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How Ancient Chinese Medicine can Improve Mental Health at Home

By Lucy McCulley

20 May 2020

The emergence of COVID-19 has led to massive change and uncertainty in our lives, which in turn bring about new challenges when it comes to our mental health. In the past decade we have all become familiar with the term ‘self-care’, and it is more popular than ever to use age-old practices as part of our day-to-day self-care routine.

In celebration of Mental Health Awareness Week, we look back on our discussion on the ancient practice of ‘Yang Sheng’ at NABS Wellfest; and how some of the world’s oldest self-care practices can help us in the global crisis we face today.

So, what is Yang Sheng?

The art of self-healing, Yang Sheng, is a central aspect of Chinese Medicine and is based on the balancing of energy within the body. The good news is, the key to both physical and mental wellbeing does not rely on extreme diets and exercise but in small attainable efforts that can fit into daily life.

Looking after our circulation is key to combating stress

In Chinese medicine, the essential aspects of the body are ‘qi’ meaning the energy that flows within us, and blood. The two circulate throughout our body, bringing oxygen and nutrients to our organs while carrying away toxins.

The hormone released when we are stressed, cortisol, reduces blood flow; causing lactic acid to build in our muscles resulting in pain and inflammation. Stress also impacts our circulation due to the body’s instant ‘fight or flight’ response to stress. The response draws blood, oxygen and nutrients away from the skin, leading to dryness and wrinkles, painful muscles and stagnant lymph nodes.

The poor flow of blood and qi throughout the body can also lead to malnourishment, a cause of poor wellbeing and disease. Chinese philosophy places huge importance on breathing and food, as both are needed to ensure a healthy flow of qi and blood.

In Yang Sheng, there are many ways to improve the balance of energy in our body. We have chosen our top 5 Yang Sheng practices that you can do easily from your home desk:

Shake. Shaking from top to bottom releases built up energy within the body, encouraging circulation and loosens stagnant blood.

Daytime breathing rituals for better sleep. Taking two minutes out of our day to practice breathing exercises or simply inhaling for 10 seconds, holding, and exhaling for a further 10 seconds is proven to reduce stress. It also keeps our body primed for sleep and helps us go to bed balanced.

Take a moment to look at your food. Although this may sound obvious, many of us do not take the time to regard our food before eating it. Looking at our food triggers saliva production, which produces enzymes that help us digest.

Drink warm or room temperature fluids. As the stomach is energetically hot, cold fluid makes our body work twice as hard to maintain temperature. For maximum hydration and ease of digestion, drink room temperature or warm fluids.

Twist. Digestion is one of the first systems to be affected by stress. Twisting the body at the waist helps support digestion and releases fresh blood flow.

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