Happy Valentine’s Day! Did you know that according to Chinese Medicine the Heart’s season is summer? So why celebrate Valentine’s Day in February? There are many good reasons to spend time focusing on your heart in the middle of winter. This tends to be the time of year people feel most down and depressed, especially those that suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). The lack of sunlight and cold, dreary days can wear our spritits down if we aren’t careful. Having a celebration of the heart during the winter is an opportunity to keep our body healthy and spirit joyful.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), there are more aspects to the organs than just the physical function they perform. They each belong to one of five elements - fire, water, air, metal, or wood. The element that the organ is associated with determines some of characteristics including mental and emotional qualities and an alignment with aspects of nature and the seasons.
Like in Western Medicine, the heart is in charge of circulating blood through our blood vessels. In TCM it also houses the Shen, which can be translated as spirit, mind, and consciousness. If your shen is balanced, you will have a healthy complexion with radiant eyes that are clear and bright. You will also be mentally clear and have a good memory. Sleep will be sound and you’ll feel well rested.
If you have too much fire, you will have symptoms such as restlessness, anxiety, sweating, palpitations, irregular heart beat, disturbing dreams, mouth sores, thirst, red face, constipation, and dryness. If you look at your tongue and the tip is red, this is an indication of too much heat in the heart. This is often caused by stress, grief, or worry. Overjoy is also an imbalance of the heart and leads to manic behaviour. If you don’t have enough fire you would have symptoms like a lusterless complexion, low energy, depression, feeling cold/poor circulation, and low libido. You can also have a lack of drive, joy or compassion, or have a hard time connecting with others or with your inner-self.
Without a healthy heart our bodies and minds can’t function properly. The fire element can be bolstered by connecting to yourself and others. This is a great time of year to share special moments with friends, family, and loved ones to bolster the heart and keep away the dreariness outside. It is also a good time to spend time alone to reflect, relax and appreciate the beauty around us.
Eat Red Foods: Most red foods are considered warm in nature and can help build the heart fire energy in our bodies. They are especially good for people with cold symptoms like cold limbs, pale face, anemia, muscle weakness and heart palpitations. Some specific foods that would be good this time of year are: tomatoes, red meat, red beans, beets, radish, red lentils, chili, egg yolks, chocolate, coffee, and black tea (caffeine in moderation).
Bring Joy into your Life: This is a great time of year to go see a funny movie, play, or comedy show with friends, family, and/or loved ones. It is also important to do things alone that you enjoy, like walking in nature and creative hobbies. Make sure you have fun on a regular basis, even if you have to schedule it in at first. Focus on what brings joy to your heart and cultivate it.
Stimulate CV17 acupoint. Place your hand in the center of your chest, right hand over left. Imagine your heart beating underneath your hands. Make slow, gentle circles in both directions to massage the point while relaxing your body and breathing deeply. Smile.
Move Your Body Everyday: Regular movement is great to help blood circulation and boost your energy. Aim for at least 30min a day and try to vary your routine with cardio, strength, and mobility exercises. Be careful with intense exercise this time of year since the winter months are a time for restoration. Make sure you combine high intensity activities with things like walking, yoga, taichi, and stretching. This is a great time of year to focus on slowly and gently building up strength, stamina, and stability so you’ll be ready for the seasons of increased activity in the spring and summer.
Get Acupuncture! Acupuncture can help lower blood pressure, decrease heart rate, improve circulation, reduce stress and anxiety, and calm the mind. Other healing modalities like massage, reiki, and chiropractic can also be helpful.
Make Your Heart Happy
Fire Element Relationships
Viscera: Small Intestine
Tissue: Blood Vessels
Live Your Passion: If there’s something that you’re passionate about do it! This could be as simple as making time to read everyday, singing in the church choir, joining a local recreational sports league, or writing poetry. Think about what you enjoyed doing when you were younger or something you always thought would be fun, but haven't tried yet. If there’s something that you miss, make time for it. If you don’t have a special passion, that’s OK too. Try a few things you’re interested in and see if something clicks.
Create a Warm and Loving Connection with Yourself: Happiness and love bring peace to your heart. You can often find it with other people or pets you are close to in your life, but you need to find it with yourself too. If this is something you struggle with you can work with a therapist to explore a deeper connection. You could also try a meditation or qigong course in person or online that can help move energetic obstructions and let you connect deeper with yourself. There are also a number of books, podcasts, and videos put out by spiritual teachers to help you with this topic. One of my favorite books, and a great place to start, is “Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha” by Tara Branch.
Be of Service to Others: A great way to open and expand your heart is by helping others. Find something you’re interested in and volunteer, even if it’s just for an hour or two every month. Your heart will thank you for it.
Before bed write down five things you’re grateful for that day. Spend a few minutes before falling asleep thinking about those things while smiling and taking long deep breaths. Feel the peace this brings to your heart and mind.
Take a few minutes every day to smile and laugh, even by yourself! This may seem silly, but it can actually boost your mood and help you feel happier.
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