Five Simple Ways Acupuncture can Boost your Mental Health
What does it take to go from walking to bicycling or dancing, from tapping your fingers to
painting or playing the piano? There is a whole symphony of coordination among muscles and
joints, senses and reflexes, tendons and ligaments. There’s also endurance, tenacity, curiosity,
and creativity to build strength, flexibility and expression. And everyone has a uniquely
different package of all these things as well as ability to train any of them.
What may seem obvious in our physical expression may be less so in our emotional expression.
We often hear of emotions when things have gone wrong – traffic leads to rage, a break-up leads
to sorrow, unresolved stress leads to depression or anxiety; what we hear less about are the
building blocks, the basic movements, of our internal experience that we can work with. Juggling
the emotional demands of life isn’t so very different from walking or dancing, perhaps just less
In Chinese Medicine, emotions are considered to be natural expressions unless they are stuck,
meaning that they repeat unnecessarily or cause harm. That is when they can become one of the
causes of internal illness. From the perspective of Chinese Medicine, addressing imbalances at
this early stage is an important way to stay healthier in the long run. One of the gifts of acupuncture is its ability to address what is physically happening in the body while at the same time supporting the natural essential nature of a person to simply show itself
without barriers. Both physical illness and emotional patterns can be barriers to this expression.
We’re like organic gardeners in the health world – build healthy soil and you support beautiful
plants with natural resistance to disease.
Many times patients have told me that when they feel connected to and engaged with their
purpose, connected with people, true to their essential nature, that they don’t get as stuck when
emotional stressors arise. These are like muscles of resiliency that acupuncture is able to
support. People report they feel grief when a loved one dies, frustration when someone is mean,
but they don’t get stuck feeling bad. What are five of the emotional muscles that acupuncture
can help support?
Five Ways Acupuncture can Boost Your Mental Health
- Purpose – Do you feel nourished by a sense of purpose behind your choices and actions? You may be laying bricks, but does it feel like it’s because there’s a castle that needs to be built? Feeling connected to our own purpose can help us feel more energized, decrease our fear of what people think, and help us feel less worried about life’s ups and downs.
- Vision – A seed must have within it a vision of the tree it will become. This is like the map and instructions. Then the seed needs enough thrust to push through the soil to the sun. Are you able to see that things could be different – You could enjoy your work, be less anxious in relationships, make enough money, etc. – Or do you tend to perpetual disorganization that leaves you unable to see the big picture?
- Will – This is the muscle to keep going when it’s easy, when it’s hard, when you’re excited and when you’re bored. Maybe you feel a purpose and you can see what you want, but can you take the step by step to carry forward? This is a muscle that can help you persist and feel engaged in a satisfying way.
- Flexible Self-image – Many of us carry some tension about how we are doing in the world in some way or another. One benefit of acupuncture is we can begin to relax our unique tensions. As we begin to see how our interactions and internal orientation changes, we can start to have less self-criticism, self-doubt, indecision, and feeling not good enough. Our story of who we are can soften.
- Authenticity – Do you ever feel as if certain parts of you would meet with disapproval? Consciously or unconsciously it’s common for people to shift parts of themselves to fit in or to feel bad about parts of themselves. Then when those parts do come out, maybe they’re under a lot of tension and it doesn’t go so well, reinforcing the idea that those parts are bad. With treatment and ongoing relaxation, there is room to begin to allow parts of yourself to emerge in ways that increase your sense of your own wholeness.
Through the course of treatment, some of these muscles may become more accessible so that
they can be flexed, experienced, exercised. The way we experience ourselves and our potency in
the world plays a great role in our mental health. Along with other factors like diet, exercise, and
community, acupuncture is a tool that can boost mental health from the inside out.
Leela Longson, L.Ac.
Five Element Acupuncture