Our lifestyles have a large impact on our daily health and long term wellbeing. In TCM, our lifestyle factors consist of: nutrition, occupation, exercise, substance use, exercise, relationships, sex and trauma, and even parasitic infections. All these categories include aspects of both body and environment. For example, trauma and parasites may involve external environmental factors, but may arise from internal disharmony resulting in reckless behavior.
Nutritional problems usually coincide with our digestive organs: the spleen, stomach, large intestine, and even liver. They can come from three major categories:
1. Malnutrition: deficient intake of basic requirements because of poverty, ignorance; or impaired digestion, absorption and metabolism.
2. Excess Consumption: excessive consumption of food in general, or of specific foods, especially those foods which are damaging in excess.
3. Improper Eating Habits: eating at irregular intervals, oscillating between extremes of bingeing to fasting, eating while rushing or emotionally upset, exercising within an hour of eating a meal, etc.
Occupation & Work
Occupational problems arise in three main groups:
1. Physical: each occupation has their characteristic hazards to health. For example: the prolonged hunched-seated posture of dentists causes neck and upper back issues; the wear and tear on joints of farm hands; the leg circulatory problems of those who stand for prolonged periods of time without movement; the tinnitus or hearing issues seen in DJ's and loud factory workers.
2. Mental-Emotional: the majority of people suffer, to a greater or lesser degree, from dissatisfaction with their occupation; from boredom, apathy, frustration, micro-agressive behavior, depression or general stress. Retirement, and loss or lack of job, can give rise to similar emotions.
3. Overworking may result from one more of the following reasons: insecurity, greed, peer pressure, perfectionism, ambition - whether for money, power or fame or desire to further a political, religious, or charitable cause - and so on. Also, a particular loss, or a generally dissatisfied life, may result in individuals immersing themselves in work, or other vices or distraction like alcohol, drugs, sex or food, drama.
Work basically translates to activity, which means working excessively will deplete Yang Qi, the movement aspect of our bodies. Overworking in general tends to injure Kidney Qi, Kidney Yang, and Spleen Yang Qi. While too much mental work and study are said to injure our spleens. Also, too much straining may damage aspects of the heart function.
Exercise falls into these categories: Insufficient, Excessive, Incorrect or Improper.
1. Insufficient Exercise: most people, and certainly most in the West, take insufficient exercise, and this is a powerful contributing factor to disease.
2. Excessive Exercise: in large metropolitan cities like New York, we sometimes see people taking extreme approach to exercise. This too can overstrain and exhausts the body's Qi, leading to a weakened state.
3. Incorrect Exercise: as with nutrition, the type and amount of exercise vary with the individual, and individual requirements change with time and our phase of life. Commonsense and moderation are the key words here; a vigorous HIIT workout may be detrimental in a case of chest pain. Less vigorous and drastic forms of exercise may be appropriate here, such as swimming, hiking or Tai Ji. Improper styles of exercise are likely to lead to strain and injury of organs and tissues, and disturb the circulation of Qi and Blood.
Our relationships with ourselves and others are often patterns associated with emotional disharmony. Diseases arising within the Body can turn up as patterns in our relationships.
The relationship you have with yourself is crucial to your own wellbeing and largely part of the foundation to creating healthy and happy relationships with others. Being kind to yourself regularly is one of the best things you can do for yourself.
Social connections like these not only give us pleasure, they also influence our long-term health in powerful ways just as adequate sleep, a good diet, and avoiding smoking do. Dozens of studies have shown that people who have social support from family, friends, and their communities are happier, have fewer health problems, and live longer. This example can be obviously observed in the support new mothers get from their postpartum networks.
Conversely, a relative lack of social ties is associated with depression and later-life cognitive decline, as well as with increased mortality. One study, which examined data from more than 309,000 people, found that lack of strong relationships increased the risk of premature death from all causes by 50% — an effect on mortality risk roughly comparable to smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day, and greater than obesity and physical inactivity.
Sex is an aspect of life that is closely woven with personal relationships, and virtually inseparable from them. Sexual problems are rarely purely physical In the case of impotence, the ability to get or maintain an erection, is usually from a combination of various emotional and mental factors, ie: guilt, anxiety, lack of confidence, and is often in terms of a particular relationship.
Chinese texts generally regard excessive amounts of sex as negatively impacting health.
And what is excessive sexual activity exactly? Well, for one person what may be excessive will not be excess for another; it depends on your state of health, the stage of life you're in (age). If you're young with a strong constitution and good health, you're likely to be able to engage safely in more sexual activity than a person who is ill, with a weak constitution. However, not just the quantity, but the quality of sexual activity is important. Having sex when you're exhausted or emotionally upset, may aggravate these conditions, and also deplete your Jing or Kidney Essence.