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Depression and Grief: new thinking or old thinking?

The outward signs of depression and grief can at first appear quite similar but in Traditional Chinese Medicine, (as in life) when properly observed, they are different in both cause and manifestation.

TCM holds that the forces of the spirit and qi (body energy flow) dominate all matter including the human body and spirit. Thus If the spirit is at peace, the heart is in harmony. When the heart is in harmony, the body is whole. If one seeks to cure the physical body one must first heal the spirit.’

While the effects of various emotional states (whether grief, depression, PND or SAD) may gravitate to different organs and disrupt their normal functions, the psychic aspects of the heart and liver are always held to be the primary source of all facets of our emotional life, whether positive or negative. Therefore, in the diagnosis and treatment of depression, the focus is on primarily on the heart and liver. However, there is awareness that the Gastro Intestinal Tract can also either affect, or be affected by, disturbances to the mental and spiritual well being of an individual i.e. psychosocial stressors can lead to altered brain-gut interactions and vice versa.

For example, Long periods of pensiveness, melancholy, hopelessness and excessive mental activities might be symptomatic of grief and require a different approach and application of acupuncture and other TCM modalities to Long standing bottled-up emotions such as anger, hatred, resentment and stress alternating with hopelessness. These stagnate the liver Qi (energy). The liver’s free flowing function is especially important in harmonizing the emotions and digestion since stagnancy will then invade the spleen causing various symptoms of abdominal distress and fatigue.

Other therapeutic modalities may provide a supporting role, e.g. cognitive psychotherapy, adoption of a healthy lifestyle. The initial aims of this combined approach would be improvement of mood, detection and correction of contributing factors (through psychotherapy, counselling, nutrition, physical fitness, stress management) and balancing the physiology (with acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine). The goals of such an approach would be to encourage responsibility in the patient for implementing and maintaining healthy lifestyle practices. TCM treatment would continue until physiological balance has been established.’

Suggestions for Additional Activities to be undertaken by the patient.

1. Begin to think about and seek ways to train your mind.

2. Develop calmness of the mind to subdue unhelpful thoughts and emotions.

3. Build upon positive thoughts and states of mind.

4. Cultivate good, useful, positive, healthy habits every day.

5. Welcome change as positive, beneficially challenging and life enhancing.

6. Develop a long term perspective.

7. Know and the meaning of suffering.

8. Develop and invest in deep relationships and friendships.

9. Develop a sense of compassion for yourself and others.

10. Release your Buddha (!)

11. Talk to friends and share your emotions.

12. Exercise to refresh positive energy

13. See food as positive energy and life giving/enhancing.

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