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. 

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

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. 

 


Photo by Tito Texidor III on Unsplash

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.


Featured image photo by Mitchell Griest on Unsplash - Thank you!



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Online Tai Chi and Other Virtual Martial Arts Classes: Why Do It and How to Get Started

By Patrick Bailey

With so many pathways to achieve wellness, traditional Eastern martial arts remain one of the most recognized systems in the world. Aside from being hailed in movies and books, Eastern martial arts have a lot of health benefits that both old and young students can have.

Often, martial arts classes such as Tai Chi or Kung Fu are held through in-person classes where students are distanced in equal spaces, relatively close to each other. In some instances, students gather in circles and take turns in the middle for a return demonstration of techniques.

Shifting Platforms With the New Normal

As the world takes a 180-degree turn due to a global pandemic, many fitness and wellness services have to adapt to the “new normal” as well. Social distancing measures in place shifted martial arts classes from in-person to virtual ones. 

In some schools [1], virtual martial arts classes are being held as an extracurricular activity, and many martial arts schools have followed suit. Instructors now offer online courses, both live and recorded to help learners choose options that work for them.

Considering Online Tai Chi and Other Virtual Martial Arts? Why You Should Do It

If you’re someone who wants to try online Tai Chi and other virtual martial arts classes, you may be thinking, “What’s in it for me?”

Unlike regular exercise that can get repetitive at times, learning martial arts is a skill that proves to be useful in other areas of your life. Below are some of the advantages you can get from these classes.

Improves mood and fights stress

Tai chi [2] is a low-impact type of martial arts using gentle movements. It is often dubbed as “meditation in motion”, as participants use flowing poses. Tai chi is ideal for those who want to begin their journey in exploring Eastern martial arts, especially if their goal is to reduce stress and anxiety.

Other forms of martial arts such as Kung Fu improve cardiovascular health and blood flow. When blood flows better, your cognition improves, as well as your overall mood. Doing online classes that help decrease anxiety is something timely. When people struggle with the limitations of social distancing, taking virtual martial arts sessions may be what they need.

Photo by Alora Griffiths on Unsplash

Helps in muscular strength

According to Harvard Health [3], there is a growing number of convincing research that Tai Chi and other forms of martial arts improve one’s muscular strength. As movements sustain muscle flexion, people can gain upper and lower body strength. 

If you’re considering a dynamic form of exercise aside from using dumbbells or barbels, attending virtual martial arts classes can be a great option. Lacking outdoor activities can cause weight gain and muscular weakness, thus, having access to online Tai Chi and other Eastern systems that interest you can help avoid those risks.

Fights addiction tendencies

The University of Michigan [4] stated that dealing with the stress of isolation makes people prone to abusing alcohol and drugs. Addiction, in turn, causes immune system susceptibility to diseases such as COVID-19. This cycle of addiction along with a weak immune system increases the risk of people losing their health, and even their lives.

Practising virtual martial arts during these challenging times helps individuals develop self-discipline and focus on goals. The underlying principles of Qi Gong, Tai Chi, and Kung Fu is all about adhering to systems and sacrificing instant gratifications for the greater good. It is no wonder why martial arts have been a welcome treatment option for many drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers. It is an effective, holistic tool for battling substance abuse.

How To Get Started With Online Martial Arts Classes

The great thing about online Tai chi and other virtual martial arts classes is that you’re not confined to local establishments to get started. You can sign up under any instructor or company that offers classes as long as it fits your preferences and schedule. If you are ready to take a leap with online martial arts classes, here are some helpful tips.

  • Consider your online classes as a “real” class: It can be easy to devalue online classes by having a lesser level of commitment. However, it is important to consider online classes as if you are taking them in-person. If you need a higher level of accountability, you can sign up for a live instructor.
  • Have a regular working space: To get the maximum benefits of virtual martial arts classes, it is helpful to have space where you regularly do your sessions. Setting aside an organized space allows you to focus your thoughts on the activity, thereby decreasing mental clutter and stress.
  • Being open to new things: In the first few sessions, you may not find yourself keen on continuing a class that you feel doesn’t suit you well. However, a part of succeeding in martial arts is being open to new experiences even if you haven’t enjoyed it yet during your first time. Keeping a curious mind before quitting right away will open doors for you to learn new things.

Virtual Martial Arts Classes for Health and Wellness: Something Worth Trying

Are you searching for ways to ease the stress of changing times? Virtual martial arts classes may just be your cup of tea. With its numerous health and wellness benefits, you are sure to combine learning a new skill along with accomplishing your fitness goals.

