Well Being

10 underrated healthy habits to free up energy and vitality

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Qi (pronounced “chee”) is like the body’s internal battery. The word, a fundamental tenet of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), roughly translates as “life force” or “vital energy.”

Qi flows throughout the body along pathways called meridians, which connect all organ systems. Acupuncture and acupressure help restore qi by treating specific meridian points throughout the body. Other ancient medical systems have similar concepts. In India, internal energy is called prana; in Japan it is known as ki; in Greece it is called pneuma.

In scientific terms, qi is similar to adenosine triphosphate (ATP), an energy-carrying chemical found in the cells of all living things. Like qi, ATP provides energy for everything from muscle contractions to nerve impulses. The organs most closely related to qi are the adrenal glands, which produce energizing hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol.

Regardless of medical tradition, the underlying idea is this: when your internal battery is fueled, your body works more efficiently and you are better able to fight off colds and flus that come your way. But just like the battery in your phone, qi needs to be recharged regularly. This internal life force is fueled by healthy lifestyle habits, from emotional strategies like boosting self-esteem, finding purpose in life and reducing fear, to physical habits like getting enough sleep and practicing deep breathing exercises. Signs of qi deficiency include thyroid disorders, adrenal fatigue, irregular menstruation, infertility, weakness, anxiety and susceptibility to infections.

Exercise tops the list of ancient lifestyle habits that confer health benefits. But there are a number of other profoundly restorative habits that are (or are becoming) widely available. I encourage you to explore these options to find the ones that suit you and your lifestyle, and bring you the kind of healing you need.

Healthy Habit #1: Yoga

The word yoga is first mentioned in India’s oldest sacred text, the Rig Veda. The fact that it is so popular today is a testament to its effectiveness. I am a fan of this contemplative movement practice because it is an exercise with an intentional side. Doing the postures in sequence helps you get in touch with your body-what parts are tense, where you hold tension-and stay centered in the present moment. The result is improved balance, strength and flexibility, both physically and emotionally.

Here’s the impressive list of benefits of yoga:

– Stress relief
– Sleep improvement
– Pain relief
– Reduction of anxiety and depression
– Weight loss
– Improving the quality of life of people with chronic diseases.

If you are new to yoga, find a good teacher for your first classes to make sure you do the postures correctly. Then you can easily follow a yoga video at home.

2. Tai Chi

One of the earliest martial arts in ancient China, this mind-body practice is often referred to as movement meditation, as it consists of a series of slow, gentle movements inspired by the movements of nature. This practice raises qi, allowing you to feel rested but energized. This is a wonderful option if you are new to fitness, suffering or recovering from illness, or if you have physical difficulties that prevent you from moving with ease. Traditionally, you perform the deliberate movements standing, but you can easily do a modified seated version. In either case, the benefits are endless.

Research shows that it can improve balance and stability in the elderly and people with Parkinson’s disease, reduce pain in people with arthritis and fibromyalgia, and improve mood in people with heart failure and cancer.

#3. Functional muscle training

You may think strength training has nothing to do with the brain, but it has a powerful effect on mood and brain structure, and it’s a great way to develop qi. A study published in Molecular Psychiatry found that six months of strength training improved cognition and increased the size of associated brain regions. Other research has shown that it can alleviate anxiety and depression.

Functional strength training does not require a gym membership or equipment. It simply uses your body weight to increase strength and fitness by performing movements such as burpees, planks, and crunches. (Online programs can show you how to do these movements, which you can adapt to your fitness level.) As with any exercise, start slowly and build strength gradually. And don’t forget that simply setting small goals-and achieving them-can also boost your morale.

#4. Walking in nature (“forest bathing”).

Here’s a quick eye-opening exercise: put down that book, walk outside, look up at the sky and take a deep breath. You feel a little different, don’t you, more energetic, more focused, calmer, happier? There’s something about being in nature, instead of hunched over in front of a computer, that releases positive chemicals in the brain and rebalances the body’s qi. And when you immerse yourself in nature, walking in a local park or remote forest, you benefit even more. The Japanese have a particularly wonderful name for this: forest bathing. A study published in the journal Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine found that people who walked in a forest had lower blood pressure and cortisol levels than those who walked in a city.

If you live in a city, a walk in a park or near a body of water can do the same thing. Immersing yourself in nature at its best can reduce stress, improve mood, stimulate creativity and boost immune system activity. In addition, it can enhance your spiritual life, inspiring feelings of awe, wonder, gratitude and respect, emotions that make you feel better and can motivate you to be more generous, cooperative and kind.

#5. Relaxation and downtime.

There is a new health problem affecting more and more people in our fast-paced culture: burnout, the most modern example of qi deficiency.

Burned-out employees are 63% more likely to catch a sick day and 23% more likely to go to the emergency room. Brazilian researchers have found that burnout is a major predictor of heart disease, headaches, gastrointestinal and respiratory problems, and mortality in people under the age of 45. You may have experienced it yourself. It’s something our ancestors didn’t have to deal with, but learning from their slower, less distracted lifestyles can give us the balance we need.

The secret: incorporate relaxation into your day. Go out at lunchtime, sit on a bench and do nothing. Just watch the world go by. In the evening, instead of watching the latest Netflix series, lie down to read a novel, relax by the fire or light some candles and take a dip in the bathtub. The Dutch call this idea “niksen.” This type of relaxation can effectively counteract stress, and letting your mind wander also encourages creative problem solving. A gift that is stifled in our fast-paced lives.

