We have long known that your heart is associated with all kinds of feelings. You can have a broken heart, feel something with all your heart, or thank someone from the bottom of your heart. You can be heartsick, have someone tug on your heartstrings, and send valentines to your sweetheart. Interestingly in Chinese medicine, your heart is home to your Shen, which encompasses your mind, memory, consciousness, and spirit. And while these are all activities that are attributed to your brain in Western medicine, we tend to intuitively know that your heart is an organ of feeling and spirituality.
In Chinese medicine each of your organs are associated with an emotion, and not surprisingly joy is the emotion of your heart. However that joy can be a double-edged sword, in that too much joy can become mania. In addition, because your heart is the home of consciousness, it has some relationship to most emotional disturbances, such as anxiety and insomnia. When you become out of touch with reality to the point of mental illness, your heart is always involved. Physical pathology associated with your heart includes palpitations (the sensation of skipped heartbeats), insomnia, vivid dreams, chest pain, gum problems, and in some instances the sensation of feeling hot.
So how do you nourish your Chinese heart? Here are a few simple things you can do:
-Connect. One simple way to nurture your heart is through connection. This means connecting with your sense of purpose through activities such as journaling and self-exploration, connecting with others through social interactions, and connecting to the divine through prayer and meditation–all of which nourish your heart.
-Eat to feed your heart. Your attitudes about food mirror how you look at life. Think about it; do you spend your time avoiding “bad” foods and counting grams of fat, or are you preparing meals with love, eating (mostly) healthy foods that taste good, and gathering with loved ones to share a meal? It’s hard to be joyful when you’re worrying about the nutritional content of each morsel that goes into your mouth, so put a little love into what you eat.
-Be grateful. While being grateful sounds like a nice thing to do, research has documented the positive impact of gratitude. Among the benefits are increased mental alertness, better physical health, an increased sense of well-being, and increased optimism. In addition, a sense of gratitude can decrease feelings of envy, materialism and self-centeredness. So, while counting your blessings makes you a happier (and nicer!) person, it’s actually good for you, too!
Go outdoors. Spending time outside is a way of connecting to the amazing natural world around you. In fact researchers in Japan have found that spending time in natural settings can dish up a whole host of benefits including decreased stress hormones, lower blood pressure, and improved immunity. Walking in the woods is beautiful, quiet, and…uh, natural. It puts you closer to your elemental self and the divine–and it nurtures your heart.
-Cultivate joy. Your heart is all about joyfulness. Find the things in life that you like to do; those people, places, and things that make you truly happy, and then spend time with them or doing them. When you are joyful, your Chinese heart thrives.
This article was originally published on acupuncturetwincities.com
*Image of “heart” via Shutterstock