We are approaching our national holiday of love. It's a whirlwind of buying flowers and chocolate. I happen to be a card person, and I'm having trouble resisting getting yet one more each time I walk into a store.
Lately I've been thinking about an aspect of love that often gets overlooked. This is self-care -- the act of putting time and attention to make sure that YOU are living a healthy and happy life. Self-care is one of the highest forms of love.
It took a diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for me to wake up to the fact that I was not taking care of myself -- body or spirit. I was working long hours at a job that didn't fulfill me. I was in default mode, doing what I was told to do, not what I really wanted to do.
The illness was my body speaking to me, saying that the life I was living wasn't right for me. Because I had limited energy, I had to make choices about what was most important. I had to slow down and listen. In this process, I discovered acupuncture and the idea of living a life in balance. I changed what I was eating, who my friends were and my profession. I got out of a relationship that wasn't right for me.
But most of all I started a journey to become and stay healthy. The limited resources that I had went to doctor's visits, acupuncture treatments, psychotherapy and studying acupuncture -- one of the oldest and most widely used health modalities in the world.
I learned about these five aspects of health that correspond to the Five Element/Five Organ system that is part of the practice of acupuncture.
Using these principles my life changed in ways that I could only imagine.
All these things were acts of self-care. They are things that I continue to practice to this day. Even when I get off course, when things get busy and life gets stressful, these are things that I return to time and time again.
Out of this experience came a desire to help other people, possibly you, live healthier and happier lives. If this journey interests you, consider signing up for my Roadmap to Health 6 Week class. This is for you if:
This class begins on February 19th -- it's been postponed one week due to snow.
For more information and to sign-up at a special rate, simply visit me at www.bonniediamond.com/roadmaptohealthspecial
This Valentine's Day do something nice for yourself!
If you’re part of the over 60% of people who make New Years resolutions with good intentions but are unable to keep them, this newsletter is for you.
You mean well, you try hard, but life gets in the way.
Think of a resolution as a seed that gets planted. We have an idea. We want to make a change in our life. We’re excited. We set goals, make promises, tell ourselves this year we’ll eat our vegetables, exercise more, be kinder. We truly mean these things. Yet for many of us by April we’re back to our same old habits. What has happened?
I think that we have forgotten to nurture the seed. No one expects a seed to grow without water and sun. And no one expects the seed we plant today to turn into a full grown tree tomorrow. Growth and change take time.
When you make a resolution, ask yourself these questions:
Take time to answer these questions. It may require many hours. Pay attention to how easy or difficult this process is. Write your answers down. If you’re not able to do this, you might want to pick a new year’s resolution that is easier to implement.
With nurturing and care and love our dreams will take form. Do get in touch with me if you need help in this process.
Wishing you a healthy, happy and prosperous New Year!
"With time and patience the mulberry leaf becomes a silk gown" ~Chinese Proverb
Ear acupuncture is a little different from full body acupuncture in that the ear is considered a microsystem of the body. Although some ear points were mentioned in Chinese texts as far back as 500 BC, auriculotherapy as we know it today was developed by Dr. Paul Nogier, a French physician, in 1957.
Dr. Nogier noticed a scar on the upper ear of some of his patients. He found that all of them had been treated for sciatica pain by a local lay practitioner. This woman had cauterized a specific area of the external ear in order to relieve their low back pain. Dr. Nogier conducted a similar procedure on his own sciatica patients and found that their back pain was also reduced.
He then tried other means of stimulating this "sciatica point," including the use of acupuncture needles, and found that they too were effective in alleviating sciatica pain. Dr. Nogier theorized that if an area of the upper external ear is effective in treating low back pain, maybe other parts of the ear could treat other parts of the body. Nogier theorized that the ear represents an inverted fetus and points in the ear correspond to parts of the body. Points for hands and feet can be found at the top of the ear, while the face is represented on the bottom of the ear. What’s interesting is that a similar map of the body, called the homunculus, exists in neurons on the cerebral cortex (outermost sheet of neural tissues in cerebrum and some vertebrae), in the thalamus and in the brain stem. This model was first presented to naturopathic practitioners in France in 1957, then spread to acupuncturists in Germany, and finally was translated into Chinese around 1958.
During 1958 a large study on the effectiveness of this acupuncture technique was conducted by the Nanking Army Ear Acupuncture Research Team using over 2,000 patients. Dr. Nogier's theory of an inverted fetus was accepted as clinically accurate, and during the cultural revolution so called 'barefoot doctors' were trained in the simple techniques of ear acupuncture In 1990, the World National Organization conducted an international meeting and standardized auricular anatomical names for the points that had been used in Chinese and French auricular acupuncture for many years. By 1995, the World Health Organization, in tandem with the Chinese Government, defined the location of 91 specific ear acupuncture points.
