Your mental health and wellbeing influence every aspect of your life and daily experience. As a thinking and feeling being, you depend on mental health to solve problems, create, connect with others, earn a living, recall your fondest memories, and delight in the joys of being alive. As good mental health is essential to high quality of living, it’s imperative to equip yourself with tools —like Medical Qigong — which can help you maintain and elevate your mental wellbeing.
Learn more: “What is wellbeing and why is it important?”
Activities to improve mental health
Global health officials universally acknowledge the strong correlation between overall wellbeing and mental wellbeing, alongside the need to prioritise modalities that support both. Medical Qigong is one such modality that aims to simultaneously support multiple aspects of health, with an emphasis on psychological wellbeing. With roots in both classical Chinese medicine (CCM) and the philosophy of Taoism, Medical Qigong has been refined through the centuries to promote longevity, cure physical and psychological maladies, and optimise every aspect of wellbeing. At its core, Medical Qigong is the self-cultivation of total health, balance, and the free flow of intrinsic energy (Qi).
In both Classical Chinese Medicine and Medical Qigong alike, the root cause of mental imbalances and disorders is attributed to a disturbance in the free flow of Qi throughout the meridians, body, and skeleton. Qi then becomes excessive or stagnant, resulting in a myriad of potential symptoms, including intense worry or anger, persistent sadness, low self-esteem, mood instability, substance or food misuse, impaired work performance, insomnia, difficulty relating to others, low sex drive, and an inability to cope with life’s daily activities and stresses. Using a series of mindful movements and breathing techniques, Medical Qigong aims to redistribute excessive Qi and mobilise stagnant Qi, restoring mental resilience, clarity, contentment, and equanimity.
Medical Qigong for psychological wellbeing
From its routes in Classical Chinese Medicine, Medical Qigong treats emotions and physical health holistically. Understanding psychological health and physical health as interdependent, emotions are categorised into seven groups that each correlate with a specific yin organ and its associated meridian:
- Joy (heart meridian)
- Anxiety (lung meridian)
- Grief (lung meridian)
- Anger (liver meridian)
- Worry (spleen meridian)
- Fear (kidney meridian)
- Fright (heart and kidney meridians).
Each of the five yin organs (heart, lungs, liver, spleen, and kidneys) is also associated with one of five yang organs (small intestine, large intestine, gallbladder, stomach, and bladder, respectively).
To frame this to a more Western understanding, consider two well known physical symptoms of depression: recurrent chest pain and gastrointestinal upset. Medical Qigong understands some forms of depression as a disturbance of Qi in the heart meridian, which correlates with the small intestine meridian. A Medical Qigong treatment approach would include physical exercises, breathing and self-awareness techniques, meditation, and lifestyle modifications to restore the free flow of Qi in the affected meridians and entire body.
In addition to decreasing the symptoms of anxiety and depression, Qigong has been shown to significantly lower stress-related biomarkers (cortisol, catecholamines) and elevate one’s sense of self-efficacy, quality of life, and overall wellbeing.
Medical Qigong and the mind-body connection
Your body and mind are inextricably linked, which explains why beneficial physical activities, such as exercise, offer so many psychological benefits. Medical Qigong shares many of the same benefits associated with other forms of exercise, such as musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, and neurological fitness. However, as a meditative movement, Medical Qigong has a much different impact on your physical and psychological experience of relaxation and balance.
While more strenuous forms of exercise rev up your sympathetic response, the slower cadence of Medical Qigong stimulates your parasympathetic response and aligns your heartbeat and respiration rates (called “enhanced respiratory sinus arrhythmia” in science-speak).
In addition to creating a strong inner sense of rhythm and harmony, aligning your breath and heart rate makes blood circulation more efficient. As you inhale, your heart rate increases, directing more of your blood volume into your lungs. As you exhale, your heart rate decreases, directing your blood volume throughout your body. Put simply from a Western perspective, Medical Qigong can help you optimise circulation whilst encouraging positive emotions and mental balance.
From a CCM perspective, the heart is the ruler of all organs while the lungs are the master of Qi. In addition to their functions of supply life-sustaining blood and oxygen to the brain and body, the heart and lungs are also intricately connected to psychological health and balance. Medical Qigong exercises therefore work to optimise circulation and respiration, enhancing the free flow of Qi whilst simultaneously strengthening and mobilising the muscles, joints, and bones of the body. This holistic approach restores both physiological and psychological balance, increasing overall health and vitality.
Medical Qigong is a powerful form of self-care that acknowledges that each person is unique and capable of influencing her or his state of mental wellbeing. Learn more about how you can experience the self-care and mental wellbeing benefits of Qigong through our blog, ebooks, online courses, or in-person trainings.