The Connection of the Emotions and Health
Supporting emotional wellbeing is an important aspect of Chinese medicine. The ancient Chinese speak of the importance of moderation of emotional states, both positive and negative, to maintain a balanced outlook.
This is due to the impact of the emotions on the physical being.
In Chinese medicine we work to achieve harmony, to support the body in returning to balance, to homeostasis. This is why your practitioner may ask you in-depth questions about your emotional health, it can give us clues as to the cause of a condition. This works on two levels: it helps us hone our diagnosis so we can be sure we know exactly what is going so we can give you the best possible treatment. It can also shine a light on lifestyle factors which may be contributing to your condition.
Today I’m going to explore the connection of some of the major organs with their corresponding emotions, so you can gain an understanding of how we view these connections in Chinese medicine. I’ll also share some simple lifestyle suggestions to help improve your health.
Worry, over thinking and over analysing are thought to weaken the Spleen Qi, (or digestive energy) in Chinese medicine. Those with a tendency to worry often find they also suffer from digestive imbalances, low energy, poor appetite, tummy rumbling or irregular bowel movements. There may be other symptoms such as light headedness, sweet cravings or menstrual disharmony.
Eating well and exercising regularly is the best way to support the Spleen and strengthen the Qi. Mindfulness practices and meditation may also be useful to help calm a busy mind.
The Liver is one of the organ systems most easily affected by stress. The Liver governs movement of energy in the body and hates any blockages or disruptions. If the Liver Qi is blocked and becomes stagnant, there may be a difficulty in coping with stress. Emotions such as anger, frustration and irritability are all thought to be associated with stagnation of the Liver Qi.
The digestion may be affected, there may be musculoskeletal pain or numbness, premenstrual symptoms such as sore breasts or cramping; or mood disruptions, which in severe cases can lead to conditions such as depression. Liver Qi stagnation can also cause insomnia, particularly night waking between 1-3am.
Moving the body helps to move the Liver Qi: regular exercise and deep breathing techniques using the diaphragm physically moves the Liver organ, which helps to move the Liver Qi. Healthy expression of emotions can also be useful, as keeping emotions bottled up can further aggravate Liver Qi stagnation.
The Heart is considered the ruler of the emotions in Chinese medicine. It is easily affected by anxiety. Sufferers of anxiety might experience symptoms such as racing heart beat or palpitations, sudden heat, sweating and racing thoughts. The Heart houses the Shen, or spirit, in Chinese medicine. If the Heart is out of balance the Shen may also be disrupted causing low mood and feelings of disconnection.
Avoiding substances such as caffeine and sugar can help support the Heart. Ensuring adequate sleep and spending more time on self care rituals such as meditation, reading or indulging in a foot soak or bath can help ease anxiety and support the heart.
Grief and sadness are thought to weaken the Lungs in Chinese medicine. Experiencing sadness is a normal part of the human condition, it is healthy to feel it and to allow it to express. When sadness becomes overwhelming, or persists and doesn’t pass it can begin to weaken the Lungs. Grief is a heavier emotion. The nature of grief is that it takes time to lessen. It can come and go. It can reappear again and again. Grief disperses the Lung Qi, and over time both grief and sadness can cause respiratory symptoms, low energy and even impact the immune system.
The Lungs are associated with the voice in Chinese medicine, therefore allowing grief and sadness to be expressed in an appropriate way can be useful. Whether spoken or written, the act of expression can be useful for helping these heavy emotions to pass and to support the Lungs.
The emotion associated with the Kidneys is fear. Excessive fear or anxiety can be detrimental to the Kidneys. Long term worries and fears slowly weaken and wear down the Kidney Qi, the Yin and the Yang, leaving us depleted. Adrenal fatigue, and the accompanying weariness can be seen as depletion of the Kidneys in Chinese medicine.
Physical symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia, heat or sweating at night or conversely, cold hands and feet and a deep ache in the lower back can be signs of a Kidney deficiency.
Working to address the root cause of the fear as well as establishing new self care patterns is the key to supporting the recovery of the Kidneys.
In Chinese medicine we pay great attention to emotional health.
The emotions can give us clues as to the nature of a disharmony, they can show us the root cause of imbalances and most importantly they can help guide our way towards healing.
We see the emotions as being intrinsically connected to physical health. Emotional imbalances may cause physical symptoms and conversely physical symptoms can give rise to emotional distress. Chinese medicine works holistically to restore balance. Sometimes this involves exploring the meaning of emotional symptoms and their connection with the physical.
Sometimes this can involve simply providing a safe space for the emotions to be expressed, gently guiding them out with the help of acupuncture.
While negative emotional states can be distressing to experience, it can be worthwhile to listen to your body and the messages it is giving you. Just as emotional disharmony can give Chinese medicine practitioners clues as to what is going on inside the body, having an awareness of the connection between the emotions and physical health can help you support your own healing.
Our practitioner Anna McMullen loves working with patients to help support emotional wellbeing. She offers acupuncture treatments at our low cost multi bed clinic, as well as Heart Centred Acupuncture in our private treatment rooms. She also offers Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) and Heart Centred Coaching, she believes these modalities have a lot to offer patients who require support with their emotional well being.