qi, and Shen comprise the three treasures. Jing is defined as the source of our life, health, and longevity. Qi is like our life force - and the force that animates all living things. Shen is the spirit and is closely associated with the heart and "the mind" in Chinese Medicine. All three treasures must be balanced for us to be functioning at an optimum state of health and wellbeing.

The Yellow Emperors Classic of Internal Medicine is one of the oldest medical textbooks on earth and was written around 240 BCE. It is in this text that the cycles of women and men are discussed. Women grow and mature in seven-year cycles and men in eight-year cycles.

Cycles for Women in Chinese Medicine

Women - 7 Year Cycles

7 years old

A woman’s kidney energy becomes abundant, teeth change and hair grows strong.

Kidney is a special term in Traditional Chinese Medicine. It not only has the function of controlling the urinary system, but also has a very important role – control the developing, growing, and reproduction. In terms of reproduction, you can think Kidney as a “Small Kidney”- the ovaries or testis.

At the age of 7, a woman’s reproductive system starts to develop.

14 years old

Her menstruation appears as the Ren meridian (the sea of Yin) flows and the Qi and blood in the Chong meridian (the sea of blood) becomes abundant, she can have children.

At the age of 14, her menstruation appears and she is able to have a child. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the age of menarche is one important factor to help make a diagnosis. If menarche is later than 14 years old, it often indicates lower fertility energy.

21 years old

Her kidney energy is balanced, her adult teeth become completely developed and her body grows to full height.

A woman’s energy, especially fertility energy is full at the age of 21.

28 years old

Vital energy and blood are abundant, her bones and muscles are strong, her hair grows to full length and her body is in optimal condition.

At the age of 28, a women’s fertile energy reaches its peak. This is considered the best age for her to have children.

35 years old

Her peak condition declines gradually. Her energy in the yang ming meridian declines. Her face starts to wither and her hair starts to fall out.

From 35 year old, she starts to have wrinkles on her face, and her overall energy and fertility start to decline. She is still however, able to have children.

42 year old

The three Yang channels - Tai Yang, Yang Mind, Shao Yang - energy begins to decline. Her face wanes and her hair begins to turn white.

From the age of 42, her physical energy and fertility energy declines and it becomes more difficult to conceive.

49 years old

The Ren meridian (Conception Vessel) and Chong meridian vital energy declines, her menstruation dries up, her physique turns old and feeble and she is no longer able to conceive.

From the 7-year-life cycle, we can see that, according to Chinese Medicine, a good age for a woman to have children is from 21 to 35, and the best age is around 28 years old when her energies are at their "peak".

These cycles are still relevant in diagnosing and treating women's health issues in the context of Chinese Medicine. These stages are of course just a guideline, but they are immensely helpful in understanding - in a general way - how men and women move through their lives and what strengths, needs and imbalances they may face in different stages. Chinese Medicine is incredibly complex and has a vast body of knowledge that has been collected over thousands of years, and this is why it is still able to treat the health problems that people in our modern world face.

 

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Your Quick Guide to Personal Happiness - 5 Happiness Habits

By Emma Suttie D.Ac, AP

For many years I have been fascinated by the concept of happiness. Part of my fascination was personal, and the other was professional. I was seeing so many patients who were deeply unhappy and the interesting thing to me was that when I asked them what would make them happy, most of them had no idea. For many, it seemed to be the first time they had given the idea any thought at all. So, what is happiness? And why is it so elusive?

What is Happiness?

For something that we all seem to be after, happiness seems to be largely misunderstood and pretty difficult to come by for a lot of people. And when it comes to a definition of happiness, well I imagine that would be very different depending on who you asked. For our purposes, I will define it as a general feeling of well-being and joy about the totality of your life - not necessarily the details as those will be constantly fluctuating, but a general sense of wellbeing about your existence. If I were to ask you what would it take for you to be happy? Maybe a better question is - what does your life look like where you imagine your happiest self? This is an interesting intellectual exercise for sure, and one I often ask my patients to do to help them clarify what this scenario would look like for them.

In my experience, I see what happiness isn't. It is not something that can be acquired, some kind of external thing that one must chase after and get a hold of, never letting go. External things don't give you happiness, at least not a happiness that is grounded, meaningful and lasting. The way to happiness is within. And I think this is one of the reasons that we as a species, are largely so unhappy right now. We are taught, from a very young age, to seek everything we need in our lives - "out there". All the things we need to be complete, happy beings are out there in the external world. Good education, a better job, good relationship, nice house, fancy car - and so forth. These seem to be the benchmarks for success and happiness for many of us. But this is changing. There is a movement of young people growing up now who realize that those things often have nothing to do with true happiness and are seeking happiness, fulfillment, and connectedness within. And that is where we will all find it. There has been an explosion of interest in things like yoga, meditation, ayahuasca, etc... to more deeply understand ourselves and our world.

