As an acupuncturist, I spent the better part of two decades working with clients. I always felt fortunate to have a parade of lovely and interesting people come to me for help. I was also fortunate because I learned something from every single client I saw.
As a writer, I’ve been able to share some of the secrets and nuances of Chinese medicine, as well as many insights on health and healing. I call them secrets, but some insights are well-known. I share even the most obvious—not because it sounds good, but because I’ve seen them in action and know their power.
Here’s a shortlist of some of the most important things my clients have taught me about good health and healing:
1) Unless you change the behaviors that are making you sick, you will never completely heal.
This is true whether you have a funky diet, an overwhelming lifestyle, too much work, or a stressful relationship. Chinese medicine is effective because it helps pinpoint what’s making you sick, which often comes from surprising sources, and points you in the direction of positive change.
2) Listen to your body.
Your body sends you signals when things are amiss long before you actually get sick. If you ignore these messages, they’ll get louder and louder until you can’t ignore them. In most cases, illness is your body’s loudspeaker after a string of polite, but ignored messages.
3) Your emotions are a key to your health.
The Chinese say that your emotions are the root of 100 illnesses, and I’ve found this to be true. Strong emotions, such as anger, depression, fear, anxiety, grief, and intense longing, have the ability to affect your health, causing symptoms as diverse as insomnia, digestive problems, and skin conditions.
4) Aging is a state of mind.
I have had people in my clinic in their 60s who seemed very old. But I’ve also worked with a number of 80- and 90-year olds who have appeared to be much younger and more vital than their age would indicate.
The difference? People who are aging well have a love for life. They get out of their house, they’re active, they volunteer, and they have places to go and things to do.
This isn’t to say that they haven’t had a tough life or that they don’t have limitations or health problems; they do. However, despite difficulties, those people who are aging well seem to stay active, engaged, and upbeat despite their advancing years.
5) There is no magic bullet to better health.
I have seen hundreds of ads and articles for miracle foods, supplements that cure every disease, and the latest diet sensations. There are a couple of problems with this.
First, there is no one food, supplement, or diet that can cure everything; there just isn’t.
Second, every person on the planet is unique and different. And that means that we all need different things. What may be the perfect diet for one person may be a disaster for another. The supplement or herb that worked for your friend is probably not what you need. That’s right, no magic bullet.
6) One of the best things that you can do for your body is to move it.
There’s a proverb in Chinese medicine, “Where there is no movement, there is pain. Where there is movement, there is no pain.”
More recently, I’ve been hearing people say that motion is lotion.
Either way, exercise improves your mood, reduces stress, improves the health of your lungs and heart, brings your blood pressure down, and keeps your joints and muscles loose. I have seen clients turn their health around simply by incorporating exercise into their life.
7) Your body is programmed to heal, but sometimes you have to give it a little help.
Healing takes a lot of energy, so getting enough rest and good-quality sleep is important. Eating food that supports healing and reduces inflammation is also crucial. Also, resist the urge to test your recovery until it’s complete. It isn’t uncommon to reinjure yourself or have a relapse by doing too much too soon after an injury or illness.
8) Love your body.
It’s not something to outsmart, overcome, or be whipped into shape. It’s the vessel that holds your spirit.
In Chinese medicine, your spirit, or Shen, resides in your heart and is responsible for your feelings, consciousness, memory, and thoughts. You know instinctively that your heart is an emotional organ when you feel heartbroken, thank someone from the bottom of your heart, or send someone heart to show your love. There’s a saying that when the heart is at ease, the body is healthy. This speaks to not only physical health but also emotional and spiritual. And the place to begin is by loving your body.
And one final secret.
Learning is never complete. I’m the first to admit that I will never know everything. I will keep discovering new things and I give myself permission to change my mind and admit when I’m wrong. In doing so, I hope to keep my heart open and at ease—and my body healthy.