by Nicole Johnson, MFA, CHHC | Acupuncture, Adrenal Fatigue, Fatigue, Health and Wellness, Insomnia, Nutrition
The holiday season is upon us. With it comes shorter days, longer hours of dark and for some of us, a struggle to feel balanced. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) –produced by the reduced sunlight in the Northern hemisphere this time of year– does impact how we feel. The recent time change combined with the colder weather and gray skies might make us feel fatigued, lacking motivation, and an overall sense of feeling down. The Vitamin D produced in our bodies after exposure to sunlight, plays an important role in regulating our mood and well-being.
What can we do to improve our mood, energy, and happiness as the days get shorter and the night gets longer?
Here are 7 ways to shine your light in this season of Yin.
1. Nourish the YIN.
Be gentle with yourself this time of year. In Chinese medicine, the winter is a time to slow down, rest and sleep more. We are moving into the deeper YIN time of the year, where the element of Metal is present.
Fall: Metal, Lung, Grief
The color associated with Metal is white, the organ is the Lung, and the emotion is Grief. Regardless of how you feel overtly, there has been a tremendous amount of collective grief the past number of years. We have a lot to grieve. Honoring this, feeling this, validating this is important to our vitality. It’s OKAY and imperative to grieve and grieve well.
2. Emphasize hearty, warm and nourishing foods
This helps us stay in sync with the season, connected, and grounded. If you are sleeping more and eating a bit more, remember that this is a natural part of your body’s rhythm for this time of year.
As you may know (or suspect) Acupuncture helps regulate mood, balance hormones, and put the body into “rest and digest” mode, bringing a sense of balance & peaceful contentment. It reconnects the body, mind and spirit. Acupuncture sessions can support the lungs both physically and energetically and help you process grief.
Just as the sun breaks the horizon, go outside. Look around the sun – trace your eyes like a clock – this helps reset your circadian rhythm. Think of it as relighting your inner flame with the light of the sun. As the days get darker our light will shine brighter.
5. Try a sun lamp
They are most effective when set 20 inches from your face and used for 20-30 minutes in the morning. Sun Lamps mimic natural sunlight and give the body the impression of being out in the sun. This helps improve mood when used consistently.
6. Walk outside even when it’s cloudy
Getting outside to get some natural light even if it’s not bright and sunny in combination with exercise helps improve mood. An hour walk in the morning works wonders to elevate mood but even 10 minutes a day makes a difference.
7. Take some Vitamin D
You can test your vitamin D levels to see where you’re at. Supplement to ensure you’re getting enough. (Please check with your MD before starting any new supplements.)
In this season of Yin, shine your light.
by Nicole Johnson, MFA, CHHC | Integrative Therapy, Prevention
There is nothing more important than having a positive attitude. The attitude you display toward your day-to-day activities can make a huge difference in improving the quality of your life. Positivity helps to ensure everything functions harmoniously.
Here’s how to allow the enhancing effects of positivity to start impacting your day as soon as possible. Start your day by letting small amounts of sunlight into your room, enjoying a cup of warming herbal tea and just reflecting on what it is you plan to accomplish today. A simple morning routine such as this can boost productivity and positivity throughout the day. (more…)
by Nicole Johnson, MFA, CHHC | Education, Illness, Immune Health, Pain Management
Large Intestine 4 is one of the most important and influential points in the entire body.
The Chinese name for Large Intestine 4 is “He Gu” meaning union valley or converging valley. The point is located on the hand in the web between the thumb and index finger, also described as the depression where the index finger and thumb bones part. This area of the hand is often described as “valley like” hence the name converging valley.
The large intestine has many important functions in the body. Connected to the Western medicine function of the large Intestine, it is vital in digestion and bowel regulation, but it also has many functions above and beyond that in Chinese medicine. The large intestine is associated with the emotions of sadness and grief, it can help build immunity as it works as a paired channel to the lung meridian and has a big effect of the flow of Qi and blood in the body.
Large Intestine 4 is a strong point for building the immune system and can be used for when someone has a cold or the flu. It can be used to treat febrile illnesses, rashes from wind or heat, allergic reactions causing rhinitis, as well as sore throat and difficulty swallowing. It is the command point of the face, nose, jaw and mouth and can be used to treat many problems associated with those. Toothaches and TMJ can be painful, but Large Intestine 4 can reduce the pain without even going near the affected areas. It is one of the main points for headaches and many people instinctively press it on their hand when they have a headache, without even realizing it is an acupuncture point. If someone has suffered a stroke, this point can help with paralysis and aid in recovery.
