We all want to be healthy and happy. Good health and happiness are perhaps the two single most important, worthwhile and universal goals any human being could want to attain in life.
As a student of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), I’ve learned that the most important principles for achieving and maintaining good physical and mental health are balance and moderation in all things.
Not too much. Not too little. Take the middle road.
I know this may sound too Eastern for many of my Western-thinking friends. But there’s a lot of wisdom in this middle-of-the-road approach.
And this approach is reflected in each of the four aspects to preserving good health, as described in the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine.
1. Nurturing the mind
It’s quite natural for us to feel different emotions at different times in response to changes in our environment.
However, an emphasis on one particular emotion will disrupt the natural cycles of energy transformation and circulation within our body. Over a period of time, this can lead to physical and mental imbalances, and even serious diseases.
In particular, over-excitement harms the heart, anger harms the liver, sadness harms the lungs, pensiveness harms the spleen, and fear harms the kidneys.
So to maintain good health, we need to keep our mind calm and emotions balanced. Mind-body exercises such as yoga, meditation, Qigong and Tai Chi are all good tools to help harmonize our mind and emotions.
2. Engaging in proper physical exercise
Physical movements are essential for good health. Not enough exercise, or too much exercise, can create undue stress and imbalance within our body.
If you’re like me, someone who sits in front of the computer for hours and engages in a lot of mental activities, getting physical is absolutely essential to maintain balance.
3. Maintaining an adequate, balanced diet
TCM emphasizes the balance of our meals through the five flavors: sour, bitter, sweet, spicy and salty.
Sour benefits the liver, but excess harms it.
Bitter benefits the heart, but excess harms it.
Sweet benefits the spleen, but excess harms it.
Spicy benefits the lungs, but excess harms it.
Salty benefits the kidneys, but excess harms it.
Of course, there are other ways to balance our diet, too, such as balancing hot and cold temperatures, balancing the colors, and balancing the various types of foods.
4. Adapting to the ever-changing environmental conditions
We’re a part of nature. So to maintain good health, we need to live in harmony with the changing seasons and other environmental influences.
In the spring and summer, one is more active, pouring energy outward. And in the autumn and winter, one needs to conserve energy, becoming more inwardly reflective.
This is also true with regards to women’s menstrual cycles. In the first half of the cycle, women are more active and expressive. And in the second half of the cycle, women are more withdrawn and reflective.
When we live in accordance with these natural rhythms, we create harmony in our lives. Otherwise, disharmony can result.
Creating balance and harmony in our daily lives can be challenging, but it’s certainly worthwhile. In fact, it’s essential to attain good health and happiness.
I’m by no means a master in the art of balance and harmony. Every day I feel like a humble student in the big classroom of life.
I’m learning. So are you. So are all of us. I hope we can all share what we’ve learned, and support one another to live in peace, joy and harmony.