There are plenty of websites, experts and grandmothers out there that will have their own recipes for longevity so it can be difficult to know what advice should be followed or avoided (extra tip: always listen to grandma). The article presented today will share with you eight tips for better health that is not just considered applicable in Chinese medicine but also within Chinese culture.
Within Chinese culture there is a concept known as Yang Sheng which is basically translated as living for longevity. This concept carries guidelines that have helped Chinese people (and many other Asian cultures) achieve a longer and healthier life and continues to do so even after several thousand years. Each one could be an article within itself however we will be going for the succinct version.
1) Always eat according to season as it helps your wallet and is easier to digest; foods that grow naturally within a season are plentiful and as such they cost less (consider the price of watermelon in summer vs winter) and as we are also part of nature – we have evolved to digest what is grown naturally much easier during the appropriate season.
2) Walk one hundred steps after each meal: this will help the body kick-start the digestion process. Remaining seated post meal for extended durations will cause you to feel sluggish.
3) Sleep according to season: there is a reason that people generally feel invigorated in summer and want to hibernate in winter. Much like diet, sleep patterns should follow the ebb and flow of nature. Breaking it down further:
i) Spring: Wake later in the morning, sleep later in the evening.
ii) Summer: Wake early and sleep later.
iii) Autumn: Wake earlier and sleep earlier.
iv) Winter: Wake late and sleep early.
This cycle relates to Yin and Yang. Yin dictates cold, darkness and a lull in activity where as Yang represents heat, light and movement. The seasons are simply a reflection of the rise and fall of these two phases continuously.
4) Sleep before 11pm: though one should follow the flow of nature, you should never stay up beyond 11pm as this will make it more difficult for the body to achieve a deeper level of sleep. If you tend to wake up exhausted, give this new habit a try and it should make a positive difference in your energy levels.
5) Work according to seasons: As above, in periods of Yang (spring evenings, summer in totality, autumn mornings) you will be the most energetic as the body absorbs energy from nature. Use these periods to get your work done and be creative while using periods of Yin to rest and recuperate.
6) Sex life: despite being a strangely taboo subject on the western forefront, sex has always been a form of connection and as such – a thing of beauty of Chinese culture. One should partake in sexual activity in moderation and also never under stressful circumstances. These circumstances include but are not limited to:
i) high levels of stress from any source.
ii) if a woman has her period.
iii) if you are emotionally unstable (depression, sadness, grief etc).
Having sex during these periods can lead to physical and mental issues down the track.
7) Work practices: do not stand for long periods of time as this will damage your kidneys (via the bones) and do not sit for extended periods of time as this can damage your spleen (impaired digestion leading to weight gain).
8) Exercise: this is important regardless of who you ask however it is also important to know that the types of exercises you pick can determine whether you are fit or healthy. There is a difference between the two for example a professional body builder may look extremely fit however how healthy are they with the constant calorie intake? The opposite end of the spectrum would be someone who looks frail but practices Tai chi or yoga daily, they may not look fit but they are most likely healthy. These are generalisations to illustrate a point and every person must be taken by a case by case scenario however the bottom line is to find a physical activity you enjoy which matches your goals and undertake it.
Though there are plenty of other tips for better health, these are the main ones. Some of them may not be overly practical (we all need to go to work so sleeping by season is likely the most difficult) however the key take away from all of these points should be the importance of balance and moderation.
Always aim to live life for longevity so you can still be doing what you love in the most fulfilling way well into your twilight years.