Acupuncture and TCM for Motivation
A study published by the Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine looked at the holistic effects of acupuncture treatments. The study looked at how acupuncture treatments were conducted and evaluated. One of the areas this study looked at is how acupuncture influences the function of the brain. By using functional MRI imaging, the researchers were able to see certain areas of the brain were stimulated during the acupuncture treatments. The anterior insula and striatum, areas involved in motivation processing, were very responsive to the treatments. The study confirmed acupuncture on specific points can activate motivation centers in the brain, thus leading to increased physical motivation in the participants. Everybody experiences times where they have no motivation. Lack of motivation can be caused by many things: weather, depression, nutritional deficiencies, rejection and even not exercising. Lacking motivation can be detrimental to your health. Even though everybody knows they should be exercising and eating right and getting proper sleep, many of us choose not to. This becomes a bad habit that can actually develop into depression, fatigue, insomnia and even nutritional deficiencies that can cause even worse physical problems. We tell ourselves we don’t have time or we have no motivation or willpower. These are just stories we tell ourselves. EVERYBODY has time to care for themselves. It’s just a choice we have to make. Acupuncture can help put the pep back in your step when it comes to motivation. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), lack of motivation is considered some sort of blockage along the energetic pathways that run throughout the body. Most commonly, this affects the gallbladder and liver pathways. Over time, this lack of motivation frequently develops into depression. When the body is depressed, nothing seems possible. But the fact of the matter is that, there are underlying causes to depression that begin with the lack of motivation.
The reason TCM works so well at addressing and correcting motivation problems is because it addresses the body holistically. When people go to their doctor and tell them that they have no motivation, they are frequently prescribed antidepressants. But the problem with antidepressants is they don’t address the underlying causes of the issue. TCM looks at everything: the body, the mind, the environment and the emotions. This allows for treatments to be customized to the needs of the patient instead of a one size fits all approach. As mentioned, the liver and gallbladder pathways are most commonly associated with lack of motivation. When either or both of these pathways become blocked, motivation dissipates and people become depressed. One of the first things that happens is emotions become involved and send signals to the digestive tract. This is why many times, people who lack motivation or who have developed depression have no appetite. Energy comes from eating healthy foods. But when we have no appetite, we tend to crave things like sweets and carbohydrates because they give us the “emotional high” that temporarily sedates the depression and lack of motivation. But this quickly goes away and we end up right back where we started. The gallbladder pathway is important when motivation is lost. The gallbladder pathway is associated with courage and decisiveness. Lack of motivation causes most people to not be decisive. The inability to decide or act or the lack of motivation to act is associated with a weakness of the gallbladder system. Regular acupuncture treatments can help with this issue, as well as moving energy along both the liver and gallbladder pathways, thus restoring balance to the body and increasing motivation.
New York Sports Acupuncture
Dr. Bishara Wilson, DACM, L.Ac.
Five Self Care Tips for Winter
Traditional Chinese medicine teaches that humans should live in harmony with the seasons. According to traditional Chinese medicine there are five seasons: winter, spring, summer, late summer and fall. Each season has many associations that help us change our habits, allowing for a more balanced mind and body. When these systems were being developed, people were living in harmony with nature. People rose with the sun, ate what was available during the different seasons and they were much more aware of their natural environment. What to wear, when to wake up, when to go to sleep and what activities to engage in were all dependent on the weather and the environment. Because of this, people were capable of staying healthy throughout the year and their immune and organ systems were strong enough to ward off disease. 1. Get some rest In TCM, the season of winter is a time of repair and rejuvenation. Winter is associated with the kidneys, which hold the body’s fundamental energies. Rest is important for revitalizing the kidneys.This is why some animals hibernate during the winter months. We should also spend more time resting during the winter months to help prepare our bodies for the months ahead when most people expend more energy. 