Nogier acknowledged that Chinese traditional medicine had been using ear points for acupuncture prior to his discovery, but these had been considered empirical points for particular treatments and were not associated with representation of the homunculus in the ear. This new discovery allowed for greater treatment possibilities.
In the US, Terry Oleson who has a PhD in pychobiology published a paper on his research findings. He had 40 patients examined to find areas of their body with musculoskeletal pain. The patients were draped and doctors examined the patients' ears for elevated skin conductivity or tenderness with no knowledge of their medical conditions. The correspondence between the medical diagnosis and the auricular diagnoses was 75.2%. In addition, MRIs show that there is a correspondence between points in the ear, sections of the brain, and areas of the body.
Ear acupuncture is a type of treatment that has not only been verified by science, but also leads to clinical success when used to the patients in my office. It works particularly well for pain, addiction and stress!
Myth 1: Acupuncture Hurts
Often, the first thought folks have about acupuncture is that it will hurt. This is not so. The needles that I use are as fine a strand of hair. You may feel a slight pinch when the needle goes in, but afterwards you won't know that they are there. Patients often go into a relaxed state or even fall asleep on the table.
Myth 2: Acupuncture is only helpful in treating musculoskeletal pain.
While acupuncture is extremely helpful for back, neck, shoulder, shoulder, elbow and knee pain; it's also a great modality for treating asthma, allergies, upper respiratory illnesses, headaches, digestive issues, stress, depression and insomnia. And since it works holistically, you can get relief from a number of seemingly different symptoms all in the same visit. I look at the whole you and bring your body back into balance. It's a one-stop appointment that can help with all of your ailments.
Myth 3: Acupuncture could interfere with other modalities
Acupuncture is a great complement to other forms of treatment. It helps people to heal from surgery, works in conjunction with Western medicine and can be used in addition to medications. I see myself as a part of my patients' medical team. We are all working together to get you well. So if you have an appointment with your doctor, surgeon, massage therapist or chiropractor; you can get even more relief by receiving acupuncture treatments.
Chinese medicine dates back over three thousand years. The oldest book on Chinese medical theory, The Nei Jing, was written between 300 and 100 BC. It describes the theory and application of yin and yang and the five organ, element system. It teaches the causes of disease, explains how to diagnose illness, and tells how energy flows through the body. It still serves as the theoretical basis of acupuncture which today is one of the most widely used forms of medicine in the world.
Although acupuncture is ancient, it has only been practiced in this country for about 50 years. In 1972, a New York Times reporter, James Reston, accompanied Henry Kissinger to China. While there he had emergency appendectomy surgery and was so impressed by the post-surgery acupuncture he received, he wrote about his experience. This created interest in the modality in the US. In 1974, the first acupuncture school in this country, the New England School of the Acupuncture (NESA), was opened. I studied there, graduating and receiving my license in 1998.
Most folks don’t know this, but there are several different styles of acupuncture. These styles that evolved as Chinese medicine spread to different countries. Acupuncture arrived in Japan in 562 AD. Schools were established during the 8th century. Acupuncture was considered an appropriate vocation for the blind, and as a result, acupuncturists in Japan developed extremely sensitive kinesthetic skills. They learned to get information by feeling the pulse and palpating the abdomen. In Japan, acupuncturists apprenticed with masters and learned by observing their work.
At NESA, after the first year of training, students have to choose to study between a Chinese or Japanese acupuncture track. I chose Japanese and began studying the style of a well-known acupuncturist from Japan, Kiiko Matsumoto. Kiiko, to this day, studies with the masters in Japan and brings their teachings to the US, carrying on a several thousand year old tradition.
I continue to study with her and feel honored to be a part of this ancient way of healing.
Ever find yourself going through life when, seemingly all of a sudden, you find yourself a little too busy? Stress levels go up, you can't find a common household object, you don't remember what you did just yesterday? You seem annoyed a the smallest of incidents.
Pay attention. These are warning signs. Wake up calls. Your life has become unmanageable and it's time to take stock.
I recently felt this way. I thought, “Yikes. I'm a healer. How did this happen to me?” The truth is it happens to all of us. Turns out since January in addition to my work there have been travel plans, family visits, a continuing ed class, house projects….all neatly posted on my calendar. All things that brought me joy. But I hadn't factored in enough time for me.
It made me think about the wisdom of Eastern medicine and the yin and yang diagram.
This diagram and paradigm makes clear that our active (yang) side must be balanced my our restful (yin) side. After activity there must be rest. We either have a sustainable activity/rest cycle OR we go, go, go until we collapse.
