Take a look at the National Alliance of Mental Health's list of symptoms of depression:
If you are experiencing five or more of these symptoms, it's time to contact a healthcare professional. Acupuncture on its own can help alleviate mild to moderate depression. For severe depression, a multi-disciplinary approach is necessary. This may include counseling and medication.
When I work with patients suffering from depression, I offer these suggestions:
The most important thing is not to suffer in silence. We, each of us, have an enormous capacity to heal. Depression is a disease as real as high blood pressure and diabetes. It can be treated.
In Oriental Medicine, each of the seasons corresponds an emotion. The fall is associated with grief. It's a good time to process and let go of any sadness you may be feeling.
Take stock. Has this year's metaphorical harvest been a good one for you? Think of the things that you have reaped and sowed. What do you want more of in your life? What no longer serves you? As you notice the seasonal change outside, take a moment to reflect on what inner changes you would like to make. Write down your thoughts in a journal and look over them each week.
Advice for all Seasons
Practice gratitude. At the end of each day, write something you are grateful for. This is one of the simplest and most powerful exercises. A shift in focus can create a richer and more fulfilling life.
When we are living a life that reflects our core values and are moving with ease through the day, we can’t help but bring other people into our lives. When we find our own rhythm, we connect to the rhythms of others. The most amazing thing about the rhythm of connection is that it reminds us that we are not alone. It allows us to be with, to learn from and to teach others.
As miraculous as this connection may be, it also presents certain challenges. How can we stay true to our own rhythm and also allow for the rhythms of others? How can we maintain autonomy and control of our own lives while we seek out community and connection?
Here are 12 suggestions for facilitating the rhythm of connection:
None of these ideas are new. Yet they all come alive again and again as we make them part of our lives. In Oriental Medicine, the summer is the season of the heart and the corresponding emotion is joy. As you go through the next few warm weather months, remember the heart, feel the joy and practice the rhythm of connection.
A healthy rhythm helps you to move in the direction of your dreams. This takes commitment, intention and a certain amount of effort. In the short-term this process may seem time-consuming and anxiety-provoking. But, what if you began living a life that supported your core values? What if it became easier to set and incorporate new goals? Here are some ideas for you to try out:
• Make use of natural rhythms and listen to your body. Get enough sleep. Rest when you feel tired. If you’re a morning person, start your day with the things that are most important to you. Alternatively, set aside time in the evening if that’s when you work best.
• Each week make a list of things that you want to accomplish. Review the list each morning and schedule in the most important items. This will help you stay focused and on track.
• Keep things that are important to you on your list, even if you have trouble getting them completed. It can take time to incorporate new activities. Keep reminding yourself of the things that you want to do.
• Fifteen minutes is better than none. My life revolves around this. I never have enough time to do everything – particularly exercise. Instead I fill in 15 minutes here and 15 minutes there. It adds up. Beginning is 90 percent of life.
• Learn to choose wisely. There is never enough time to do all the things you might want to. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to do everything. As you add things to your life that you truly love, let the less essential things fall by the wayside.
• Learn to say no. It’s important to honor commitments that you have made, but you needn’t feel obligated to do things simply because others would like you to. Unschedule the things on your calendar that are not so important to you.
• Create rituals that incorporate your favorite activities. Schedule them at regular times. This way you’ll know that every Monday at 7, for example, you’ll swim or listen to your favorite music.
As with growing a garden, cultivating a healthy rhythm takes place over time. We wouldn’t expect an apple tree to bear fruit right after we plant the seeds. Be patient with yourself. Remember that there are outside forces that affect our lives. Some seasons the weather cooperates and there is sufficient rain and sun. Other times we are less fortunate. Part of being a successful farmer, is the ability to survive the lean seasons. It’s important not to get discouraged if life events wreak havoc with the best laid plans.
Find joy in the planting and cultivating. Keep a certain healthy detachment from the results of your endeavors. Finding your rhythm gives you something even greater than accomplishing goals. It gives you the courage and strength to get through whatever life throws your way. It provides you with a safe harbor during unexpected storms. Most importantly it puts you in touch with your truest self. And so I encourage you to look for your rhythm, to practice living in connection with it and to be the person you were brought into this world to be.
