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Mental self-care

Take care of your mind, and your mind will take care of you.

Traditional Chinese medical theory makes specific connections between the way people think and feel and how our bodies react. For example:

  1. Grief affects the Lung (parts of the body that relate closely to breathing). There is a particular spot on the inner arm a little above the elbow that tends to be sore when people are grieving. Those who have experienced grief may have noticed that during that time their breathing is more shallow--sometimes grieving people just don't feel like moving that much. Imagine someone who is sad. Their chest looks like it collapses in on itself. Exercise that requires deep breathing helps people to be less depressed.

  2. Worry affects the Spleen (parts of the body that relate closely to digestion). In this sense worry also refers to rumination--thinking the same thoughts over and over again. It's interesting that our English word rumination refers to a cow chewing her food multiple times during digestion, making the connection between repeated thoughts and the digestive process. The pattern of tension we hold in our bodies when we are over-thinking or worrying affects not just our face and our forehead, but also our digestive system.

  3. Excitement affects the Heart (parts of the body that relate closely to circulation and thinking). This is an easy one to understand. When we are excited or anxious, our heart beats stronger and faster, and our faces flush red as blood rushes up toward our heads.

  4. Fear affects the Kidney (parts of the body that relate closely to urination and energy). Have you ever stood in line for the women's bathroom at a school just before a major exam starts, or had to go quickly to the bathroom yourself before speaking in public? Enough said!

  5. Anger affects the Liver (parts of the body that relate to smooth and easy movement). People who are angry clench and stiffen.

Emotions are, as we know, feelings. Our body feels a certain way, and our mind responds. Our mind thinks a certain thought, and our body feels it. Tending the mind means noticing our thoughts and emotions as we experience them, honoring them, feeling how they feel in our bodies, and responding to them thoughtfully, with care and concern. Our bodies and our feelings can become just as important a source of guidance as our thoughts, or the thoughts of others around us. Practicing attention to our thoughts and our feelings is important if we want to be at ease with ourselves in the world.

Emotions are one of the basic diagnostic tools of acupuncturists. Each functional organ system (Heart, Liver, Lung, Kidney, Spleen, Small Intestine, Gallbladder, Large Intestine, Small Intestine, Stomach) has a corresponding emotion and a corresponding channel that we stimulate in order to free up movement and restore balance and normal function. Sometimes a treatment can help to release unexpressed or unrecognized emotional feelings, resulting in laughter or a good cry when it's needed.

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