By guest blogger Mao Shing Ni, DOM, PhD, ABAAHP, Lac; doctor of Chinese medicine, antiaging specialist, and author of Secrets of Longevity: Hundreds of Ways to Live to Be 100 (Chronicle Books, 2006)
When so much is uncertain in the world around us, it is natural for our anxieties to rise and for our emotions to fluctuate. But when you let your emotions run wild, the imbalance can spell trouble for your long-term health.
The Chinese healing tradition groups emotions into five predominant states: joy, rumination (including worry), sadness, fear, and anger. Experiencing these emotions is a normal part of life, and you usually shift naturally from one to the next in reaction to events that pop up in your day. However, when one single emotion dominates, it brings your entire body out of balance and can produce illness. Learning to manage your emotions is essential for your happiness, health, and longevity. Here are four tools that can help you achieve emotional balance.
1. A nerve-calming neurotransmitter.
A healthy brain has a balanced chemistry that can cope more effectively with emotional stress. Some neurotransmitters in the brain excite the nerves, while others have a calming effect. One such neurotransmitter, GABA (gamma amino butyric acid), is a chemical that is especially helpful when emotional turmoil strikes. As the primary neurotransmitter for calming nerve signals, it prevents anxiety-related messages from reaching the brain. However, over time the body’s production of the chemical wanes, and when you have low levels of GABA, you may begin to feel an increase in anxiety, insomnia, irritability, and depression. Good sources of GABA include almonds, whole wheat, mackerel, halibut, whole oats, beef liver, walnuts, rice bran, lentils, and brown rice. When you take GABA as a dietary supplement, be sure to pair it with vitamin B6, which helps your body best utilize the nutrient.
2. Herbal assistance for balance.
According to Chinese medicine, the liver is thought to be the seat of emotional expression. When healthy, the liver network naturally balances your emotional state and releases suppressed emotions. A blockage of liver energy is said to manifest as depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders. Some herbs have traditionally been used to give the liver an added boost in the following ways:
• Dandelion cleanses the liver and helps support healthy emotional expression.
• Milk thistle protects and restores the liver.
• Schisandra berry protects the liver from toxins and soothes emotional anxiety.
• Chrysanthemum flower cleanses the liver and clear toxins.
• White peony root soothes the liver and balances mood.
These herbs are available from health food stores and Eastern medicine practitioners. Consider trying the herbal formula Internal Cleanse, which clears energy stagnation and supports liver health.
3. Exercise to release pent-up emotions.
When people do not have a healthy outlet for their emotions, those emotions become trapped in the body, which can eventually result in physical pain. Common symptoms that may point to trapped feelings in your body are pains in the back, neck, shoulders, jaw area, or stomach; congestion in the ear or nose, a lump in your throat, chest tightness, or shortness of breath.
Often unrecognized as pent-up emotions, these blockages may cause more serious harm to your health down the road—manifesting as chronic pain, or even growths. Let go of these negative emotions by using exercise, massage therapy, yoga, tai chi, or qi gong as ways to get your energy flowing freely.
4. Expand your emotional elasticity.
Use deep breathing and rest to restore your metabolic equilibrium. Sometime during your busy day, find time to close your eyes and take 10 deep breaths. Even better, meditate on a daily basis to head off emotional extremes before they start. Studies show that people who meditate are calm, slower to anger, and better able to find their way through problems to good outcomes. Try spending 10 to 15 minutes in meditative relaxation each day, and watch your emotional elasticity expand! There are many meditation guides and CDs that can help you learn the practice. You may want to try my guided meditation CD called Meditation for Stress Release.
May you Live Long, Live Strong, and Live Happy!
Dr. Mao Shing Ni, best known as Dr. Mao, is a best-selling author, doctor of Chinese medicine and board-certified antiaging expert. He has appeared on Dr. Oz, The Doctors, and Extra. Dr. Mao practices acupuncture, nutrition, and Chinese medicine with his associates at the Tao of Wellness in Santa Monica and Newport Beach. He is the cofounder and chancellor of Yo San University in Venice/Marina del Rey. To subscribe to a free newsletter, please visit TaoofWellness.com or AskDrMao.com.