How to Get Healthy in 2017 with Chinese Medicine

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Another year is upon us! The arrival of the new year always causes me to reflect, and think about what I would like to improve upon in the coming year. Health, happiness and well-being are always top of the list, so here is a list of some things that we can all do to be a little healthier and happier in 2017.

Take Time for Yourself

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This is a hard one. Our lives seem to get busier and busier and we all seem to be working more and sleeping less which means less time for, well, us. Even though taking time out for ourselves is often not easy, it is an important part of our health. Psychologically, it is you caring about yourself enough to take the time to do something that feeds you, whatever that may be. Go for a walk, read a new book you've been meaning to start, have a bubble bath, start a new art project... do something that feeds your soul. Your whole body, mind, and spirit will thank you for it.

Meditate

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Now I know the thought of meditating is scary for a lot of people, especially if you have never done it before. But meditation doesn't have to mean spending hours on a mountainside in complete seclusion. If you are new to it, start slow. Spent ten minutes a day, either when you get up in the morning (the energy of the day is so calm and lovely at this time), or if it is easier, at the end of the day before you go to bed. Just sit or lie quietly without distractions (the TV, your phone, computer, etc..) and just relax. For the first many times you do this, your mind will no doubt be racing and it might not feel relaxing at all, but if you think about it, you never just "let your mind go" like this. We are always forcing our minds into doing things, like work, cooking, driving or what-have-you. Your mind also needs time to empty itself out, but once it does and goes quiet... it is wonderful. With some practice, you will be able to drop into a quiet meditation easily, and your body and mind will crave it because it is so nourishing to every part of you. I find that the benefits of a little daily meditation spill out into the rest of my life causing me to be calmer, more patient and generally happier which is a wonderful thing.

Find a Local Farmer

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Reconnect with your food. Food does not arrive at the grocery store wrapped in cellophane and politely organized and placed onto carts. That food is grown and tended by farmers - people who have one of the most important jobs on the planet - feeding us. Our food is the medicine we use every day to keep us healthy, and many of us have lost our connection to where it comes from. If you are able to, find a local farm where you are able to visit and buy fresh, organic (if possible) foods for your family. If this is not possible, then find a local farmers market and meet the farmers there. This will give you a new appreciation for where your food is coming from, who is growing it and in turn, you will be eating local (very good in terms of Chinese medicine) and supporting your local farmers - who absolutely need and deserve the support of their communities. Farmers markets are also a wonderful place to meet other local, health conscious people, eat local treats and reconnect with your community. Win-win!

Reconnect with Nature

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I know I say this one a lot, but it is so imperative to health on every level. One of the reasons we see disease on such an unprecedented scale is that we have lost our connection to nature. We live in huge cities where we spend our days behind desks in buildings under florescent lights instead of in forests and jungles, which is where we belong. We were not designed to live this, well, unnaturally. Obviously, it is not feasible to go completely wild and live in forests (unless you are really hardcore) but in Chinese medicine, we are always striving for balance. So, even if you work in an office or a factory and sit behind a desk or stand on an assembly line, eat your lunch outside. Take off your shoes and put your feet in the grass. Feel the earth, it is talking to you in a language you have probably forgotten. It is feeding you in a way you desperately need to be fed. When you have time off, go for a walk in a forest, swim in a lake or ocean, or instead of working out at the gym, go for a run outside. Our connection to the planet feeds us as much as what we eat and drink, so think of your time outside as food for your body and soul. You will notice how much better you feel, inside and out.

Zoom Out

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I love this one, and doing it helps your mental state more than you can imagine. Zooming out just basically means, keeping things in perspective. When you are having a problem or something disastrous is happening in your life, just take a moment and back up. Zoom out of your situation. Zoom out of the building, the street, the neighbourhood, the city, the country, the continent, the planet, and so on. The farther out you go, the better you will feel. It is so easy for our lives to become very small. Problems become huge and often seem insurmountable, but zooming out will help to keep things in perspective. Think to yourself... in the grand scheme of things, does this really matter? In a week, will I be thinking about this at all? Zooming out is a sort of meditation, and one I do often if I am struggling with something. Instead of feeling small, I am always trying to be as big, as expansive with my mind and my awareness as possible. Not always easily done, and certainly takes practice.