What often happens when we start to feel stress is that we try to do more. We frantically go through our to-do list. It may not be intuitive, but the best thing to do when you are overly busy and overwhelmed is to slow down, take stock, meditate or take a walk for 10 minutes. Get into a relaxed state.
Then take a look at what you need to do. See if you can separate the urgent from everything else. Cross things off your list. Get clear on what is most important to you.
Hyperactivity breeds more hyperactivity. We often convince ourselves that things that can wait until tomorrow or next week or even next year need to be done immediately. We enter a state of constantly putting out fires. And the only way to truly disengage is to step away.
Here are my suggestions to combat stress and exhaustion:
It's no accident that my practice is called "Staying in Balance." Keeping our bodies and our lives in balance is the cornerstone to health.
It’s springtime! It’s been a long winter, but one of the things that I like most about living in New England is the feeling of sheer joy and excitement as the weather gets warmer, and we take a collective sigh of relief that the snow and cold are gone.
In Eastern Medicine, it is the time of the liver. We speak about organ functionality, rather than the physical organs, and the liver in Chinese Medicine is responsible for the smooth movement of energy in the body. It is associated with the color green, the emotions of anger and kindness, sour taste and tendons. (For more on this, see five elements/organs).
Liver energy is upward moving. The sap rises in trees. Buds appear. Flowers start to bloom. Here in the Valley gardeners are planting seeds in the soil. Watching as green shoots spring up from the ground.
Just as nature is affected by this energy, we are too! Do you feel the seasonal change? Take a moment to notice how you have been affected by longer days and warmer weather.
Springtime is a time a new beginnings. Take this to heart. Use the energy of the season to plant what I call “life seeds.” These are the seeds of your hopes and dreams. The best way that I know of doing this is to write down an intention. I know it’s scary. It is. To write down something that you want. What if you don’t get it? What if you are asking for too much? And all the other “what ifs” that we tell ourselves.
Here’s the thing. If you don’t plant a seed, you will never reap a harvest. And there is nothing sweeter than reaping the rewards of “life seeds” planted. Need some help with this? Take a look at my blogs on creating one new habit and following your dreams.
If you need an “acupuncture tune-up,” this is a great time for it. Let my needles do their magic.
I write this with my heartfelt wishes for your new beginnings!
I traveled to New Orleans a few weeks ago. I knew I had truly arrived when our Lyft driver said "How ya doing, Miss Bonnie?" I had made a lunch reservation and when we arrived I was greeted with "Welcome, Miss Bonnie." On a shuttle bus to Mardi Gras World the driver asked if this was my first time in New Orleans. When I said it was my second, he replied "Welcome Home."
New Orleans is a great place to travel to. The food, music, warm weather, welcoming people make it so special. Being there feels like getting a big hug.
But I want to tap into something deeper. The importance of social connection. Not just because it makes us feel good -- although this is important. But because it makes us healthier.
Here's what the experts have to say:
Here is "Miss Bonnie's" take on all this:
One of the reasons that I love Eastern Medicine is because of its emphasis on connection. In the 5 element/5 organ system that we use no one organ/element exists on its own. The energy of the liver feeds the heart, the heart energy feeds the spleen, the spleen energy feeds the lungs, the lung energy feeds the kidneys, the kidney energy feeds the liver. The cycle is completed and begins again.
As people we may feel isolated, but we never exist in true isolation.
With you in spirit…
February is almost here, and I’m thinking about Valentine’s Day! For me it’s a day not just about romantic love, but about all forms of love and how love is expressed.
I want to share with you an exercise that I've done over the past month. It's called "Where Does Love Live?" Each night I wrote a sentence or two about where love lives that day. It's been a great way to check in about what I'm doing, thinking and feeling.
Here are notes from my first few days writing about where love lives.
12/21 On a dark night, driving on the highway from Massachusetts to Cleveland, remembering my first road trip with Dan 14 years ago. (We met carpooling to Bethel, Maine for a ski trip & we’ve been together ever since.)
12/22 Sitting between my tall, beautiful nieces on the way to lunch at Stone Oven. Watching the way they connect with each other.
12/23 Staying at my mother-in-law’s condo. Being able to relax, read, study...no responsibility.
I'm realizing how often I jump from task to task without reflecting on what truly brings me joy. Don't get me wrong, I live a good life -- I love my work, my husband, my home. But it's easy to get into routines and wake up day after day thinking that there is a little something missing.
By reflecting on where my heart is at the end of each day, I feel a kind of awakening. I get the realization of what is working in my life, as well as where I want to be heading. You may too!
Roses and chocolate may be symbols of love, but why not look into you heart and see what it has to say. You may be surprised.
If you try this exercise, feel free to share your thoughts with me.