2. Incorporate self reflection Winter is a really good time to turn inward and do some reflection. Practices like tai chi, qi gong and yoga can be very beneficial during the winter season. These practices help us connect to our inner selves, while supporting the kidney energy. They also help relax the mind and calm our emotions. Things like journaling and meditation are other ways of reflecting during the winter months. Long term, these practices can be very helpful at extending a person’s life. 3. Drink water, lots of water The kidneys are closely associated and ruled by the water element, which is the element associated with winter, so it is important to remember to drink water during wintertime. Drinking room temperature water is a vital step to maintaining sufficient kidney qi throughout the winter months. 4. Eat warm, seasonal foods Choose foods that grow naturally during the winter. Items such as squash, potatoes, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, root vegetables like beets, greens, carrots, mushrooms, apples, pears and cabbage are great. During the winter months, cold foods like salads and raw foods should be avoided as they will deplete the immune system. There are also foods that specifically target and nourish the kidneys, including kidney beans, duck, black beans, lamb, chicken, dark leafy greens, garlic, ginger, walnuts, quinoa, asparagus, celery, onion, fennel, scallions, cloves, watercress and turnips. Sea salt is also helpful, because salty is the taste associated with the kidneys. As with anything, moderation is key. Too much salt can actually tax the heart, which then causes the kidneys to work overtime. 5. Treat yourself to some TCM Traditional Chinese Medicine utilizes numerous modalities and tools to help keep the body balanced and prepped for the seasonal changes. Acupuncture and moxibustion are two of the tools that are regularly used to boost the kidney qi. Moxibustion is a practice where dried mugwort is burned very near the skin to warm and boost the qi within the body. There are certain acupuncture points that are essential for boosting kidney qi. Most are located either on the lower abdomen, below the umbilicus or on the lower back above the hip bones, in the areas of the kidneys. Applying moxibustion to these areas is a wonderful way to boost the energy reserves of the kidneys. When we align ourselves with the natural processes of life and the seasons, our bodies will adjust and perform optimally, just as they are intended to.
New York Sports Acupuncture
Bishara Wilson, DACM, L.Ac.
Potent Organs for Winter
Winter is just one of the five seasons acknowledged by Traditional Chinese Medicine. The ancient Chinese followed the belief that humans should live in harmony with the cycles of nature. During the winter months, the darkness and cold indicate that we should slow down, take care of our health, conserve our strength and replenish our energy for the upcoming spring and summer months. This is observed in the animal kingdom, and it should also be considered a good rule of thumb for human beings.
Each season has multiple associations that help us adjust our habits as things change, which makes it easier to keep the body and mind balanced. Winter is ruled by the water element. The water element is associated with the kidneys and urinary bladder. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine philosophy, the kidneys are the source of all energy found within the body. This energy, frequently called qi (pronounced “chee”), is what keeps us alive and allows our bodies to function properly. During the winter months, it is vital that we nourish and nurture our kidney qi.
Winter is typically a time when we decrease our daily activities. Because of this, we should also decrease the amount of food that we eat to avoid gaining excess weight. It is also recommended that excessively cold and raw foods be avoided or at least countered with things like hot tea. Cold and raw foods can deplete the kidney energy over time. This can lead to problems with digestion, sleep and much more.
It is suggested that during the winter months, we should emphasize foods that are warming to the body. This includes things like soups, stews, root vegetables, beans, garlic and ginger. Also foods like whole grains and roasted nuts can help keep the body’s core warm, while providing healthy nourishment.
The second organ associated with the season of winter is the urinary bladder. The urinary bladder is a reservoir where water in the body collects for disposal. The urinary bladder receives impure or dirty fluids from the small intestine and then further transforms these fluids into urine. The urinary bladder then stores and excretes urine as needed. This function also plays an important role in helping to regulate a person’s blood pressure. The ability to transform the impure fluids depends on the energy of the kidneys.
One of the most important things anybody can do during the winter months to stay healthy is drink plenty of water. Winter, in most places, literally drains the moisture out of the body. It is recommended that we drink at least 64 ounces of water per day, even during the winter months. However, the thought of drinking cold water in cold weather is a concept that tends to keep a lot of people clinically dehydrated during the winter months. This is why warm water with lemon or hot tea are good substitutes. We are still ingesting water, while avoiding the cold that could potentially damage our core.
By following the guidelines set forth by nature, we can also remain in balance with the natural world around us. This is how our ancestors did it and it served them quite well. Perhaps there is something to be learned from the wisdom our elders passed down through the generations.
New York Sports Acupuncture
Dr. Bishara Wilson, DACM, L.Ac.