#6. Digital fasting

The average adult spends about eleven hours a day interacting with technology, whether it’s reading or watching something online, scrolling through social media, or listening to a podcast.

Does this sound familiar? If you’re constantly connected to technology, you never fully relax, which is hard on your body and mind. You probably already know this.

By putting your phone and laptop aside for an hour, a day, a weekend or a week, you give your brain and body time to relax and regenerate, allowing your qi to recover as well. It is also advisable to remove destabilizing or irritating influences from social networks and add more uplifting ones. These little bursts of anger and indignation build up. Protect yourself by replacing them with things that bring you joy.

#7. Sleep (and plan your life) according to your circadian biological clock.

Circadian rhythms are integrated physical, mental, and behavioral changes that occur naturally in a daily cycle, such as sleeping at night and being awake during the day. In Western medicine, circadian rhythms are mainly considered in terms of the sleep-wake cycle. But traditional Chinese medicine takes the concept much further, linking nearly every function and organ of the body to the time of day when they have the most energy.

The 24-hour circadian clock can be a useful guide for planning your day and understanding why you may feel a little off at one time or another. For example, your heart’s energy is at its highest between 11 am and 1 pm. This is the ideal time to catch up with family and friends, or to talk to them on the phone. Similarly, the large intestine is active between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m., so these times are ideal for waking up and starting the day. TCM advocates a slow transition from sleep to wakefulness. Meditating or praying first thing in the morning allows the mind and body to wake up smoothly and sets a positive tone for the day.

In ancient times, people went to bed at dusk and rose at dawn. Our internal body clocks continue to adjust to these same circadian dials, even if we regularly ignore them. But there is reason to be more careful about getting seven to eight hours of sleep most nights.

According to ancient Chinese medicine, you should relax at 8 p.m. and sleep at 11 p.m.: when you sleep, the gallbladder, which controls emotions and judgment, and the liver, responsible for emotional well-being, are repaired. When you sleep too little, these two organs suffer.
In fact, research shows that lack of sleep affects your ability to think clearly and makes you moody, irritable and depressed, which means you are more likely to react negatively when something goes wrong.

If work or travel does not allow you to sleep during these hours, try to maintain as regular a sleep schedule as possible. As long as you have a regular schedule, the body is remarkably adaptable. One way to get more sleep, regardless of your sleep schedule: put away your phone and devices a few hours before bedtime and do something relaxing. Blue light from screens can interfere with the natural sleep-wake cycle. This one change can help you live more in line with your body’s natural circadian rhythms.

#8. Grounding

This therapeutic practice involves activities such as walking barefoot outdoors, lying in the grass or on the beach, or wading in a lake or ocean to do what our ancestors did naturally all the time: physically connect with the earth. The benefits, which include improved red blood cell fluidity (great for cardiovascular health), reduced muscle soreness after exercise, and reduced stress, depression and fatigue, stem from the fact that the earth emits electrical charges that have positive effects on your body. Although the research is still in its infancy, it appears that the electrical charge affects the living matrix between your cells, leading to less inflammation. It couldn’t be easier to do – and it may actually allow your body to recalibrate its internal parameters and improve your health.

#9. Crystals

Like earthing, crystals are beautiful stones mined from the earth that carry electrical energy. Although there is no current research on their effectiveness, they have been used throughout history to improve health. And while they are not miraculous or cure any health problems, they do have subtle health benefits. There are many types of healing crystals: from clear quartz, known as the master healer, to obsidian, which protects you from emotional and physical negativity… but the idea is to choose the one that’s right for you.

You can find out about the different qualities of each type of crystal and buy online the one that seems to suit your needs. You can also choose a crystal by going to a store and holding different stones in your hand, one by one. Many people say they can feel which one suits them best. To benefit from the energy of your crystal, you can meditate with the stone, put it in your bathroom, carry it in your pocket, or place several stones in your home.

#10. Rain, ocean and other sounds of nature.

Research shows that physically connecting with the earth is healthy, and listening to its sounds can be as well. Natural sounds have long been associated with relaxation, and studies are beginning to validate this age-old theory. Research has shown that the sounds of streams, birdsong and fountains improve cognitive performance in adults and children, for example. In a study published in Scientific Reports, researchers used fMRI brain scans and heart rate monitors to determine the effect of various sounds on people.

What they found: when listening to artificial sounds, such as traffic and highway noise, people’s cognitive attention was focused inward, as it is when we worry or ruminate, and their reaction time was slower than when listening to natural sounds, which elicited more external attention. In contrast, the study found that natural sounds were more likely to trigger a relaxing parasympathetic nervous system response, as well as reduce heart rate, blood pressure and stress levels.

People seem to benefit most from natural sounds that are familiar to them. So it’s a good idea to find a playlist, app, or noise machine that offers sounds you’re used to, whether it’s rain, waves, or the murmur of a stream. Or, if you don’t live in a city or near a busy street, just open the windows and enjoy the soothing natural symphony outside your home.

Life is hectic and at first it may seem difficult to adopt a new lifestyle habit or even find a good acupuncture or chiropractic practitioner. However, each of the strategies described above improves qi by providing calm, sustainable energy. And when your qi is strong, you are better able to cope with all your other responsibilities.

* HealthKey strives to convey health knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE can the information given replace the advice of a health professional.

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