Sending loving and healing energy…
I love this article from my colleague, Katherine Golub, career / business / leadership coach and consultant in Western Mass. She teaches us how to focus on the postitive! To learn more about her work, visit www.CoreBrillianceAcademy.com
What are you dreaming of for the new year? Did you make a resolution, set an intention, choose a word?
At the beginning of every year, I like to choose one word to focus my attention for the year. This year, my word is "Foundation."
No matter how you set your intentions, January is a time of fresh starts and new beginnings for many people. Do you want to learn how to be more confident, more present, or more creative? Perhaps you want to take better care of yourself. Whatever it is, if you’re like most people, I'm guessing that there's probably some new habit that you’d like to develop this year.
Most of us aren’t taught how we form habits or how we can change them, and because of that, developing new habits can feel daunting. I'm happy to tell you that, in fact, developing new habits and strengths can be simple.
Instead of working super hard to fight against old behaviors, it can be much more useful to just take in the good.
What do I mean by “taking in the good?”
In Hardwiring Happiness, Rick Hanson writes that the most effective path to developing emotional habits or strengths such as gratitude, presence, and confidence is to notice when you're already engaged in these habits and then to feel how you feel in your body. He calls this process “taking in the good.”
With repeated, intense, and prolonged mental focus on what’s working, you grow new synapses and change how your DNA functions so that you literally experience more of what works. For example, by noticing when you feel confident, you strengthen your ability to feel confident. When you notice yourself feeling focused, you increase your ability to focus. When you allow yourself to feel really good when you practice self-care (even if it’s just for five minutes), you increase the likelihood that you'll practice self-care again soon.
As human beings, we too often focus on what we don’t want to do or to feel.
Unfortunately, focusing on what you don’t want makes it harder to develop the habits you do want. For example, trying to figure out how to be "not stressed" can stress you out, even more.
The brain can't think in negatives. Don't think of a pink elephant. You can't do it, right? Every time you think about what you don't want, your focus goes to the negative, and you're more likely to replicate that. Instead, when you think about what you do want, you send your energy in that new, more generative direction.
So, what are the steps to taking in the good and building new habits?
Your first step to cultivating new habits or strengths is to choose one or two to focus on.
Rather than focusing on the habit you want to let go of, focus on the habit you want to cultivate. Keep in mind that your problem requires a matched solution. For example, if you struggle with the state in the left column, consider focusing on the habit or strength in the right column--
• Exhaustion… Energy
• Stagnation… Movement
• Anxiety… Ease
• Fear… Courage
• Shame… Self-Compassion
• Resistance… Curiosity
• Withdrawal… Engagement
• Scarcity… Gratitude
• Frustration… Fulfillment
• Stuckness… Forward Movement
• Drivenness… Pleasure
• Rejection… Belonging
• Isolation… Connection
• Grief… Love
Your next step is to notice moments in which you experience the habit or strength you desire.
To develop the habits and strengths we desire—such as trust, humor, and ease—we need to notice when we experience these positive states. Often, we’re already engaging in the actions or experiencing the states that we want to make habitual, but we’re not paying attention. By paying attention to when we are acting and feeling the ways we want, we strengthen our ability to act or feel this way even more.
If you don’t naturally find yourself experiencing your desired emotions, you can remember past experiences, imagine the future you desire, or celebrate the good in the lives of others.
Once you create a positive experience, allow yourself to really savor the moment and experience it in your body.
Sense the experience fully in your body, taking in as many sensory aspects as possible—sight, sound, touch, smell, taste, feeling, and thinking. Feeling the experience in your body helps it to sink in and create new connections in your brain.
Like any new strength, your ability to focus your attention is like a muscle. It gets stronger the more you exercise it. Taking in positive experiences makes your brain “stickier” for them, which in turn increases the likelihood that you'll notice more positive experiences. That makes your brain even more sticky so that you notice positive experiences more. It's a feedback loop of positivity. This cycle makes it less and less likely for negative experiences to slip into your mind and affect your brain.
From now on, any time you experience a small win, seize the opportunity to celebrate.
When you receive a compliment, take a deep breath, let it really soak in, and say thank you. Or cross off items off your to-do list as you complete them so that you have a picture of accomplishment. Or, at the beginning or end of each day, think of three things that you’re proud of, that you appreciate about yourself, or that brought you joy.
Focusing on what brings you joy ten times a day, fifteen seconds at a time only, takes a total of two and a half minutes. But it's one of the most powerful ways to change your brain and your life.
Whatever your hopes for the new year may be, I encourage you to gift yourself a few moments each day to take in the good. Not only is this a very effective way to cultivate new habits, but it’s also fun. I wish you all the best on your journey to building the habits you want!
Bonnie Diamond, Licensed Acupuncturist