The large Intestine has a great effect on the flow of qi and blood in the body and Large Intestine 4 is a very strong point to get everything moving. Pain, in Chinese medicine, is often when the Qi and blood are stuck and Large Intestine 4 is critical to move this stagnation, especially when coupled with another point called Liver 3.
Coupled with Liver 3, this pair of points is called The Four Gates and together they are a powerhouse in getting the Qi and blood circulated.
They can effectively treat pain, depression, constipation, promote labor, expel retained placenta and help alleviate menstrual disorders caused by stagnation such as endometriosis.
Large Intestine 4 is contraindicated in pregnancy because it is so powerful and moving, but it can be effectively used to induce labor. Used in conjunction with another powerhouse acupuncture point Spleen 6, these two points are commonly used together to start labor, often with electroacupuncture to stimulate the points even more than needles alone.
Once labor has started, Large Intestine 4 can be used if labor is stalled or prolonged as well as used after childbirth to expel the placenta, decrease postpartum bleeding and decrease the time between childbirth and the discharge of the placenta.
Large Intestine 4 is an exceedingly influential point and one of the most commonly used points in acupuncture treatments.
It can also be effective in treating a range of emotional issues such as depression, insomnia, stress, irritability and severe PMS. This point should not be underestimated and its alternative name of Tiger’s Mouth is barely descriptive of its strength in acupuncture treatments.
by Nicole Johnson, MFA, CHHC | Insomnia, Research
According to a study published in The International Journal of Clinical Practice there is evidence which explains a possible connection between auricular acupuncture and insomnia. The study went on to delve into the possible benefits auricular acupuncture can have on insomnia.
As it is known, acupuncture can be an extremely helpful form of treatment in regulating your sleep cycle. It can help you start sleeping peacefully again without the aid of over-the-counter sleep medications.
But, just how well does acupuncture cure major loss of sleep, such as insomnia. Clinical studies, such as this study published by the IJCP, are a way of seeing how the scientific world and the acupuncture world agree or disagree. With not much existing evidence or data on the topic of auricular acupuncture and insomnia, the researchers had to cast a wide net in order to come up with relevant information and statistics. They found mixed results. It was determined that out of the 433 relevant clinical trials studied that auricular acupuncture boasted both favorable and unfavorable results for the treatment of insomnia. Both the evidence of the effectiveness and ineffectiveness of auricular acupuncture are limited. The researchers did not deny the potential effectiveness of the treatment, but stated there should be more research done on the topic.
Photo Credits: ©iStock.com/kirin_photo, ©iStock.com/Naddiya,
by Nicole Johnson, MFA, CHHC | Insomnia, Prevention
Insomnia is a phenomenon almost everybody experiences at some point in their life. And most of us don’t know how or why it happens. Insomnia is defined as difficulty falling asleep, despite being tired. Combating insomnia may be easier than you think. Here are five simple ways to fall asleep faster and stay asleep all night.
1. Turn off your phone
In today’s society, we are almost surgically attached to our phones, iPads, laptops, etc. And while the devices keep us informed and connected, they are also harm us when it comes to our sleep. Smartphones and other gadgets emit blue wavelengths. These wavelengths suppress the production of melatonin in our bodies. Melatonin is a natural hormone that makes you feel sleepy. Also, the light given off by your devices can actually stimulate the mind, thus causing poor sleep. So as hard as it may be, buy a regular alarm clock and turn off the phone.
2. Keep a sleep schedule
Sleep is just as important to proper health as eating healthy-wholesome foods. In other words, make sleep a priority. You don’t have to give up dinner with friends or that periodic concert, but staying out late every single night will eventually take its toll. Make a sleep schedule and do your best to stick to it. Lack of sleep has been proven to increase blood pressure, depression, weight gain and stress. Why do this to yourself when you don’t have to? Once you set your sleep schedule, your body will react favorably.
How many of us groan when we hear the word “meditation”? Meditation really isn’t difficult but people constantly tell themselves it can’t be done because they can’t shut off their minds. But what most people don’t realize is the goal of meditation is not turning off your mind or your thoughts. Meditation helps you cope better while telling your sympathetic nervous system to relax. When the thoughts come in, you should acknowledge them but do not dwell on them. That’s what meditation helps you do. And there are many different types of meditation. For beginners, guided meditation tends to work best because you are listening to somebody guide you through the journey. Why not give it a try?
