All of us, at one point in our lives, have been subjected to the crushing and constricting feeling in the chest that only sadness, grief and depression can create. Typically we seek to numb the sensation with some sort of pharmaceutical or recreational drug. However, have you ever contemplated the idea that avoiding the feeling is not the answer? Just maybe, relieving that energetic constriction using Qigong for Depression is a better path to choose.
How does depression affect the body?
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, all strong emotional stimuli stresses out and injures the Liver first and worst! That stimuli leads energy to stagnate in the body. Stagnation causing friction. Friction causes heat and heat rises. It is that excess heat quickly rising like the hot air over a campfire that wreaks havoc in the other organs in the body as well.
As the energy of the liver becomes in excess to its normal parameters, the spleen takes a beating. Now, the liver and spleen have a closely tied relationship, and accordingly, it is the job of the liver to keep the spleen under control. But nobody likes to be over-controlled! When the liver is in excess it creates a relative deficiency in the spleen causing it to weaken.
When you think of a weak spleen, think digestive upset….bloating, gurgling, lack of appetite and loose stool… Good times! The problem is, your spleen is one of the two organs responsible for taking in the raw materials that your body depends on.
However when the liver puts it in an energetic “headlock”, little gets made and even less gets moved, which means all the stuff accumulates in your midsection. Hence the bloating, gurgling lack of appetite and loose stool. Get the picture?
Now here is where the situation gets depressing. Figuratively and literally. A healthy spleen is required to generate the energy necessary to ensure healthy lung function, and an unhealthy lung…… leads to depression!
What organs are impacted by depression?
The Huang Di Nei Jing states that “Sadness, grief and depression consume the Qi (energy) of the lung”. That lack of energy leads to symptoms of shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, cough, nasal congestion and runny nose.
Picture a person who just ended a longtime serious relationship or lost a loved one. It's a different kind of cry, isn't it? Their nose is running, their breathing is short and constrained, their chest is tight. They lie in bed physically unable to get up because the weight of the emotional pressure is simply insurmountable. This is the powerful dis-ease that is true sadness, grief or depression.
The lung is tasked with taking in the air we breathe (Kong Qi) and then dispersing the fine energized mist of the lungs to the skin where it regulates the pores of the skin, as well as descend that mist downward to the other organs of the body to ensure their proper function.
The lung’s paired organ, the large intestine is directly impacted by any lack of that moistening lung mist. Have you ever noticed that when your nasal passage is all plugged up so is….. the other end, lol?
When the lung’s Qi is weakened due to it being consumed by the emotional stimuli, it’s descending and dispersing function is shut down and all that fluid moves back up in the wrong direction and ends up on your tissue.
How does anxiety affect depression?
Thinking and feeling are definitely not the same thing, but man, do they have an effect on each other. In life, when things feel like the SHTF, it’s amazing how your mind can go into overdrive.
Remember, in TCM we always look at the relationships between organs. Everything is connected, so everything has an effect on everything else including within the body. Understanding the connections and effects is key to healing the body when things go wrong.
The energy the lung needs to be strong and healthy is directly related and generated by the energy the spleen manufactures from the food and water we take in. So when your monkey mind is off the rails and leading you to spin your mental wheels in place, you stagnate the Qi of your spleen leaving it and you exhausted.
Think of your spleen and lung as having a mother and child relationship. If mom is exhausted she has no energy to give to her child (the lung) and therefore the child becomes weakened as well.
All that thinking has made the body tired and weak. That weakness and fatigue has now led to the emotional reaction of being overwhelmed and unable to cope, hence, feelings of depression.
How does food affect depression?
It’s been said “Let food be thy medicine, and let medicine be thy food”. That being said, all organs in our body are affected by different flavors we eat. Your body often knows what nutrients it requires at different times and will send you signals by way of food cravings if you listen.
When you get a cold, it's amazing how everything in you seems to be screaming “Chicken soup!”. Now you might have assumed that it was because mom made you that when you were a kid. But what if I was to tell you that chicken strengthens the Qi of your spleen.
In addition, that kind of soup often includes garlic and onion. Both of these are pungent in flavour, which surprise surprise, strengthen the lung! But remember too much of a good thing is not good. Overindulging in certain flavours will also have the effect of weakening the corresponding organ.
Kidney - salty
Liver - sour
Heart - bitter
Spleen - sweet
Lung - pungent
It's a bit of a chicken and egg kind of thing, where a weak lung will crave the pungent flavour, but too much pungent will end up drying out the lung leading to a weakened state. In either case depression can be the result.
Emotions go the same way. A weakened lung will cause depression and depression will cause the lung to weaken by consuming its Qi. To make all the diet stuff easier to follow, I did a video for my patients on Foods for the Lung a while back, it breaks down oils, spices and different food ingredients to strengthen your lungs.
Can you use Qigong for Depression?
I’m sure it’s no surprise that Qigong practice is my goto solution for dis-ease in the body. Our body is built to heal, but it has problems doing so when our fight or flight response is perpetually turned. Unfortunately for most people that is virtually the only state they exist in.
The magic of Qigong is it's literally moving meditation. As you may already know, one of the most incredible benefits of meditation is its ability to shift your nervous system from sympathetic to parasympathetic, or from fight or flight to rest, digest and heal.
Stimulating, but gentle movements, performed through interesting and different ranges of motion challenge the mind and body to connect to the moment. Additionally, when you coordinate all that with deep diaphragmatic breathing, mind, breath and body become one and the body becomes a self healing machine once again.
Next time you are feeling down in the proverbial dumps, before your reach for that pill, give Qigong for depression at try. Your mind and body just might thank you.
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