Ancient Chinese Wisdom applied to Modern Health
What are the building blocks of health? Across centuries and cultures people have asked this important question. Most cultures eventually come to the same conclusion about how to protect and build good health. The Chinese wrote the Eight Pillars of Good Health. It matches with what most cultures agree on good health and speaks to every aspects of human health.
The Eight Pillars of Good Health
1. Philosophy – the moral code you follow. Your philosophy may be your religion, spirituality or your code of ethics. It does not mean you need to be religious, but speaks to whatever personal moral code you follow as being important to your health. When we are not living in line with our philosophy, negative feelings of guilt, resentment, anger and frustration begin to pent up inside of us. Over time, these feelings can lead to depression, anxiety and even physical issues. Therefore it is important for each and every one of us to reflect on our philosophy and live according to it.
2.Exercise – We all know exercise is good for our health but many struggle with keeping a routine. In childhood we are often encouraged into sports, but by adulthood many of us no longer engage in much physical activity at all. Exercise is important at all stages of life. The evidence to support this overwhelming. Exercise can be many things; team sports, running, walking the dog, yoga, cycling – the important thing is find what you like to do and do it.
3.Diet – Diet and nutrition are paramount to good health. You are literally what you eat. The ancient Chinese saw a difference between those who ate well and those who didn’t but in ancient China it was a little easier to tell what was good and bad for you. In modern American it is often difficult to feel confused about diet, as marketers try and sell us on the latest fad diet. Stick Out Your Tongue is full of information on eating well with Chinese Medicine principles in the modern world. But when you boil it down to basics, eating well is simple. Eat a whole foods, mostly plants, and avoid processed food as much as possible. This often means cooking from scratch.
4. Herbal Medicine – Is not a one size fits all prescription. Herbs are extremely powerful and work wonders when prescribed by a properly trained practitioner. Herbs were used both preventatively and to help bring one back into balance after an illness or high stress time period in ancient China. Herbs are used for a wide variety of physical and mental emotional conditions; including injuries, anxiety, the flu headaches and digestive issues.
5. Acupuncture, massage, physical intervention – Physical intervention was used preventatively, to keep our physical body in tip top shape. Using these physical interventions to keep our bodies flexible, adaptive, and primed for activity was thought to prevent more serious ailments as well as prevent chronic pain. Physical interventions also includes stretching, foam rolling, physical therapy, cupping and gua sha.
6. Love – feeling loved and giving love is key to our mental-emotional and physical well being. This can include: a romantic partner, family, your friends, your “fur-baby” pets…Love takes many forms in this world, but feeling it is key.
7. Self Mastery – Is when we recognize patterns in our behaviors and work towards mastering our own shortcomings. For example, maybe you procrastinate and it often leads to trouble in your school or work life. The first step is recognizing when you are procrastinating. Self mastery is when you begin to look at your less-favorable qualities honestly and take steps to grow as a person.
8. Connectiveness, or community – when we give, we receive. Those who have a strong sense of community are happier and healthier. Older persons who are involved with a strong social circle and community live longer, healthier lives.
We will not be perfect at all eight of the pillars all the time. It is meant as a guide and also a charge – most of what gives us the best health is a personal choice. Do we choose to put the right things into our bodies and move everyday? Do we choose to face our own demons, reach out for help, build a community? Good health, for the most part, is not given to us by a doctor or a pill, but involves our own individual agency. It is a gift you can give to yourself.