Sources:

 

Featured image photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash



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Martial Arts for Over 50's

By Cameron Cromwell

A commonly asked question is, ‘Can I start martial arts if I am over 50?’ The short answer is, absolutely yes! It is never too late to take up martial arts. This is especially true with the variety of martial arts and training programs available today. Many schools are offering classes that are ideally suited for older beginners.

There are a lot of reasons why someone over 50 might be contemplating taking up martial arts for the first time, or even returning to martial arts after many years away. I have provided a list of benefits specifically this age group. If you decide to give it a try then there is nothing stopping you. However, to help you get the best start I have also provided some advice that you may find helpful.

The Benefits

Fitness

Strength is perhaps the most obvious benefit because martial arts is a physical activity. Any type of resistance training helps to keep the muscles strong and healthy. In turn, this helps you to stay active and mobile while reducing the chance of injury from normal daily activities, such as moving heavy items around. It also helps to keep pain and discomfort away as you get older.

Balance & coordination improves form the strength and conditioning of your muscles and by ensuring your core remains strong. Good balance and coordination help to avoid injuries from falling or not getting out of the way quickly.

Flexibility comes from good stretching of all parts of the body. This is an important part of any good martial art training because flexibility helps you to be more effective with the skills and techniques you are taught. Good flexibility can help you in all parts of your life by reducing the risk of injury from normal day to day activities. Muscles will lose their elasticity over time if we allow it and this increases the chances of pulling or tearing a muscle or ligament. Injuries like this can take much longer to heal as we get older.

Cardiovascular improves when you regularly exercise and get your heartbeat up. This has many known health benefits. By improving your circulatory system, which includes your heart and blood vessels, your body is able to efficiently deliver nutrients and oxygen to the tissues of your body and to remove carbon dioxide and other wastes. In turn, this increases energy levels, makes it easier to sustain energetic activities, and recover faster from exercise and even injuries.

Weight loss becomes more of a consideration for us as we get older. Most of us find it too easy to put on unhealthy weight. Life transpires against us by slowing down our metabolism and getting us to spend more time behind a desk or doing things that require less physical activity on a daily basis. On top of this, going for regular runs or hitting the weights at the gym does not burn off the fat like it
used to.

Excess weight takes a significant toll on our health and ability to enjoy life. This is especially true if weight gain continues unchecked. However, it does not have to be an irreversible trend. It does mean that as we get older we need to exercise differently, and perhaps a little smarter. There is a lot of evidence today that controlled, high intensity, bursts of exercise and muscle strengthening, such as that offered by most martial arts, is more effective for burning fat and reducing excess weight for people over 40.

Keeping active

Simply put, staying active slows down the ageing process and helps you to get more out of life. With better fitness, you will not become tired as quickly. This is important for everyday life, but it can really make the difference of enjoying yourself when it comes to enjoying our precious weekends and vacations.

Some people want to be able to keep up with their grandchildren when the time comes. Why not make it so that your grandchildren struggle to keep up with you.

Posture

Muscle strength, flexibility and greater self-awareness of your body help to improve posture. A better posture makes you feel better about yourself and to look more self-confident. It also helps to prevent neck and back problems that can develop over time.

Self-confidence

It is amazing how much more confident you look and feel when you maintain your fitness and strength with the knowledge that you can do things that many people cannot, even those half your age. It signals to others that you may be older but you should not be underestimated.

As we get older we learn to appreciate the value of not relying on physical strength alone, even if we know we can. Martial arts help to develop an inner strength that can be drawn upon when needed. This, in turn, helps us to remain calm when the situation calls for it.

Self-defence

The martial arts have always been about self-defence. Even non-contact activities like Yoga and Tai Chi owes its roots to combative forms of martial arts.

Do you need to learn self-defence? Well, hopefully not. However, it is a sad fact that some people will try to intimidate and even prey on older people. But, getting older does not mean you have to become more vulnerable.

However, don’t expect to become Bruce Lee. It would be irresponsible to suggest that simply practising martial arts will make you invincible. The truth is that most martial arts today have developed into a sport whereby very specific rules are followed. In the real world, where things can quickly become dangerous, these rules don’t exist.

Saying that, if you train to box and you find yourself in a fistfight you will punch, block and dodge hits better. This improves your chances of not getting seriously injured. Most attacks and street brawls end up on the ground and this is where Judo or Jiu-jitsu training comes in handy.