Be Grateful

Gratitude is something I try to practice every day. It has been one of the most beneficial practices that I have in my life, and I am so grateful for it. Ha. Being grateful doesn't mean that life is not going to present challenges. Life is full of them. But spending some time each day to consciously think about what in your life you are grateful for will put you in a happy, loving state of mind, which will attract more happy, loving energy to your experience. This energy will help you to cope when difficult situations arise and help you to fully appreciate all the wonderful things/people that you have in your life. Absolutely everyone has things that they can be grateful for, and focusing on this positivity will only draw more of it into your life and that is a wonderful thing.

Unplug

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We are all connected, and now this is even more true with the advent of the internet and the miracle of cell phones which allow us to communicate with one another from almost anywhere on the planet. This wonderful technology has allowed access to information by millions of people who would otherwise not be able to benefit from it. There are so many positive aspects to our ability to connect, but there are drawbacks too. The pendulum seems to have swung quite far in that direction so that in our attempt to stay technologically connected to each other, we have lost our human connections. I see groups of teenagers sitting together, each looking at their cell phones, instead of talking to each other. People live is vast cities, crammed into apartment buildings, but never interact with each other. As with all things, we are going for balance. Many people could not live without the internet of god forbid, their cell phone, but trying to unplug, at least for parts of the day or week is a good way to bring about that balance. Call a friend, then go and meet with them. Have a coffee and a conversation. We are social animals (not social media animals, although sometimes it seems we certainly are) and human contact is good for us and we NEED it.

Be of Service

A part of being human, and one of the reasons that I think we are here, is to serve our fellow human. This doesn't have to mean volounteering in a cancer ward or an old age home (as these are big commitments - but wonderful things to do), it may be as simple as helping someone struggling with their groceries, opening the door for someone with their arms full, giving someone directions when they ask you on the street. These small things make a huge impact. No one makes it through life alone. We all need each other, and by being kind, generous and helpful with our fellow human being is the glue that holds us all together. In a time where there is so much divisiveness in the world, it seems there are so many reasons for us to fear and hate each other, all it takes is the conscious effort to not let in that darkness and to treat each person with love and compassion, just as you would like to be treated. It will go a long way to healing the negativity on this planet and it happens to feel really good too. <3

How to Get Healthy in 2017 with Chinese Medicine : Chinese Medicine Living


How to Get Healthy in 2016 with Chinese Medicine

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Eat Your Medicine

There is a huge emphasis in Chinese medicine that the food we eat is our best medicine. Food, after all, is the medicine we take into our bodies many times a day. This philosophy makes sense, especially when you are talking about Chinese medicine, which is a medicine of prevention. Why not eat to stay healthy so that you never get sick? So how, you might ask, can I eat in the healthiest way according to Chinese medicine? Well, eating with the seasons is one of the fundamentals. This used to be the way that not only the Chinese ate, but the way all of our ancestors ate as well. What was eaten was what was grown in that particular season - which is what our bodies, and especially our digestive systems were designed for. Part of the reason that we have so many digestive problems in our present culture is because we are able to eat foods that grow in all seasons (because of the miracle of mass transportation and refrigeration): strawberries in winter, root vegetables in summer, etc... Although it is wonderful to have this kind of variety all year around, it is not what our digestive systems were designed for, and they are still catching up as far as evolution is concerned. In Chinese medicine there are also many foods and recipes that are used when we come down with something like a cold or flu. Congee is a good example - and there are a few excellent recipes here - Winter Congee for Colds & Flu, Chicken & Corn Congee, Ginseng Congee for Health & Longevity.  Part of the job of the Chinese medicine practitioner is not only to administer acupuncture and herbs, but also to consult their patient about nutritional therapy to help the body to rebalance and heal, because, food is some of the most powerful medicine. :)

Reconnect With Nature

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There is nothing more healing that walking on the beach by the ocean, or strolling through an old growth forest. And nothing reconnects you better than lying in the grass, or taking your shoes off and walking directly on the earth. As a species, we are presently more connected to each other than at any other time in our history, which is amazing and makes out lives better in many ways. Access to information, sharing of knowledge and being connected to people who are far away has never been easier. Unfortunately, we seem to have lost our connection to nature. Children, instead of playing outside as they once did, often sit inside, in front of the TV instead of exploring the natural world, running and playing outdoors. As we grow into adults we spend years in schools sitting at desks, until we venture out into the working world where we sit indoors for many hours a day until we can go home to rest. Our bodies were designed to MOVE, and our lives used to be completely connected to the outdoors, where we were in constant contact with the incredible healing energy of nature. So make some time to go outside every day. Smell a flower. Hug a tree. Walk barefoot in some grass or gaze at the sky. Your body (as well as your mind) will love you for it.

