How Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine Can Support Mental Well Being

by Emily Reimann, LAc |

How Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine Can Support Mental Well Being

As an Acupuncturist with Acuworx Acupuncture Studio, mental health is a top priority when it comes to treating our patients.  There are multiple approaches within Traditional Chinese Medicine when addressing issues related to mental health (anxiety, trauma, stress, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, post traumatic stress disorder). Chinese Medicine uses the term Shen to describe the broad spectrum of emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects of a human being.

The concept of Shen has a special relationship with the functions of our organs and reveals a connection between mind and body. Shen resides within the Heart, and consciousness and psychological functions take place in the Heart and Blood. The state of the Heart will affect all mental activities - including emotions, consciousness, memory, critical thinking, and sleep. Because of this, if there is an imbalance in any of these areas, there may be an underlying mental cause.

When the Heart is strong and there is a healthy supply of Blood, there is clear mental activity, balanced emotions, clarity, and a good memory. However, if the Heart is feeble then this could be sign of depression, memory loss, slowed thinking and processing, or insomnia..

elements and organs

Although the Shen has a special relationship with the Heart, other organs are also associated with different aspects of the spirit. 

  • The Heart is associated with the Mind, or Shen

  • The Liver is associated with the Ethereal Soul, Hun

  • The Hun is most closely related to the Western idea of the Soul or Spirit. With birth, It enters the body, and at death it leaves the body.

    The Lungs are associated with the Corporeal Soul, or Po

  • The Po is closely associated with the body and is said to leave with the body upon death.  Related to the somatic expression of the Soul or Spirit, Po allows for the sensation, feeling, hearing, and sight of the body

  • The Kidneys are associated with Will Power or Zhi

  • The Zhi is associated with the mental drive that gives us determination and focus for projects and goals; it is also associated with long term memory

  • The Spleen is associated with Intellect, or Yi

  • The Yi is associated with applied thinking, studying, concentration, and memorizing, in particular, short term memory

Every Yin organ is related with one of many emotional aspects: the Heart is linked to joy, the Liver is associated with anger, the Lungs are related to grief, the Kidneys are connected with Fear, and the Spleen is related to worry.

When any of these emotions are out of balance, they can manifest in a number of ways - including anxiety, depression, excess worry, over-thinking, ruminating thoughts, restlessness, insomnia, irritability, obsessive compulsive disorder, panic disorders, mania, attention deficit disorder, poor memory, as well as addiction.

Your Spleen and It's Connection to Over-Thinking

Obsessive thinking or stress is usually related to the Spleen, which in turn impacts the mind’s way of thinking. Whereas mania would be more closely related to the Heart, as the Heart has a relationship to the emotion of joy, and when in excess can be manic in nature. 

Addiction is closely linked with the Kidneys as these organs are effected by our determination and will-power. Rationally, it seems right because any kind of over-consumption or overuse will adversely affect the Kidneys and adrenals.

Recommendations for Nurturing Mental Health that You Can Practice at Home

When anxiety or stress hits, a good option is to redirect energy to divert the focus. This may include going for an outdoor walk, or taking a short break from tasks to jiggle the body - or  even perform a dance to get Qi circulating

Other recommendations include: 

  • Essential Oils: diffuse oils in your home that help to uplift the spirit!  Citrus scents (like lemon or orange) are mood lifters, or try an aromatic ones, like eucalyptus if you are tensed. If you are feeling anxious, lean on oils that have a more calming and grounding effect, such as lavender, cedarwood, or frankincense.

  • Deep Belly Breathing: this breathwork activates the diaphragm and parasympathetic nervous system. A great way to practice this would be to place a light object on the belly and try to feel it rise and fall as you breathe.  

  • Acupressure: tapping on certain acupressure points can also be helpful. My favorite one to recommend is located on the sternum or the breast bone, at the center just in line with the nipples. This point referred as "Ren-17", and is a point closely associated with the Pericardium, a membrane that surrounds the Heart and also known as the protector of the Heart in Chinese Medicine. Any mental or emotional disturbances will have a direct correlation and effect on the Heart, so tapping or gently massaging this point can help ease the mind as well as the Heart.

Keeping a good care of our emotional wellbeing is essential for our health. Our mental health directly impacts our physical health, and it’s important to check in with ourselves. If you’re looking to treat a mental matter, chat with us! We’re here for you.

This article was originally published here and has been republished with the explicit permission of the author.

Emily Reimann is a licensed and board-certified acupuncturist in New Jersey. She graduated from Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in New York City, where she received her Master’s Degree in Science. Throughout her education, she studied three styles of acupuncture: Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Applied Physical Medicine (APM), and Kiiko Matsumoto's Style (KM). She currently practices at Acuworx Acupuncture Studio in Jersey City, NJ.

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