If you’re feeling an occasional bout of mental disharmony, pondering the unity of the cosmos (the heavens) and humanity may not provide all the solutions to your problems. But doing just that is the foundation of traditional Chinese medicine and may help unlock clues that reveal the underlying causes of why you’re not feeling your absolute best today.
In TCM theory, there are six “sentimental changes” or emotions:
TCM Basic Theory For Emotions
Obviously, it would be great if each and every day, we could experience only the first bullet point. But just as the heavens are full of chaos—meteor strikes, exploding stars, solar flares—our lives needless to say operate at times in a state of helter-skelter. It’s the state of your internal body and spirit that determines your mental well-being.
According to TCM theory, each of these sentimental changes reflect your mental state and are associated with a particular internal organ system and element. Joy is associated with Heart; Anger with Liver; Fright and Terror with Kidney; Worry/Anxiousness with Spleen; and Grief with the Lung meridian.
These five organs aren’t the only systems in TCM theory. But they do represent the Zang organs, which are tangible, visceral organs that produce and store Qi (energy) in the body. But that’s not all Zang organs are responsible for. They also manufacture and house the Blood and other precious bodily fluids as well as your Jing (think of Jing as your body’s energy savings account) and Shen (loosely translated as “spirit”).
It’s part of the human experience to feel negative emotions from time to time. But unexplainable or prolonged sadness can indicate an imbalance of one of the five Zang organs.
How Negative Emotions Impact Mental Harmony in TCM
It sounds easier said than done to learn how to balance your emotions in order to support mental well-being. Western culture has increasingly turned to the Orient for stress-management techniques, including meditation, Tai-Chi, and Qi Gong.
Western culture has increasingly turned to the Orient for stress-management techniques, including meditation, Tai-Chi, and Qi Gong.
But what is still relatively rare in the west is knowing how TCM views the origins of unchecked negative emotions and their negative consequences. For example, excessive anger pushes Qi upwards. (This is why irascible individuals are called “hot-headed.”)
But Qi can also be driven in the opposite direction in the case of excessive fright or terror. And sometimes, Qi can come to a standstill (stagnation) in the case of excessive joy.
While we all wish to feel joyful, feeling overly ecstatic can disrupt Yin/Yang harmony. When excessive joy occurs, just as too many drivers merging at the same time at rush hour causes a freeway log-jam, Qi is slowed down to a crawl. (So be happy, but not too happy.)
If you’re constantly feeling grief, you will eventually exhaust your supply of Qi; there will be no “vehicles” in your energy highway system [meridians] to move your Qi and Blood along.
So how can we avoid excessive grief and anxiousness, which is a prerequisite to mental harmony?
How TCM Supports Mental Balance
Mental harmony is predicated on several factors including how much exercise you get, whether or not you have socially-fulfilling interactions and even the weather. If you live in the Pacific Northwest, where the sun hardly shines for half of the year, it’s easy to see why you can feel out of sorts. But even if you live in a rainforest in near social isolation, you may still be able to support your mental balance with traditional Chinese herbs.
A skilled TCM practitioner, after a thorough holistic evaluation of a patient, will attempt to bring balance to affected organ systems.
For example, if a patient tells a TCM doctor that they are experiencing grief, the practitioner will know that extended grief will cause an imbalance to the Lung organ system. Qi will be deficient and not move freely to the other organs. As a result, the patient will eventually have a pale complexion and poor digestion among other clinical observations.
With this scenario, the TCM doctor would recommend herbs that disperse Qi from the Lungs to other organs and other herbs that dissolve excess phlegm/dampness to improve digestion.
Speaking of digestion, the Spleen is the chief organ system responsible for transforming nutrients from food into Qi. And considering that TCM theory believes that excessive worry originates in the Spleen (not the same Spleen as western medicine), it’s easy to see the connection between mental disharmony affects digestion. For this reason, one way in which TCM supports mental balance is by supporting digestive function.
But after negative emotions originate in the Spleen, they tend to ripen in the Heart, according to TCM. The Heart houses the human spirit (Shen). In light of this, it’s easy to see how unresolved anxiousness or pensiveness can crush the spirit. TCM, then, supports mental balance by nourishing the Heart.
TCM Formulas That Support Emotional Balance
Based on centuries of usage, EaseTonic, is a Modern Essentials brand that resolves stagnant Qi in the Liver meridian.
NeuroSoothe invigorates the Spirit (shen) and calms overactive Heart Qi. Other formulas that may provide balance to the Heart system are MooDelight and SpiritCalm
If you need extra digestive support in order to encourage mental well-being, we recommend SpleenVive.
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