Live With the Seasons

Chinese medicine tells us that to be in harmony with our bodies and in good health, we must also be in harmony with nature. This means living with the seasons. Every season has its own unique energy - winter contracts, spring is expansive, summer radiates and fall begins to withdraw. Each of the seasons has its own unique energy, and Chinese medicine teaches us the ways in which we can aspire to live in harmony with those energies. For example, in winter we go to bed earlier and sleep later, we pay close attention to the kidneys (the organ associated with winter) and eat foods that grow slowly and deep in the ground - like root vegetables - that are warming in nature. We look inward and nourish our inner selves in this season. Our lifestyles should reflect the season we are in, and Chinese medicine gives us many ways in which to do this. You can learn how in the following posts...

Winter

•   Living According to the Winter Season with Chinese Medicine

Spring

•   Loving Your Liver with Chinese Medicine
•   Loving Your Liver with Nutrition
•   The Liver & Anger

Summer

•   Living With the Seasons - Summer
•   Summer Foods & Preparation According to Chinese Medicine

Autumn / Fall

•   Living With the Seasons - Autumn / Fall

Be Grateful

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This is one that I have learned from experience both in my own life and from many years of treating patients. For me, I have noticed that when I am having a difficult time, down in the dumps and struggling, one of the best things that I can do to pull myself out of it is to take time on a regular basis to go through a mental list of all the things that I am grateful for. When it comes to my patients, I noticed after a few years that the patients that I had with the most problems, chronic imbalances, pain and recurring illnesses were generally the ones who were the most unhappy, the most negative and the least optimistic. I am a firm believer that we attract what we think about, and I have experienced the benefits of a positive attitude, especially when things in our lives are difficult. I know that I have worked this into my morning routine, taking time every day when I get up to go through all the things that I am grateful for. This is a really good way to remind yourself of what is awesome in your life and by doing this, you are more likely to attract positive things, people and experiences into your life as well.

Meditate

We are now starting to understand scientifically the benefits of meditation on the mind and body, but many cultures around the world have been aware of the enormous benefits of meditation for thousands of years. Places like India and much of Asia have a long history of meditation. A lot of people are intimidated at the thought of meditating, especially if they are doing it for the first time. Of course, there are many techniques when it comes to meditation, but I believe that even a few minutes a day of sitting quietly, allowing your mind to just "relax" is of huge benefit on many levels. If you want to get really hard core, there are many, many meditation techniques out there, you just need to find the one that feels right to you. I have done a couple of Vipassana meditation retreats which were amazing experiences (you can read about them here - My Ten Day Vipassana Meditation & Vipassana 2.0). Meditation helps us to decompress in a world that leaves us overstimulated and exhausted, without enough time to relax. Its benefits include alleviating stress, improving sleep and boosting the immune system. I know most people cannot dedicate an hour or more to meditation every day, but even just ten to twenty minutes will make a huge difference, just try it out and see.

Get Enough Sleep

Healthy 2016 With Chinese Medicine : Chinese Medicine Living

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When we sleep our body gets a chance to heal and repair. Problems with sleep, either problems falling or staying asleep, are common. As a culture, we tend to not get enough sleep and the quality of our sleep is compromised, which means more stress on our immune systems which can lead to illnesses. There is no magic number when it comes to optimum number of hours a person should sleep at night, but that feeling of exhaustion should not be present when we wake up (and it so often is). Think of sleep like you think about the food you eat, that it is medicine for the body. Another good thing to remember is that melatonin - the hormone produced by the pineal gland that regulates sleep - is released according to cycles of light and darkness. We were designed to be awake when it is light and to sleep when it is dark. This has largely changed with the invention of electric lights, so a good way to improve sleep is to keep your bedroom as dark as possible with as few electronic devices as possible in the room, especially close to your head. Being in complete darkness will ensure a better, deeper sleep which will allow your body the rest it needs as well as to repair and heal which will ensure that you stay healthy.

Breathe Deep

It seems simple, but the breath is a big part of health. Taking long, deep breaths increases the amount of oxygen that the body, all of its tissues and especially the brain, is getting. There is a theory out there that this is the function of yawning- to increase the amount of oxygen that is taken into the body. Because we spend so much time sitting, we tend to breathe more shallowly, getting less oxygen and making things like thinking, concentrating and remembering more difficult. Taking some time every day to sit up straight, or even better stand and walk around and breathe deep into your belly (like children do naturally) will help you stay awake and think more clearly. This is extra awesome because it is so easy, so breathe deep!

