If you’ve been feeling tapped out of energy, you’re not alone. I’m sure you can make a long list of all the things draining your vitality or keeping you from feeling your best. But be careful, running through that list in your head on repeat will become another drain on your energy. Is there an escape from this endless loop? Absolutely!
This is the first of two part blog post. The first part will look at some of the internal work we need to do to keep our energy work. Part two will explore how things like diet and our environment affect our vitality.
Chinese Medicine for Vitality
Maintaining vitality for a long, happy, healthy life is the ultimate goal of Chinese medicine. Longevity, anti-aging, and transforming negative emotions to positive ones have been huge topics in Chinese medicine texts for thousands of years. Acupuncture and herbs can definitely promote health and prevent disease. However, you don’t need to rely on pills and trips to your acupuncturist every week for the rest of your life. It’s highly encouraged to make your lifestyle and mindset work for you so you’re investing in a better future every day.
Let’s look at different aspects of your day and how they impact your vitality. Remember that deep down you want to feel more energized, so be really honest about what you need to change. Write it down in a journal, and commit to consciously creating your life to be one of energy and vitality. This is the true path to health.
Breathing practices have been around since ancient times. Breathing patterns directly affect the nervous system. They can help us to feel awake and activated, stressed out, or completely relaxed.
Taking shallow breathing and having no awareness of the breath is an energy drain. Not paying attention to your breath tends to create incorrect, stressed out breathing patterns. Most of the breath fills the upper chest and the diaphragm hardly moves. Fatigue, anxiety, and neck tension result.
Level 1: Become aware of your breath now. Place one hand on your chest and the other hand on your belly. Breathe naturally and feel how your hands move with your breath. Is it coming in to your chest, or your belly, or both? Just notice and see how it changes as you bring your awareness to it.
Level 2: Take a few minutes each day to practice diaphragmatic breathing. Using the same hand placement, feel your belly move out with the inhalation as your diaphragm expands your lower ribs. Your chest can remain still or only move slightly. Let the exhalation be a passive release of breath as the belly deflates.
Level 3: Become aware of shallow breathing throughout the day, and take a few deep breaths.
Level 4: Explore different breathing techniques to take control of your nervous system response to stress. There are so many breathing techniques out there, but one simple one to help relax and restore you is to exhale for longer than you inhale. For example, you can breathe in for 4 counts, and exhale for 6-8 counts.
Emotions naturally arise in us like changing weather. There’s nothing wrong with that. However, Chinese medicine acknowledges that chronic emotional patterns will become harmful to the body. This is a vast area to explore, so let’s keep it simple.
Assuming that you’ll be happy when this or that changes, that you’re a victim of your life, will drain your energy.
Know that you can choose to feel positive emotions right now, and that you don’t have to wait for your external circumstances to change before you can feel better.
Try this: Close your eyes and put your hands on your heart. Breath into your heart and notice how it feels. Next, think of someone or something that you love and that brings you joy. Maybe a specific memory of your pet, or a hug from a loved one, or a scene in a movie that always opens your heart. Feel that feeling as strongly as you can. Love, gratitude and appreciation warms and expands your heart. Hold on to this feeling as long as you can. When something in your life triggers resentful thoughts later that day, return to your heart and see if you can bring those loving feelings back.
Controlling your mind is an important aspect of health in Chinese medicine. Whatever happens to us, we are responsible for our thoughts. Our thoughts can determine whether our lives are heaven or hell. With conscious effort, you can take back control of your thoughts to create a life full of vitality and joy.
You wake up and drag yourself through your day, thinking the same thoughts you thought the day before and the day before that. These tend to be more tired, defeated thoughts because you aren’t consciously infusing them with life.
You wake up and decide who you want to be that day. You’re grateful for another opportunity to live, and you’re grateful for whatever comes your way, because you are alive. You notice when you react with a cynical or sarcastic or judgmental thought, and you choose to stop and think something that ultimately makes you feel better. Ultimately, this is about how you want to feel, and you want to feel more energy and vitality, right? What thoughts create that for you?
How do you feel after reading Part 1? How is your breathing? Are you feeling optimistic about creating more vitality in your life? If you're feeling stressed or overwhelmed or resistant or hopeless, just notice that, and then consciously choose to continue feeling that way or to try something else on today. Hundreds of books have been written about these topics, so if one of these resonates with you, I hope you can let it be a jumping off point to further exploration.
In Part Two, we'll get our of our heads a bit and explore how our environment and diet can affect our energy level, and some simple steps you can take to increase your vitality.