Whether or not you got COVID-19, 2020 did not feel like a healthy year. Our hands were constantly dry from constant washes and hand sanitizer. We avoided walking and standing too close to each other like...the plague. We’ve been living in constant fear of each and every little cough, sneeze, and sore throat. 2020 was not a happy year for the world. And it was not a healthy one.
We now know that this pandemic will be continuing in 2021. However, we’re past the surprise we used to feel when quarantine and restrictions continued month after month. We’re better prepared to face this situation.
February 12th marks an important day in Chinese culture: The Chinese New Year.
2021 is the Year of the Ox. Just as oxen are hardworking, consistent, and humble, the Year of the Ox holds up those that work in the background, the quiet leaders, the ones who think logically and persevere, never expecting praise or seeking to be the center of attention. What fitting values to meditate on, in times such as these.
As we embark on this new year, consider some of these traditional Chinese medicine tips and pieces of advice. The pandemic might not be over, but we can still strive to live this year as healthily and contentedly as possible.
1 - Improve the Quality of your Sleep: Go to Bed Earlier
Aim to go to sleep around 10-10:30 pm. The traditional Chinese medicine’s 24-hour circadian clock tells us when it’s best to do certain life-sustaining activities, such as going to sleep each night. It’s crucial to be asleep between 11 pm and 3 am, in order to ensure sufficient liver and gallbladder organ health and general body repair.
In case you’re curious about what the rest of the TCM clock suggests, here is a breakdown of the recommended schedule:
5 am to 7 am: Large Intestines
Wake up, go to the bathroom, and detox.
7 am to 9 am: Stomach
Eat a complete, balanced breakfast.
11 am to 1 pm: Heart
Fill up with positivity from a good lunch and socialization with friends, family, or coworkers.
3 pm to 5 pm: Bladder
Hydrate throughout the day, but especially during this time with water and tea.
7 pm to 9 pm: Pericardium
Calm down before bed, both physically and mentally with stretching and meditation. Avoid the bright light of your phone.
11 pm to 1 am: Gallbladder
Get a good 7-8 hours of sleep and let your body rejuvenate for the next day!
2 - Protect yourself from Pathogens: Keep your Neck and Feet Warm
According to traditional Chinese medicine, wind and cold weather bring disease with them. One way to protect yourself from letting these pathogens in is to keep the back of your neck and the soles of your feet covered and warm.
The back of your neck is very vulnerable to bacteria and viruses, while your feet contain many points where energy flows, meaning balance can easily be achieved or lost if not properly cared for. Try to avoid walking barefoot on cold surfaces and keep a scarf handy for wind and air conditioning and you should feel much better.
3 - Conserve your Body’s Energy: Drink Room-Temperature Water
Cold drinks can be a shock on your warm-loving stomach. In fact, drinking cold fluids can even slow down your digestion, which can lead to bloating and excessive gas. Avoid drastic changes to the temperature in your stomach by drinking room-temperature water and skipping the ice.
4 - Avoid Stagnation: Incorporate Mindful Movement into your Workout
According to TCM, the best exercise is the most mindful and sustainable. That is why heavy, intensive exercise isn’t usually recommended by Chinese medicine practitioners. This isn’t to say that exercise isn’t an important part of a healthy lifestyle. A stagnant life causes imbalance and leads to pain.
Mindful movement can include Tai chi, stretching, yoga, walking, qigong, and even light jogging. These activities are much more sustainable to do consistently than hard workouts like Cross Fit! The goal of exercise in traditional Chinese medicine is less about getting fit and more about getting your blood circulating. Each of these activities will do the trick.
5 - Treat Muscle Pain Ideally: Apply Heat to Soreness and Injuries
One of the main reasons we need our blood to circulate adequately is to encourage healing in areas where our body has fallen out of balance and disease or injury have occured. If you are feeling sore after a workout or because of a muscle injury, TCM generally recommends applying heat in order to feel better.
Ice tends to tense up our muscles and slow down the blood. It might feel good in the moment because of its numbing effect, it won’t actually help with healing, since we need our circulatory system to get the right white blood cells to come in and help.
6 - Encourage Inner Balance: Drink Wellness-Inducing Tea
Naturally, herbology is a highly-recommended aspect of traditional Chinese medicine and wellness. There are almost as many formulas for herbal teas and tinctures as there are TCM herbalists. However there are some herbs that pop up over and over again in the most popular herbal teas.
Ginseng is an immune system modulator, an antioxidant, an anti-inflammatory agent, and a supplement that helps the body be resistant to microbes.
On the other hand, ginseng also helps to boost mood, increase energy, and prevent insomnia.
Reishi mushrooms increase the white blood cell count and in turn helps the immune system, as well as lowering inflammation. People also drink reishi mushroom tea to help with fatigue, depression, high blood pressure, and cholesterol.
Astragalus root also works to boost the immune system in a variety of ways. This Chinese herbal tea can be taken to treat sleeplessness and insomnia as well. There is plenty of research to show how astragalus helps prevent upper respiratory tract infections and keep you feeling well year-long.