Express Yourself

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As you may know, Chinese medicine is a holistic medicine, meaning it is not just about the physical body, but about all aspects of a person. This includes the emotions, and Chinese medicine places special importance on the emotions and expressing them freely. Keeping things in, suppressing your feelings or expressing them in an inappropriate way can lead to imbalances in the body and its organ systems and lead to illness. Yes, that's right. Not expressing how you feel can make you sick, and I see this all the time. I am not telling you the next time someone cuts you off in traffic that you should follow them, wait until they get out of the car and scream at them, I mean to be aware of your feelings, and that they are appropriate to what is happening, and if not, think through where they might be coming from. If you are feeling particularly irritated by that person who cut you off, try to sort out where that frustration might be coming from (it is probably the liver). This is particularly important in our personal relationships. Holding on to things like anger, guilt, shame and other negative emotions can be detrimental to health. Journal, go for a walk to clear your head or sit and talk to a friend, or better yet, speak to the person who may have made you upset in the first place. If you get your feelings off your chest (in a kind, respectful way) you will be amazed at how much better you feel, and you will be keeping all the energy or qi flowing smoothly, which is the key to health and happiness.

Moderation

Moderation is both a concept important in Chinese medicine and I believe, in any happy, balanced person's life. In my practice I try not to tell my patients not to do this and not to do that, instead I try to communicate the importance of moderation. When I am asking about a person's diet, they inevitably will give me a sheepish look and tell me about the 2 pieces of chocolate cake they ate the night before, or the quart of ice cream or glasses of red wine they had at a party expecting looks of disapproval from me. Not at all. I try to express the importance of enjoying your life for one - if you are really desiring that piece of cake, or that glass of wine and it will give you extreme pleasure to give it to yourself, then by all means DO IT. The worst thing you can do is to have it and then feel horrible about it. That is negating any positive benefits that thing has given you. So if you do it, OWN IT. Enjoy that piece of cake or glass of wine. Allow yourself to have it if it makes you happy. Just don't do it every day perhaps, keep it balanced. Make sure that you are doing things, the good and the not so good, with moderation. Everyone needs chocolate cake sometimes. ;)

Laugh

Healthy 2016 With Chinese Medicine : Chinese Medicine Living

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Joy is the emotion of the heart in Chinese medicine. Makes sense, right? When we feel joy, happiness, laugh, all of these emotions we tend to feel in the heart. The heart is the benevolent ruler of all the other organs, and to feed it, we need an ample amount of joy in our lives. You can think of this also as medicine; something you must seek out to keep yourself healthy. Think about how you feel when you laugh. You feel amazing. When you hear a story about something good happening to someone, you feel happy. Notice how your body feels the next time you are feeling joy. It feels delicious. Conversely, the heart is injured if there is not enough joy in our lives, and there is certainly plenty of that. What is it like to be around someone who is deeply unhappy? Someone unable to feel joy? Their energy is dark and it is difficult to be around. Sometimes it is easy to get bogged down by all the stresses in our lives, and there are a lot of them, so this is a reminder to go out and find some joy. Seek it out. Laugh. Sing. Dance. Smile. It's good for you.

Get an Acupuncture Treatment

Acupuncture is one of the best ways I know to stay healthy and to heal if you are sick. Obviously I have a bit of a bias, but I also have a lot of experience both having acupuncture, and seeing its beneficial effects in my patients. Because Chinese medicine was designed as a preventative medicine, having regular "tune ups" with acupuncture is a great way to keep your immune system strong so that you never get sick. In our culture, we tend to wait until things become catastrophic (like getting a disease) before we seek out medical advice, but in many cultures, like Chinese culture, they understand that prevention is the best medicine. Acupuncture is a powerful tool to help rebalance the body, boost the immune system and keep you strong so that you never get sick. It is the thing I have used since I was a teenager, and the gift that I try to bring to my patients every day when I go to work. I am deeply in love with it, because I know it works.

