Most of us have said this about ourselves and/or others at different times in our lives, but is there any sense in being a creature of habit? And what does it do for our health? According to the ancient Chinese and TCM, we are all part of nature and need to keep in harmony with nature’s cyclical rhythms to maintain good health. We must pay attention to seasonal changes and follow them in our daily work and rest schedule. Living a life with established routines will ensure a regular flow of energy to our kidneys, improve immunity and resistance to disease, and promote longevity.
Modern medical research also shows that cultivating a regular life enables our organs to work rhythmically and in harmony with one another. When we maintain good habits in our daily routines conditional reflexes are formed. For example, going to bed at the same time each night establishes a habit or pattern which allows the cerebral cortex to become inhibited. This makes us sleepy and able to fall asleep as soon as we get into bed. Getting up at the same time each morning over a long period will cause the cerebral cortex to get excited and wake us up full of energy for the day ahead. In a similar way, a conditional reflex is formed for digestion. If we eat regular meals every day, we will have good digestion. Eating irregularly, however, will cause gastric and intestinal functions to become confused, resulting in indigestion, stomach ache and even diarrhea. This inner ”biological clock” controlling our physiological activities is just like the 24 hour clock our qi meridians follow. According to TCM, qi is directed through the 12 yin/yang organs of the body at regular two hourly intervals. Maintaining schedules of work, rest and meals that allow the flow of qi through the meridians to work rhythmically in their habitual pattern will help keep us in good health and prolong life.
Some of the routines established by TCM are:
In the Neijing, the Yellow Emperor states that you should go to bed late and rise early during spring and summer; and go to bed early and get up late during fall and winter. Time to get up was defined as no earlier than the morning crow of a rooster and no later than sunrise. A 30 minute nap after lunch is advised for the middle aged and elderly to improve immunity, prevent heart disease, hypertension, gastritis and dementia. Too much sleep at night was said to shorten life. The appropriate amount for people under age 70 is eight hours; for those between 70 and 90, nine hours; and people over 90 should sleep between ten and twelve hours a night!
Work and rest
There should be proper balance between physical/mental work, and rest. People who have a physical job should balance it with time spent in more mental pursuits, such as reading, playing card games, chess, doing crosswords, etc. Those who have a job which drains them of mental energy should achieve balance through more physical recreational activities, such as playing ball games, going for walks, gardening, etc. Overworking, both physical and mental, generates yang qi, leading to internal heat, and causes imbalance in yin and yang, leading to extra stress on the immune system. Positive rest enables both mind and body to relax, recharge and maintain balance of tissues and organs.
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