What are your hopes for this year? Want to feel healthier? Eat better? Get in shape? Try new things? Have better relationships? Me too! And I'm planning on using acupuncture to achieve all of it!
Not literally. I'm not going to go for an acupuncture treatment and walk out with glowing skin, a six pack, and resolved childhood issues. But, I am going to allow the tenets of acupuncture to influence my attitude and actions so that I can live optimally in 2015.
In the same way we talk about practicing yoga or practicing meditation, you can practice acupuncture. You can use the theories of acupuncture to help guide the decisions you make every day that ultimately determine your physical and emotional health.
Here are 15 ways you can incorporate acupuncture into your life -- and soar to new heights -- in 2015.
1. Put down your phone.
Acupuncture can help alleviate a modern epidemic from which many of us suffer: compulsive phone checking. At the root of obsessive phone checking is uneasiness with solitude, uncertainty about what we might find if we spend too much time in quiet spaces. We reflexively reach for our phones because we lack the confidence that tells us we alone are enough.
Acupuncture, in essence, forces us to put down the phone. It demands that we pay attention to the things we've gotten used to blocking out. It does not take away or add anything. Rather, it challenges us to wrap our heads around the idea that we already possess everything we need to be okay.
This article has four acupuncture-inspired tips for stopping compulsive phone checking.
2. Buy less stuff.
The idea that we already possess everything we need to be okay is a big one. In addition to helping us spend less time on our phones, this key principle from acupuncture can help us manage our ever-growing piles of stuff.
SUVs, flat-screen TVs, DVDs, clothes, more clothes, clothes for our dogs, hats, shoes, bags, iPhones, iPods, iPads, iMacs, kitchen appliances, bathroom appliances, toys, video games... The list goes on.
Bombarded by advertising and peer pressure, we become convinced that we need these things. And then we need another. This epidemic of stuff creates an ongoing cycle that perpetuates feelings of dissatisfaction, since nothing is ever enough, and warps our perspective on how to care for ourselves.
Acupuncture can help reverse the trend of unbridled excess. Rather than focusing on what's not there, and adding stuff in order to fill the gap, acupuncture takes what's already there and rearranges it into something positive.
3. Take up yoga.
There's a reason so many yogis are into acupuncture. The two disciplines have a lot in common, in their intentions and outcomes. A shared sensibility pervades acupuncture and yoga, attracting people who are curious about the intersection of physical, emotional, and spiritual healing.
Practicing yoga, much like receiving acupuncture, helps draw energy out of your mind and into your body. It heightens awareness such that you become more attuned to the clues your body gives about what's ailing you and how you can heal yourself.
More practically speaking, yoga stretches acupuncture meridians throughout the body, which helps regulate the flow that acupuncture strives to restore and maintain. For more detail on this, read this article about downward-facing dog from an acupuncture perspective.
4. Stop blaming people.
A foundational concept in acupuncture, Yin-Yang theory, can help us navigate the challenges we wrestle with in relationships.
An oversimplification of Yin-Yang theory is that something can only be understood in relation to the whole -- or, context determines reality. Acupuncturists use Yin and Yang to determine how one thing functions in relation to another. Those determinations are based on the defining characteristics of Yin and Yang.
This article explores the concepts and characteristics of Yin and Yang in detail, but here's the bottom line as it pertains to relationships: You contribute to the less-than-desirable qualities exhibited by your partner and other people in your life. Try and remember this next time your partner, sister, friend, or coworker is pushing your buttons.
5. Celebrate differences in relationships.
Acupuncture can help not only with taking ownership for our role in challenging relationship dynamics, but also with appreciating our differences.
Every single person's experience in and of the world is unique. Acupuncture celebrates this diversity by eschewing the one-size-fits all model that dominates mainstream healthcare. Mainstream medicine is premised on the idea of intervention -- isolating symptoms and suppressing them with an external substance -- so diversity is discouraged rather than embraced. The model is set up to favor repeating patterns.
In contrast, acupuncture works with each individual's distinctive constitution and circumstances to arrive at his or her own definition of health.
6. Choose heat over ice.
People who are in pain often wonder, "Should I use heat or ice?" Heat is the answer almost every time.
From an acupuncture perspective, many pain conditions are caused by stagnation. Things are not moving smoothly through the channels, causing blockages that lead to pain. Acupuncture restores flow, helping to eliminate these blockages. Looking at pain in this way, ice is counterproductive -- it causes things to remain stagnant and slows down the healing process.