7 - Participate in Preventative Medicine: Schedule Regular Acupuncture Sessions
A lot of people have tried acupuncture for specific ailments, such as muscle and nerve injuries, back pain, and postoperative-related nausea and vomiting. While these are excellent reasons to book an acupuncture session, you might consider preventative acupuncture. That’s actually how acupuncture has traditionally been practiced.
Consistent acupuncture appointments can help build up your immune system in order to prevent disease, as well as manage other ongoing ailments, such as depression, high blood pressure, and menstrual cramps.
8 - Get in Tune with your Environment: Eat Locally and Seasonally
Harmony and balance are key tenets of all traditional Chinese medicine. Not only should you strive to be in balance internally, but externally as well. When building your ideal diet to promote wellbeing, consider adding ingredients that are found locally in your area and fresh for whatever season you’re in.
Food loses a lot of nutrients when picked unripe, preserved harshly, or transported over large distances. Eating seasonally and locally helps maintain balance between your body and planet, while improving food quality and helping the environment while you’re at it.
Another aspect of eating seasonally is the affect different food has on your body during different types of weather. When the weather is hot, such as in summer, watermelon and cucumber are advised to cool us down. When it is very dry, hydrating food like snow peas and honey are suggested. The cold of winter and fall require beef, shrimp and bitter food to warm us up from the inside out. Spicy food eases the discomfort of a cold and wet climate.
9 - Restore Peace: Meditate and Breathe
2020 had most of us feeling cooped up and isolated, not to mention stressed and frustrated. While this might not be indicative of a virus or bacterial-related illness, it is still an indication that the body is not in balance. Meditation and mindful breathing can be just as effective as medicinal treatments for bringing the body back to harmony.
TCM practitioners recommend taking a little bit of time every day to look inward and calm our minds. This isn’t an easy habit to make in the rush and pressure of the 21st century. Here are some tips for quieting your thoughts:
- Meditate in a quiet, positive, and distraction-free environment.
- Start small. Try to sit calmly for a few minutes at a time and work up to a half hour, or more if you find you’re enjoying the benefits.
- Build it into your daily routine. Any habit is easier to build when practiced at the same time every day.
- Use something tangible like rhythmic breathing to focus your meditation. Inhale, pause, exhale, pause. Make each cycle last about 15 seconds and repeat.
10 - Sweeten your Diet Healthily: Eat Honey
Honey is an amazing creation. It’s a much better alternative than processes sugar for sweetening drinks and meals. It almost never spoils. Honey kills germs. It boosts digestive functions. Honey can even reduce bleeding and prevent infections when applied to wounds.
Add this magical substance to your diet and start feeling better.
11 - Balance More than your Body: Plan your Meals According to TCM Principles
There is an old Chinese saying that recommends “eating a full breakfast, a nutritious lunch, and a small dinner.” This means you absolutely can’t skip breakfast. Your lunch should be balanced, local, and seasonal. You can afford to keep dinner small and easy-to-digest.
12 - Feed yourself the Right Medicine: Ingest High-Quality Food
In fact, you may have noticed that food pops up quite a bit when discussing how to live a healthy life according to traditional Chinese medicine. What we eat is one of the things we have most control over when it comes to our bodies and minds. TCM practitioners say that “food is medicine.” Whole food, probiotic-rich food, and a balance of cool and warm (yin and yang) foods will work wonders to improve your overall sense of wellness.
13 - Boost your Immune System Naturally: Try Chinese Medicine Herbs
Since Chinese medicine promotes prevention of illness more than treatment, you can bet that the immune system plays a very important role in improving wellbeing. Wouldn’t you prefer to not get sick in the first place? Here are some natural herbal remedies and ingredients that boost immunity:
- Rose Flower & Rose Buds
- Chrysanthemum Flowers
14 - Treat your Largest Organ Kindly: Achieve Clear and Radiant Skin
The natural herbs and remedies that play a central role in TCM can also help maintain healthy, clear skin.
Pearl powder, for example, hydrates your skin, reduces melanin production, and acts as an antioxidant.
Ginseng root also has brightening properties in addition to all its other medicinal benefits. Prevent damage from UV light, enhance collagen, and ease the signs of aging with this herbal supplement.
You can incorporate herbal remedies for skin care as topical treatments or even in Chinese tea. While it’s always recommended to consult with a specialist for your specific skin care needs, some general ingredients that can help include turmeric, oregano, echinacea, olive leaf, and green tea.
15 - Don’t Stop: Seek Continuous Balance Between Yin and Yang
Achieving balance between yin and yang is a lifelong process. Diet, lifestyle, herbal remedies, mindfulness, activities, treatments, and supplements all contribute to living your best, healthiest life.
Traditional Chinese medicine isn’t known for producing immediate results, like many of Western pharmaceuticals do. Therefore, be careful to keep up your healthy lifestyle long enough to see and feel the benefits. With time, you’ll undoubtedly enjoy the benefits of living harmoniously with your body, mind, and environment.