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How to Get Healthy in 2016 with Chinese Medicine : Chinese Medicine Living


How to Get Healthy in 2015 with Chinese Medicine

By Emma Suttie D.Ac, AP

I don't know about you but 2014 really kicked me in the ass. It was a year of epic loss, and a lot of sadness. So, I have been thinking a lot about how to use my Chinese medicine skills to get my life together, to get happy and healthy for a better, no, a superfantastic 2015. Here is my list, and I hope it will help you to thrive in all aspects of your life to have an awesome 2015.

Let Go

Health is not all about the body, it is so much about how we feel and how we deal with those feelings. It is important for health to be able to be flexible, go with the flow and not hang on to things, especially things that have hurt us. This is not to say that we don't feel things, it is to feel them and let them go. Deal with them, work through them and then release them. Don't carry them around with you, they are taking up space and hanging on causes that energy to build up which can eventually lead to disease.

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Get Out of Your Head

We are a culture that spends a lot of time in our heads. Many of us have jobs where we sit at computers, doing work that requires intense thinking for many hours on end. This lifestyle goes against the way our bodies were designed and how we have evolved, which was to run, jump and be active. So take lots of breaks. Go outside. Get up and walk around so you can get back into your body, and try to keep the time that you are in your head balanced with some time you spend in your body, you can be creative about that one. ;)

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Get Into Your Life

A lot of us are so focussed on surviving; paying the rent, car payments and bills, paying off loans and debts and are working many hours a week just to make ends meet. In my practice I see people who are overworked, overwhelmed and exhausted. When I ask them what they do to relax they often have to really think about it, as if it is a foreign idea. We all have to survive, but to remain healthy its important to get out and live your life. Do things that make you happy. That feed your soul. Take the time to figure out what those things are, and go out and do them.

Forgive

How to Get Healthy with Chinese Medicine in 2015

Life is full of ups and downs, and the only thing that we can really control is ourselves and how we deal with the things that life throws at us. I see so often that people who are struggling with their health are also carrying deep emotional wounds from long ago that they have not been able to process. Forgiveness is powerful, it can heal wounds that have been with us for decades. So learn to forgive, its good for your health. :)

Be Mindful

We live in a culture that values multitasking. At work, we are praised for doing as many things as possible, as quickly as possible and this often bleeds into our lives away from work. In Chinese medicine, the spleen is responsible for processing all of the stimulus that comes in through our sense organs, so it is best for the spleen (and the rest of us) to only do one thing at a time, and do it as mindfully as possible. Being mindful helps us be present and focussed with whatever we are doing, and to do it well. Doing one thing at a time with mindfulness will also decrease the stress and anxiety in your life which will boost the immune system and allow the body to stay strong and healthy.

Don't Take Things Personally

This is a big one. If you can really put this into practice in your life, you will be a happier human. So often the way people behave towards us has nothing to do with us and everything to do with them. Your friend may have reacted harshly to something you said which left you wondering if they were mad at you, but really it was because they found out their position at work was being phased out and they were probably going to lose their job. Someone on the bus may have snapped at you for bumping into them making you feel bad and self conscious, but what you don't know is that an hour before they were diagnosed with cancer. If there is anything that my almost ten years of treating patients has taught me, is that you have no idea about the difficult things that people are dealing with on an everyday basis. It doesn't have anything to do with you, so don't take it personally, you will be healthier and happier for it.

It reminds me of a quote...

Be Kind : Chinese Medicine Living

Go Outside

The planet has an unlimited supply of healing energy, all we have to do is go outside and soak it up. So go outside. Take off your shoes. Walk in the grass. Sit on a bench. Breathe deeply. Smell the flowers. Go for a walk. Ride your bike. Take in that healing energy any way you can. You will feel revitalized and it will relieve stress, and lets face it, we could all use a little more of that.

Get Healthy with Chinese Medicine in 2015

Be Kind to Yourself

Being kind to yourself seems to be surprisingly difficult for people. This is often "homework" I give to patients who are suffering both physically and emotionally. It is important to take some time every day to do at least one kind thing for yourself. It is a gift that you give to yourself. Be worth it to yourself. The impact of this small thing is huge on both your body and your psyche. It doesn't have to be something big. I am not talking about going out and buying yourself a private jet (although if you have the means, awesome!) but its little things, like make yourself a cup of tea. Read that book that you haven't had time to get to. Have a bath. Cook yourself your favourite meal. We are all so busy, but this thing, this small thing is perhaps the most important thing of all. To be healthy, we have to be worth doing the work. We have to love ourselves enough to do what it takes. And that is give ourselves the love we deserve. <3

 How to Get Healthy with Chinese Medicine in 2015

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