If you threw away your computer, Iphone, calendar, would you still know how to live? Talk to any baby boomer and you will find memories of a childhood without play dates and arranged activities. We reminisce about simpler days when we played out in the street and knew to be home for dinner.
So, am I suggesting we turn back the clock and surrender to a simpler past? No, not at all. We can use technology to help us live in sync with ourselves, as long as we view technology as a tool. We needn’t be slaves to our computers and hi-tech gadgets.
For a moment put aside the messages to be more productive. Toss aside expectations that don’t suit you. Life is a journey and the journey, the path is uniquely yours. Lao Tze Tung wrote, “When the shoe fits the foot is forgotten, when the belt fits the belly is forgotten.” By living in harmony with who we are, life becomes easier.
Here are some exercises to help you get in touch with your rhythm.
Spend the next few weeks putting this information together. In the next newsletter in this series I’ll talk about how to begin to integrate the data you’ve collected with your current life. For the moment, focus only on the exercises themselves. The process of thinking about what you want is in and of itself a powerful one. Give your mind room to explore and contemplate new experiences. Relish your proudest and most complete moments. Think of memories that you created. Witness your power. Treasure the person you are. Find your “why”.
Life pulls us in many different directions. We have job and family demands. We can become slaves to our “to-do” list and be overwhelmed by obligations. We may eat erratically and get too little sleep. We may get bogged down in constant errands that need to be run. We may over commit and feel ourselves being run ragged. We may use caffeine to keep us awake and alcohol to help us relax. We may find ourselves feeling stressed, angry and resentful.
Or, perhaps we have too much time on our hands. We let hours pass by filling with mindless activities. We watch too much television and sit around waiting for the phone to ring. We feel lost, bored with our surroundings and discontented.
Both of these scenarios can take a toll on our health, relationships and work lives. Caught in vicious cycles, we find it easy to feel completely powerless and unable to change. Often we feel that we must simply do more to gain control of our lives. We put ourselves on rigid schedules, diets and self-improvement plans. But these don’t address the core issue at hand – that we are letting our lives run us.
If you have fallen into any of these patterns, I urge you to take a breath, step back, slow down and find your rhythm. Each day we wake up, eat, expend energy and sleep. If we live to be eighty, these days add up to 700,800 hours of life. Start to think about how you want to spend this time. What do you treasure or value you the most in life? What moments do you want more of? What books do you want to read? What tasks do you want to accomplish? What people do you want to meet? What is it that you absolutely want to do before you die?
If I were to tell you that you had $700,800 to spend, my guess is that immediately images of houses, cars, vacations or beautiful new clothes would come to mind. We live in a society that focuses on money and we are inundated with images about how to spend it. We think about money constantly and worry about not having enough of it. There are financial advisors, stockbrokers, banks and accountants to help us figure out how to invest and save. We are told to put money away for retirement and for our children’s education. The more altruistic of us may think about how to help others with our money and may donate to charities. There is even a whole season each year dedicated to figuring out how much money we have earned and how much we have to give to the government. And, we are told there are only two certainties in life – death and taxes.
Conscious management of our finances can be powerful and rewarding. But it seems to me that time is a more valuable resource. It is also a more challenging one. We can’t take out a time loan or store up time. We can’t add extra hours to our busy days. We can, however, develop a healthy rhythm that helps us move through life. Our rhythm can be a guide when our lives gets busy and stressful or when we feel we have too much time on our hands. Rhythm can help us deal with loss and change. We don’t have to constantly be making decisions about what to do next or what is most important to us. But how do we develop and nurture a rhythm that feels comfortable and authentic?
Oriental Medicine offers advice. It describes the way energy moves through our bodies over the course of the day. It describes the changes in seasons and how these changes affect us. It speaks of the life cycle and the changes the body goes through as we develop and age. It describes different personality types and the challenges people of each type face while going through life.
