Happiness According to Chinese Medicine

In our everyday lives we seek out the things that make us smile and laugh. We tend to treasure the comfortable, convenient and quick. We have homes to keep us warm and food in the refrigerator with a car in the driveway and a bike in the garage. We want life, simply put, joyful and easy, but does this bring true happiness? If it does then why do we keep seeking more, and is there any end to our quest? This is because a life focused on happiness is too narrow an objective to be truly fulfilled and an openness to a wider experience is necessary.

In Chinese Medicine we view happiness as an integral part of living but we also give equal attention to sadness, worry, anger and fear. All of these emotions together lead to a balanced life, but any one of them in excess may lead to illness.  Chinese Medicine believes that if we are to lead a healthy life we should experience all emotions equally, giving no favor to any one emotion for an extended period. Each emotion is ascribed to an organ that is either benefited in the short term by its expression or damaged by dwelling on it. The heart is related to joy; sadness the lung; worry the Spleen (digestion); anger the Liver; and fear the Kidney. As we know from a Western physiological standpoint these organs must all work in synergy to help the organism (you and me) thrive. Chinese Medicine believes that not only the physiology of the organs must work in harmony but also the emotions must flow as harmoniously, otherwise disease may arise.

Joy and its effect on the Heart over long term leads to Qi (energy) scattering. The heart is over stimulated, resulting in weakness of the heart which exposes it to further damage. To get an idea of how the heart is affected by joy, even in short bursts, try lifting a couch while laughing. Depending on how hard you're laughing this could be impossible. This is an excellent example of  Qi scattering and how your whole body responds to joy. Over time this scattering of energy tends to weaken the mind (in Chinese medicine the Heart and mind are one) leading to disorders of the spirit. Many types of psychosis are related to Heart imbalance which in western terms equate to Manic-depression, anxiety as well as ADHD.

The belief to be happy all of the time, without giving acknowledgement to grief, fear, anger or sadness is out of balance. To not experience these other emotions and condemning ourselves is unhealthy. Learning to allow all emotions to flow through us without denying any one emotion will lead to harmony.  So at this point in history, like no other time, let us embrace our fear of economic failure and worry about our future and what it may hold. Experience grief about our losses, and get angry about the mistakes that may have put us here. Let all this spark our ambition as a nation to come together and find the joy of forging a new future for ourselves, our children and our communities.  This is a great lesson and it will lead to greater strength (if not a little realism) and balance throughout the world.