It is true that you will become fitter, stronger and more self-confident, and these will no doubt help you defend yourself if the need arises. Your posture and body language alone may discourage someone from becoming aggressive toward you.

Mental health

Martial arts are not just about physical abilities. The tradition of most martial arts today, especially those of Asian origins, place as much emphasis on a healthy mind and positive mental attitude as they do on good physical abilities. For hundreds of years, what we have come to call ‘mindfulness’ in recent years, has always been a valued part of martial arts training. The good news is that even a healthy inner self remains an important benefit of modern martial arts.

Social interaction - Martial arts provide wellbeing in lots of ways. For example, just by participating you engage in social interaction and you are likely to make friends. Friends help to keep you going when you are tired or feeling low. As we get older it is easy to allow ourselves to become lonely and isolated. Joining a martial arts class is a great way to prevent this from happening.

Endorphins - Classes with periods of intense training will increase your levels of endorphins. Sometimes referred to as a ‘runner’s high’ this is a natural way of creating a good feeling. Regular exercise and release of endorphins are linked to improvements in mental health in people of all ages. Just because you are older doesn’t mean you can’t participate in the type of training that releases endorphins, even if start gradually and build up over time.

Personal achievement - As you learn new skills and are capable of doing things you could never do before you will enjoy a sense of personal achievement. This is enhanced when you are feeling more physically fit. Once you start training it will not take long to start feeling the boost to your self-esteem and general good feeling.

Cognitive function - Martials arts require learning very precise and accurate movements. Often these movements become a trained response to other stimulation. The more complicated the response and movement the more practice that is needed to perfect it. This training develops a good connection between your brain and muscles. There are studies that show an improvement in the cognitive ability of people over 50 after only 8 weeks of practising Tai Chi.

Reduced stress - Unfortunately, getting older does not necessarily mean you will become less stressed. This is especially true if you have greater responsibilities at work or demands from your family and life in general. Stress, if not managed correctly, can have serious health consequences.

Martial arts teach you to relax as you train to be more effective. Most people find that the focus during training causes them to temporarily forget all the things causing stress in their life. Then there are the physical exertions of martial arts to vent any pent-up, negative, energy. The endorphins that are released help to reduce pain, and they also help you to sleep better which helps
to reduce stress.

Getting Started

If you are reading this then you are probably aware that as you become older your body becomes more vulnerable to injury. Not everyone shows signs of ageing at the same rates, but nevertheless we are all ageing. While there is a lot that you can still do, probably much more than you might think, you will need to consider two things:

1) Your starting point
2) The limitations of your body

If you are already reasonably fit you will find it easier to get started with martial arts, just as you would with any new sport. If you have not been doing any form of physical exercise for a while your muscles will need time to strengthen. Beginner classes are intended to help you gradually build up your fitness while learning basic techniques.

Can’t kick someone above their shins? No problem. If it is a flexibility issue then you will improve. If you have a permanent restriction, such as bad hip or knee, oftentimes it is possible to learn how to safely adapt. Martial arts can even help to improve some injuries. For example, if you suffer from lower back pain then martial arts will keep your core muscles strong which protects the spine. A slimmer belly from exercising takes considerable strain off the lower back.

Still not sure? You can always get a medical check-up. Use the results to help you decide the type of training that is most suitable for you. You can discuss the results with a potential school instructor when looking for a martial arts school or club to join.

Of course, there are some limitations and disabilities that will make most martial arts impractical. You will need to decide this for yourself, but don’t be too hasty in telling yourself you can’t learn martial arts. It is worth exploring the different types to find out if there is one for you. I have recently seen a martial arts program that teaches the use of a cane for self-defence, which included students in wheelchairs.

Types of Martial Arts

This would become a very long article if I attempted described every type of martial art that is practised today. Even the more commonly practised martial arts make a long list. For an idea of popular martial arts that might appeal to you have a look at A Guide to the Most Popular Martial Arts.

Selecting a Martial Arts School

In many ways, the martial arts school, its attitude, its culture, and the available programs are more important than the type of martial art that you choose. When making a decision here are a few things you may want to consider:

  • Ask to join a taster session – these are usually free.
  • Ask to observe a few beginner classes to see what they are really like – avoid clubs that focus on training fighters
  • Find a school that you can easily get to – you are more likely to stick with it if it is reasonably convenient to get to the classes.
  • Take a friend or family member. This can make it more enjoyable to get started.
  • Women only classes - some schools offer a friendly and less intimidating environment for women to get started.
  • Senior only classes - some schools offer classes that provide a training program designed for older participants.
  • Speak to the owner or lead instructor -
    • What are his/her credentials?
    • What is his or her attitude toward training?
    • What is his or her approach to helping older people to get started?
    • Can techniques be adapted to help students with physical limitations?