My newsletter series for this year is about the rhythms of our lives. If nothing else, it will get you to think differently about time. It will get you to respect time as your most valuable resource. It will make you think about how to best make use of the natural rhythms of the universe and the daily, weekly and yearly cycles of time.
I have no magic answer about how to make the best use of our days here on planet Earth. But I can offer ideas, suggestions and exercises to practice and different perspectives about viewing life. I’ll talk about how to become in touch with our own individual rhythms and how to bring these rhythms into sync with the rhythms of the universe and the rhythms of those we come into contact with. I’ll talk about how to more fully experience the moments that we have.
The beginning of this exploration starts with connecting with our most basic rhythm, the rhythm of the breath. Take a moment, right now, to breathe in and breathe out. Put aside any worries. Let go of thoughts. Just for a moment, be fully present and feel the rhythm, your rhythm. Just breathe.
Have you found yourself waiting for the perfect moment for life to begin? Are you putting off the things that truly matter to you for the day you lose 10 lbs, you get that new job, you meet the perfect partner? Here’s the secret: we only have this moment.
I learned this over twenty years ago when I was diagnosed with the not-so-well understood illness, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I had a sore throat, low-grade fever, muscle aches and fatigue like nothing I had ever known before. A walk across a room became an exercise in exhaustion. Yet, the illness turned out to be one of the greatest gifts I was ever given.
Let me be clear. This was not the type of gift that you ask for, for Christmas or your birthday. It’s not the type of gift you excitingly rip the wrapping paper off of thrilled that somehow your life – a least for the moment – is complete. It’s not tickets to the theatre or a night out on the town. It’s the type of gift you curse for ever having been given to you. All the same, chronic fatigue syndrome changed my life for the better, in ways I still can’t completely comprehend.
My journey began when an acquaintance suggested that I try acupuncture. I went for treatments and was blown away by this ancient, healing tradition. While it wasn’t a cure, I could feel energy moving in my body. I became more interested in Oriental Medicine and went back to school to get my Masters Degree. At the same time, I tried every treatment that I could get my hands on: herbs, homeopathy, nitroglycerin, shots of vitamin B12, intravenous vitamin C, special diets and nutritional supplements. The illness waxed and waned. Finally, I noticed that the illness had a seasonal component to it. It was worse during the winter. I invested in a 10,000 lux bright light and started taking a supplement called NADH. After using these for several months, the illness subsided and has never returned.
Even before this happy ending, my life had changed. I learned the following lessons, which I want to share with you:
• set limits on your time and energy
• rest when you need to rest
• listen to your body – it is always speaking to you
• ask for and accept help
• eat foods that sustain you
• get an appropriate amount of exercise
• choose the things in life that are important to you
• set simple, achievable goals
The most important lesson is to start living the life you want now. This doesn’t mean running a marathon, traveling to a Greek island or finding your dream job. It means being creative in bringing positive experiences and people into your life. It means finding joy in life. I love to cook and I love to ice-skate. So when all I had the energy to do was to lie on the couch I was sure be watching PBS’s cooking shows and figure skating competitions. The tools that I learned while I was dealing with chronic illness are the tools that I share with my patients and those I meet who are on the path to a healthier life.
Let me know about your positive experiences — the ways that you’ve made this day better for yourself. Be inspired to live the life you want now!
Acupuncture is about balance, both in the outside world and inside our bodies. Yang – active, light, daytime energy – is balanced by yin – nurturing, dark, nighttime energy. When these two opposing forces are in balance there is health. As we go through life with its stresses and physical and emotional assaults we find ourselves in places of imbalance. The purpose of this newsletter is to help you bring your body back into balance. The principles that I recommend are applicable for all of us whatever our age, our health or our socioeconomic status. My basic belief is that we all can do things to bring ourselves closer to the goal of balance and that health is achieved one person, one action and one moment at a time. Balance is something that you arrive at by slowly shifting your focus and attention, with a lot of compassion. This newsletter is not about extreme interventions, the latest fad diet or exercise. Rather it is about slow and steady change. The kind of change that occurs day to day and becomes the habits that form the foundation of a healthy balanced life. The following steps will take you through the process of choosing and integrating one habit that will enhance your life in a positive way and become a part of this foundation.