7. Embrace change.
Change is hard for most of us because we delude ourselves into believing that we can anticipate outcomes of the things we're accustomed to. When things change, we don't like it because now we can't predict the outcomes. In an attempt to stay in control of our inherently out-of-control lives, we seek cut-and-dried explanations.
But change doesn't have to be scary or threatening, and it doesn't have to detract from your power. In fact, in acupuncture theory, change is the primary ingredient for becoming a healthier person. We are getting better as long as we are no longer the same. Next time you're faced with a change, remember that it's actually a sign that you're moving forward.
8. Experiment with acupressure.
You can perform acupressure on yourself and loved ones any time, any place, whenever it works for you. In addition to providing symptomatic relief on its own, acupressure can significantly reinforce the effects of acupuncture treatments. And it's free and completely safe!
9. Practice patience.
Acupuncture is not quick fix. It is not a one-shot deal. The effects of acupuncture are cumulative and therefore take time and patience. But the very reason many people avoid acupuncture -- because it takes too long -- is actually one of its biggest assets.
We must slow down in order to listen to what our bodies really need. When we slow down, we begin to notice things that we didn't see before. For example: When I walk, my left foot feels heavier than my right. When I eat before 8 a.m., I get heartburn.
Acupuncture highly values these seemingly insignificant details. They are the clues that overtime help us piece together the origin of our physical and emotional struggles.
10. Go out for a walk.
Even if it's just around the block, taking a walk can go a long way. Like acupuncture, walking awakens and engages all the meridians that flow throughout the body. When you go for a walk, you let your whole body take a deep breath and reset itself.
Movement of any kind is good, but there's something about walking that is at once invigorating and restorative. It does not require athleticism, excessive amounts of energy, or demanding postures. Walking gently lulls the body into its natural rhythm.
11. Honor the seasons.
In our fast-paced lives, we tend to move from season to season without giving it much thought. But in acupuncture theory, humans are viewed as microcosms of the natural world that surrounds them, so the change of seasons is a big deal.
Seasons -- particularly the transitional periods, when we go from one season to the next -- factor significantly into how we feel. They can influence our physical health as well as our moods, energy levels, and sleep.
12. Eat good food.
Acupuncture helps eliminate toxins. Don't knowingly put them back in by eating poor-quality food.
The "right" diet is different for everyone, but regardless of your preferences, it's valuable to think about food as sustenance. Eating is an opportunity to heal your body, or to keep it healthy if it already is. When we conceive of food as sustenance, processed food and other junk become less appealing.
So, imagine the foods that would make you feel nourished and healthy, then go eat them. Check out this article on what to eat in fall and winter.
13. Let go.
Acupuncture teaches us to let go of the things that hold us back. We all have them. A medical diagnosis. A procrastination habit. A co-dependent relationship. A storied past. An intense love of ice cream. In one way or another, these things prevent us from moving forward. However, they also become part of our identity, which makes them difficult to abandon.
By offering a new lens, one that accepts these things as part of our contextual makeup rather than demonizing them as something to be ashamed of, acupuncture empowers us to ultimately let them go. Acupuncture gathers all of our experiences into a complete underlying pattern of disharmony. The goal of treatment is not to merely mask symptoms but rather to change the root pattern that allows symptoms to flourish.
14. Take on challenges.
It takes courage to go against the grain. Many doctors, as well as some family, friends and colleagues, regard mainstream medicine as the only acceptable form of healthcare. Add to that the barrage of pharmaceutical advertising, influential insurance companies, and sensationalized media messages about alternative approaches to health. It's difficult to make certain choices in the face of such powerful forces.
Healing through acupuncture requires a conscious commitment to understanding yourself in a way that the majority shuns. It means thinking independently. It demands a willingness to go your own way. That's not easy, but you can do it.
15. Get acupuncture.
This is an obvious one, but important to remember. One of the greatest beauties of acupuncture is its ability to influence our lives beyond the moments spent in treatment rooms. As evidenced by the 14 points above, acupuncture can be incorporated into your life without ever getting poked by a needle. The theory of acupuncture on its own is enough to inspire significant shifts in mindset and behavior.
However, if you want to cultivate the tenets of acupuncture in your life in 2015, getting an acupuncture treatment is a fantastic way to initiate the process -- and periodic treatments can help keep you on course throughout the year.
So, whether as a new-year jump start or a series of regular tune ups, treat yourself to acupuncture this year. It's one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself. If you don't already have an acupuncturist, find one in the AcuTake Acupuncturist Directory.