All martial arts have benefits. The best way to find out how you will personally benefit is to give it a try. Start with one and discover what you like about it. Sometimes it is the type of martial arts, sometimes it is the type of training, and sometimes it is just the class and the people in it that make it appealing.

If you are not sure about the school that you joined, for whatever reason, try a different school or martial art. Lots of people try more than one martial art for many reasons. You can even join more than one at the same time.

What to Expect

There is nothing wrong with engaging any type of martial arts at any point in your life. There are plenty of examples of people in their 70s earning black belts. I recently saw a video of someone in their 80s learning military-style self-defence for the first time, albeit in a suitably structured one-to-one lesson.

No matter how much you want to jump in with both feet and start training like could in your 20's and 30's it just isn’t going to work exactly the same. Even if you are reasonably fit, once you are into your 40's and beyond you need to think differently about your training. This is not to say you can’t be strong and fit, it just takes a different approach. Martial arts can provide ideal training as you get older.

Many schools that traditionally taught the hard-impact martial arts like boxing, kickboxing, and Muay Thai now offer non-contact classes. These are perfect for beginners and anyone wanting to enjoy the physical and mental benefits without the aggressive sparring that could lead to injury. These classes are just as fun and challenging.

 

Cameron Cromwell is the creator of Absolutely Martial Arts, a website aimed at introducing people to martial arts and helping them to get started.



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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.


Featured image Photo by Matheus Ferrero on Unsplash
Man image Photo by Karl Fredrickson on Unsplash
Tomato image photo by Thomas Martinsen on Unsplash



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Can Chinese Medicine Help People with Autism?

By Sally Perkins

Around one in 68 children in the U.S. have autism, and following a diagnosis of their child, parents consider a wide range of options that includes educational interventions and, at times, alternative approaches. Among the many natural approaches utilized with autism, one of the most often discussed is Chinese medicine. Relatively few studies have been conducted on the efficiency of this approach, but those that have been carried out show promising and positive findings for specific symptoms and behaviours.

Herbal Medicine Treatment for Children with Autism

Parents of children with autism often turn to traditional therapies, including behavioural treatments such as applied behaviour analysis (ABA), occupational therapy, and the Early Start Denver Model. Each child or adult with autism has unique talents and challenges, though, and for some parents, combining one or more of these therapies with Chinese medicine has been useful. A 2017 review of existing research on the efficiency and safety of herbal medicines for the treatment of autism found that when used alongside conventional therapies, the use of Chinese medicine in relieving symptoms led to a significant improvement of the patient's Child Autism Rating Scale (CARS) score.

Commonly Used Herbs

Some of the herbs which are commonly used to reduce autism symptoms include Poria cocos, Panax ginseng, Acorus gramineus, Schisandra chinensis, and Glycyrrhiza uralensis. These herbs have been studied in different settings. For instance, Acorus gramineus has been found to have a sedative effect, as has Poria cocos. Researchers have stated that these herbs may aid in the reduction of some behaviours as well as inattention. However, they added that further research would be required to demonstrate the specific behaviours that each herb could address, and to see if polyherbal formulations could wield similar benefits.

The Use of Ukgansangajinpibanha Granule in Children with ASD

One small trial currently being led by S Haeng Lee is focusing on the efficiency of Ukgansangajinpibanha (UGSJB – a legitimately prescribed herb for nervousness, insomni, and night crying) in the treatment of children with ASD. The trial is set to conclude at the end of this year. Currently, the trial has already established that this herbal treatment can reduce aggressive behaviour by suppressing the excess activity of a particular neuron type in the hippocampus. It has also been found to successfully reduce anxiety and insomnia.

Acupuncture for ASD

A review report by academics at Cochrane has found that needle acupuncture might be linked to an improvement for people with ASD, specifically in the area of communication, linguistic ability, cognitive functioning, and global functioning. Other small studies have limited the success of acupuncture to cognitive and global functioning alone. Two additional studies, on the other hand, showed no benefits for acupuncture when compared to conventional treatment, yet acupressure did seem to lead to small improvements.

Although herbs and acupuncture are considered ‘alternative therapies’ for autism, few studies have been carried out on their efficiency. Those that have been carried out seem to indicate the utility of some herbs, and one current trial is seeking to discover that of UGSJB. Acupuncture does not seem to be too effective overall, but as stated by the Cochrane scientists, this may be because we have only a small number of studies to rely on, and all of these have been carried out on children. Further research, therefore, needs to be conducted to see whether or not acupuncture can make a positive difference in the treatment of ASD.