Create Your Activity
1. Choose Wisely
Choose something you want to do, rather than something you think you should do. Choose something that you want to do tomorrow and also three years from now. Choose an activity that you can do given the present circumstances and resources of your life. If, for example, you want to join a gym make sure there is one that you can easily get to and that is open at hours that are convenient for you. Make sure that you can afford the cost of membership. I believe that each of us already knows of at least one thing we can do to improve our lives. If you have a long list of things, choose the one that feels most meaningful to you.
2. Think Small, Stay Simple
Begin with a small, achievable task rather than elaborate, unattainable goal. Focus on the task itself. If you dream of writing a novel, you might want to begin by setting aside a certain amount of time each day to write. Focus on the activity, rather than the goal. Goals are admirable, but generally achievable only if we focus on the activities that are necessary for their fruition. Thoreau said, “Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.”
3. Be Creative
Sometimes we are in situations where we are unable to do the things we want to. Here’s where creativity comes into play. If your activity is to spend an hour each week at the ocean but you live in landlocked Iowa, you might get a video of ocean scenes, a CD with the sound of waves breaking on the sand, suntan lotion and some shells.
4. Commit to the Activity
Commit to spending at least one hour each week on this activity for the next three months. This can be 10 minutes everyday, 20 minutes three days a week or one hour once a week. If you cannot or do not want to commit to one hour a week, choose something else. If you are already committed to spending time each week that supports a balanced life, than commit to bringing more attention to that time. (See Step 10.)
5. Write It Down
There is something about the act of writing something down that solidifies it. It serves both to define the action and as a symbol of intent. There is a shift that happens when something goes from idea to tangible form. There are many ways of writing something down. You can do it very privately, on a folded up piece of paper or in a journal. You can write something and put it on your mirror or refrigerator. If you like, you can email me (email@example.com) your action and I will check in with you in a month to see how you are doing. Just as the action itself comes from an inner, personal space so will the writing of it. Do what feels right to you.
If this activity is worth doing, it is worth doing now (or at least within this week.) This piece is often the most difficult. Waiting for the perfect moment may mean putting off something indefinitely. Just start now.
7. Begin Again
None of us are perfect. Our lives are complicated. Stuff unexpectedly happens. So if you are unable for whatever reason to do your chosen activity for a day, a week or even a month, begin again. Learn from your experience. Sometimes it takes a few false starts to develop a good habit. In the long run you are better off starting again then giving up on something important to you in your life. I once read that the people who succeed the most are also those who fail the most. Winston Churchill said, “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”
8. Get Help
Bring into your life people who support you in your journey towards health whether it’s a friend, a medical care provider or a significant other. Sometimes we need help. Intervention is often necessary to keep our bodies healthy.
9. Reward Yourself
Taking care of yourself is an accomplishment. Often our busy lives do not support choices that keep us healthy. Acknowledge the time and effort put into your new habit. Congratulate yourself. Tell your friends. Go wild!
10. Bring Intention to Your New Habit
Rather than going through the motions, use your time each week to connect more deeply with yourself. Good health is a sensory experience. If you are eating healthier take this opportunity to fully taste your food. If you are spending an hour each week listening to music or looking at art, fully see or fully hear. Whatever you have chosen to do be sure to notice your breath. We cannot live for more than a few minutes without breathing. The quality of our breath, the way we breathe, to a large extent determines the quality of our lives. Whatever you are doing you are also breathing. As you embrace your newly chosen activity, breathe deeply into your lower abdomen.
GO BACK TO STEP ONE
Whether you have successfully integrated a new, healthy habit into your life or have experienced three months of hell, or most likely, are somewhere in between, go back to step one. Learn from your accomplishments as well as your mistakes. You now have the advantage of experience in this process.
Bonnie Diamond, Licensed Acupuncturist
Tuesday & Wednesday & Thursday, 10am-8pm
179 Northampton Street, Suite C
Easthampton, MA 01027