The Chinese Medicine Angle

In Chinese medicine, our ability to feel joy is seen to be an expression of our heart energies. But joy is only one part of overall happiness. In Chinese medicine, how you feel is an important part of your health. Each of the organs has an emotion associated with it to help determine which organ (or emotion) might be out of balance at any one time. If you are overwhelmed by anger and frustration, the liver is the culprit, if sadness is predominant then the lungs are to blame, or if fear and anxieties are making life uncomfortable then we must look at the kidneys for their role in these feelings. I believe that for a feeling of overall happiness and wellbeing that so many of us are striving for is to be achieved, it is balance that we must seek. And there is no better system to teach us to balance ourselves, our bodies, our emotions and our spirits, than Chinese medicine.

The emotions are a more ephemeral and therefore often more difficult thing to contend with, especially in our society with its emphasis on the physical and tangible especially when it comes to health and healing. Because of this, tools we can use to help us manage difficult emotional states or patterns are difficult to come by. Thankfully, Chinese medicine offers many ways in which we can both identify as well as manage and resolve our emotional hardships. Each organ's energies are at their peak in a specific season, so taking care of both the organ, its corresponding emotion and changing our behaviours depending on the time of year are some of the ways we can help to keep ourselves balanced. Changing the foods that we eat according to the seasons and our physical predispositions is another good way to stay in harmony, as well as some basic things like listening to our bodies - as they tend to tell us in subtle ways when something is wrong - taking care of ourselves on all levels, being kind, loving and nurturing to ourselves and others and working on self-awareness is especially important when it comes to dealing with emotions. So much of our demons and the things that hurt us are unknown to us. If we are really willing to do the work to discover our hurts and sorrows, that is the first step in shining a light on them and being able to process them and letting them go.

5 Happiness Habits

Below are some of the most powerful habits that, if you incorporate them into your life, will help you to have a happier experience and feel more joyful overall.

Gratitude

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Some interesting studies have taught us that so much of our ability to feel happiness is in our attitude. Many highly spiritual beings know this too. One way that we can really help to change our attitudes so that we may attract more positivity into our lives is by being grateful. Taking some time every day to focus on the things that you are grateful for, no matter how big or small, will help to literally rewire your brain, making it easier to think about and feel those feelings of gratitude in the future. A helpful exercise that will help you to literally rewire your brain (plasticity) is to take time every day to think of three things that you are grateful for. In doing this, your brain starts to retain the pattern of scanning the world not for negative things, but positive ones, helping to keep you in a state of positivity.

Positivity


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Scientific studies have shown that the brain works better when we are in a state of positivity giving us a happiness advantage. Here are some statistics from Shawn Achor's TED talk (which is embedded below):

  • When we are in a positive state the brain performs better in terms of intelligence, creativity and our energy increases
  • Positive brains are 31% more productive than brains that are negative, neutral or stressed
  • When we are positive, our brains are 37% better at sales
  • When in a positive state, doctors are 31% faster and more accurate at coming up with a correct diagnosis

An activity to help you to become more positive is to journal about one positive thing that happened to you (or that you witnessed) that day. Writing about the experience allows your brain to relive it, and releases powerful hormones like dopamine, which not only makes us feel good, but also turns on all the learning centres in the brain.

Conscious Acts of Kindness

Another exercise that you can work into your daily routine is to reach out to one person in your social network and tell them that you appreciate them and why. This only compounds the exercise above and will help not only you to feel grateful, but also spread the goodness around by making the person or people you reach out to feel grateful as well.

Meditation

Meditation has so many benefits to our health and wellbeing, that it is something I would recommend for absolutely everyone, especially living in our hectic culture. Meditation allows us to slow down, relax and reconnect with ourselves in a way that many of us have forgotten. Giving that time to yourself as a way to pull yourself out of the chaos that often predominates modern life and to just sit and listen has so many positive effects that will not only make you feel better, they will ripple out into every aspect of your life and ultimately benefit not only you but the people around you.

Self Awareness

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From the years of treating patients, one of the things that I really believe is a huge contributor to our physical health as well as our mental health is dealing with our demons. I use the word demons because that is what they can become, haunting us and making us miserable. Everyone has difficult, painful and traumatic experiences in their lives. But the way to have a happy life I believe is not to wish for an easy existence, but to learn how to handle difficulties when they arise so that they can be processed appropriately and let go so that they do not become demons from our past that haunt us in our present.

This ability to really look at ourselves and self reflect is not easy, and this important work is not something that is taught to us as children in schools, so finding a way to work through these difficult experiences can be daunting. The tools that will work will not be the same for everyone, but this is some of the most important work we can do in our lives and the work that will help us to be happier beings and enjoy our time on this beautiful planet.

 

Sources

This excellent (and hilarious) video from Shawn Achor speaking at TED about happiness and our brains.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXy__kBVq1M



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