Featured image photo by:

S. Laiba Ali


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

Photo by Nicole Honeywill on Unsplash

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


Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

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 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

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

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

 


Love, Support & Illness

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Disease is not just about the body. It is literally an imbalance, a disruption of the flow, a loss in the state of equilibrium that keeps us healthy and balanced human beings.

One of the reasons that Chinese medicine is so effective and why I fell so deeply in love with it is the beautiful and poetic way in which it sees the body and the tools it gives us to bring it back to health when it is in a diseased state. It is a holistic system, everything working synergistically, nothing left out. Everything is important, and has an impact, so we must take care of not only the entire organism, but the environment in which it lives, the stimulus that comes in, the emotions that are felt and so forth. Everything that is experienced has an impact, so we strive for balance - which is no small task in an unbalanced world.

Looking at health in this schema, we must step back and look at things with a wider perspective. No longer is health about the physical processes of our bodies, the levels of our blood, or the food we ingest. We must consider the entire life experience and discern what is out of balance so we might attempt to regain that balance once again. In this way the practitioner of Chinese medicine acts as teacher, helping to instruct patients on how to live (the Tao) so that they are empowered and participants in their health and healing and can use that knowledge to prevent imbalances in the future. It is a preventative medicine.

Love

In my questioning one of the things I ask is about the relationships you have in your life. Your friends, your spouse, your children, your boss. Do you have love in your life? Where is it coming from? Love is an incredibly important part of life, and integral to health. I believe it to be an essential part of the healing process, not just physical, but on every level. Knowing that there are people (or pets) out there who want you to be well and have your best interests at heart is just as important as acupuncture, herbs, what you eat and if you meditate or go to yoga.

Love, Support & Illness : Chinese Medicine Living

Support

Support takes it a step further. It is love with a little extra juice. Being in a loving relationship or having wonderful friends is important for all aspects of our lives, and has been proven to improve health and keep the immune system strong. Support is having people in your life that believe in what you are doing, and are helping to hold you up while you are doing it.

Let me give you a couple of examples...

A patient is struggling with a serious disease (the seriousness is directly proportional to the severity of the imbalance). Lets say cancer. Their Western MD is advocating chemotherapy, and so is their family. After several rounds, the patient is feeling terrible and would like to explore other options. They discontinue chemo and start doing reiki, acupuncture and herbs. The patient's oncologist thinks this is a terrible idea. The family also does not support their decision and every time they come home from a session, their husband and children tell them how foolish they are and how irresponsible it is of them to not do conventional treatment. There is no support system to help this person to heal, and the stress created depresses the immune system which is already working at beyond capacity. The lack of support from this persons family is making it more difficult for the patient to regain the balance she needs to get back to health and thus, will continue to be sick.

A patient struggles with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) which makes being at their incredibly stressful job difficult and uncomfortable. They go home at night to a spouse who is angry and depressed. This makes being at home, when the patient needs to rest and recharge, stressful as well. After a long day this patient often goes home to fights and discord due to his spouses unhappiness. In an attempt to avoid the situation, this patient throws himself into work which exacerbates his condition. It gets worse until he periodically has to go to the hospital for a few days to recover enough so that he can return to work.

And it is not just patients... we all need support...

Love, Support & Illness : Chinese Medicine Living

 

image from www.lauradunn.com

One very powerful lesson that I have learned in my ten years of practice is that life is not easy. For anyone. People are struggling, and most are trying their best to live life with dignity, and a little grace. I have been amazed at the difficult things that people struggle with on a daily basis, from digestive problems, to pain to depression to abuse. There is a constant pressure on everyone to go to work, pay the bills and balance their personal and professional lives which seems to get harder with every passing year.  Chinese medicine is all about balance in all things, but we are living more and more unbalanced lives which is why the wisdom of this medicine is so valuable and why I want to share it. We all need love. We need to let it out and allow it to come in. It helps keep us healthy and happy so that we have the energy to keep going. But we also need support. No one gets through life alone. Or illness. We are living in a world that has become increasingly connected through technology, but we only seem to be more isolated. Our connections to each other are vital to our health and well being. Loving and supporting each other through good and bad times is how we are all going to make it. Love and support is the difference between life living you and you living your life to its fullest potential, being a happy, healthy and balanced being, and that is what I wish for you. :)

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