4. Bedtime Yoga
Yoga is an ancient Indian practice that combines physical exercise, mental clarity and spiritual beliefs all rolled into one discipline. Bedtime yoga poses are very low-key and quite simple. Utilizing yoga just before going to bed can signal to your brain that slumber time is approaching. Poses such as forward bends, happy baby pose, cross-legged bends and corpse pose all have been shown to help the body prepare for restful sleep. Also for those who are a little more skilled, inversion poses like shoulder stands can help alleviate stress and calm the mind.
Really? Getting poked with needles will help me sleep better? The simple answer is YES! Acupuncture works with your own body to help bring it back into balance. If you have stress, you have an imbalance. Acupuncture needles are strategically placed on points that will calm the mind, balance hormones and settle the nervous system. Most people will notice some change after just one treatment, but to get the full effect and truly eliminate insomnia, you should commit to several treatments. And always seek out a properly trained and fully licensed acupuncturist to get the best results.
There are many other ways to fight insomnia too, but these are some of the best. Give these five methods a try and then focus on the ones that resonate with you. Over time, your body and mind will thank you and there won’t be any harsh side effects…just good sound sleep. Sweet dreams!
by Nicole Johnson, MFA, CHHC | Immune Health, Integrative Therapy, Pain Management, Sports Injuries
Do you ever feel your life’s a ride that won’t ever stop? How many nights do you wait for Mr. Sandman to magically appear? How often do you truly take time for yourself? Do you have aches and pains almost daily? Are over-the-counter or prescription medications controlling your life? When was the last time you actually felt at peace? If any of these questions resonate with you, then it might be time to look at Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture for an answer. People in Asian countries have known the magnificence of acupuncture for thousands of years. Traditional Chinese Medicine is growing in popularity in the United States and here are some reasons why you might want to consider utilizing it also.
1. Insomnia / Restless Sleep
Acupuncture can address imbalances in your body that may contribute to your
inability to get a good night’s sleep. The needles can actually encourage the brain to produce the chemicals that help you relax and sleep better. If you have difficulty falling asleep, you wake up frequently or you toss and turn a lot, acupuncture might just be the missing link.
2. Anxiety / Depression
Thousands of people in the U.S. suffer from depression and anxiety. And while there are many amazing therapists available to talk to, psychotherapy may not be enough. Also, many of the prescription medications available have terrible side effects. This is where acupuncture and Chinese herbal formulas can help. Acupuncture can actually start to relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety in as few as two treatments without any harsh side effects.
Runny nose? Sneezing? Watery, itchy eyes? Does this sound familiar?
Seasonal or otherwise, allergies can be debilitating. But multiple studies have shown that allergy symptoms can be decreased and sometimes even eliminated with the use of regular acupuncture treatments. Immunity begins in the gut and acupuncture treatments for allergies will focus on the energetic meridians that support your immune system.
For those who suffer from these monsters, life can be a toss of the dice. Migraines can come on without warning and can be completely devastating. And yet again, the pharmaceuticals that most migraine sufferers are prescribed can lead to harsh side effects. Acupuncture can reduce the frequency and intensity of migraines over time.
5. Menstruation Issues
Many women suffer monthly from menstruation problems. It can be that the period is irregular, painful or so heavy that it leads to anemia and fatigue. There can also be mental-health effects associated with periods such as depression and anger. Over-the-counter medications only mask the symptoms. To treat the root of the problem, give acupuncture a try. Once again, it’s all about balancing your body. That’s how acupuncture works to regulate menstrual problems.
6. Chronic Pain
Pain is the number one reason why people turn to acupuncture, and for good reason. If you’ve tried everything else and got little to no relief, acupuncture may be right for you. But remember, chronic pain took time to develop and it will also take time for acupuncture treatments to work. Many people get some relief immediately, but acupuncture works on a cumulative basis, so commitment to the process is a must.
7. Preventive Medicine
Did you know that acupuncture’s main function is to help keep you healthy? If not, then you’re not alone. While acupuncture may not be known for preventive care, it should be. Waiting until there is an injury or illness will only cause the treatments to take longer. Using acupuncture preemptively will help you fight off illness and let you recover more quickly. That’s reason enough to give it a try.
Now that you know how acupuncture and Chinese medicine can help you, what are you waiting for? Find a licensed acupuncturist nearby and go get healthy.