As the calendar year restarts with 2022, many of us are contemplating a restart for ourselves as well! Whether focusing on our mental, emotional or physical health - or a specific goal - beginnings inspire beginnings and health is a great place to focus! Easier said than done, right?
Whatever you're inspired goals are for the New Year, here are a few Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) tips to help keep your health on track:
1. MOVE MORE
From a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, when we don't physically move our bodies (and our minds), it often results in either stagnation or depletion. Think of a river that has stopped flowing - either due to a build-up of debris (stagnation), or due to a lack of water to flow (depletion). It's the same in our bodies.
Physical movement significantly improves our circulation. Think of your body's circulation as "internal movement," which is propelled by your heart, but even more so when you physically move. When your blood moves (circulates), this in turn increases oxygen uptake and micronutrient circulation throughout your internal organs, tissues, cells and brain. This is optimal for being healthy!
Movement also keeps your endorphins flowing (i.e. the happy hormones), which in turn reinforces how good we feel overall. This certainly helps when we're in the process of creating new routines and good habits. Acupuncture treatments work similarly - also improving circulation and increasing endorphins . . . just in the case you need a little extra "umph" to get moving again!
Getting started could be as simple as taking a 15 minute walk. Better yet, if it's warm enough outside - take the dog with you, bundle up and push your kids in a stroller, or call a friend and have a catch-up walk and talk! It's fine to start easy or start slow - but the key is to move!
2. STRESS LESS
Stress is a reality for all of us. How well we manage our stress is what most impacts our health overall. When stress accumulates or becomes chronic, it will eventually deplete your energy (Qi), and in turn reduce your body’s ability to clear out toxins and ward off illness. This is because stress triggers a cascade of hormones and
enzymes in the body which, over time, shifts our body's metabolic balance and Ph levels. This imbalance can impact how well you digest, sleep, eliminate, our skin health, fertility, and on and on . . .
Try taking a daily 10 minute pause to simply slow down and listen to your breathing. It's as easy as just sitting in place for a few minutes, and quietly doing nothing. If you prefer more structure, consider utilizing a meditation app or online meditation course to support this. Here are a few of the more well known apps that include stress-reduction, sleep, meditation, and health goals: HealthyMinds, Headspace, Calm, Insight Timer or Simple Habit.
Other options - take a hot bath or shower in the evenings before bedtime as a way to "rinse off" the day, warm up and relax your body. Think about stretching out afterwards - even if just for a few minutes, to further relax and prepare for sleep.
While thinking about activities you can integrate into your routine that help reduce stress - you might also consider those things (activities, people, etc.) that compound stress in your life and ways to either limit, or let them go.
As you find new ways to reduce stress - whether bringing in the new, or letting go of the old - the impact will be exponential. Your body (& mind) will thank you!
3. BALANCE & MODERATION WITH FOOD & DRINK
Eating and drinking with balance and moderation may seem all too obvious, or like just plain old fashion common sense - but many of us really struggle to do this. All too often our food and drink choices tend to be about quantity (too much), as
opposed to quality (nutrient dense, "real" food), and are often dictated more so by our busy schedules, and less so by listening to our body’s needs. As well, sometimes it's not actually our body that's hungry or thirsty - sometimes it's our minds / hearts. In which case, practicing paying attention to this can also help you reconnect with yourself.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) emphasizes moderation and balance with what we eat and drink - and suggests eating until you feel 80% full, and then pausing. The goal is to consume food and beverages when the body needs it, and not just out of habit. Consider integrating this practice as part of your restart to the New Year - perhaps pick a few days a week to eat this way, or try this at just one meal a day. Importantly, pay attention to how you feel, and do so with intention.
It's an excellent way to improve digestion overall, reconnect with your body, and also create awareness of how your really feel - i.e. am I really physically hungry and / or thirsty, or am I emotionally hungry and /or thirsty?
4. CONSUME "HOT" AND "COLD" FOODS APPROPRIATELY
As you may know, TCM places a great deal of focus on attaining and maintaining balance in order to stay healthy. This goes for how we eat and prepare foods.
For example, for those people who tend towards feeling cold (i.e. hands and feet cold, difficulty staying warm, sensitive to cold weather) - we would encourage you to think about adding more “warm temperature and warming” foods and spices into your diet. This includes more foods which are cooked to a warm temperature (i.e. served cooked, warm or hot) and also more foods which have warming flavors and characteristics (i.e. curries, chili peppers, etc.).
On the other end of the spectrum, if you have a generally warm or hot constitution (i.e. hands and feet warm, prefer cool temperatures over hot, have difficulty cooling off) Traditional Chinese Medicine proposes balancing your internal "heat" with foods and drinks which are “cooling in nature and temperature.” It also important to be mindful of the warm and cool seasons - as cooling foods in the Winter may not be the best option for balanced eating. However, in the warmer months in might balance your internal temperature to add mint, cucumbers, or celery to your meals. Other options are lemon, summer squash, radishes, zucchini, and spinach (cooked).
For some of us, we need a balance of both - but, in the cooler seasons we eat more warming foods, and in the warmer seasons we eat more cooling foods. It all comes back to overall balance.
Consider integrating a few of these ideas as you start in on the New Year.
Here’s to a happy and healthy 2022!
Phil Veneziano, M.S., L.Ac.
Cristina R. de La Mar, M.S., L.Ac., Doula
Seven Point Wellness is an Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine Clinic located at 187 Millburn Ave., Suite #101 in Millburn, NJ, in the Trader Joe / CVS Business Complex.
We are an easy drive from Maplewood, South Orange, Short Hills, Livingston and most cities in Union, Morris and Essex County, NJ and abundant free parking. We're also an easy walk from the New Jersey Transit via bus or train.
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