Have you already fallen off the wagon for your New Year’s resolutions? Consider using the Chinese New Year as another opportunity—not just to begin again, but to look at different ways to strive for self-improvement.
This year, the Chinese New Year, or Lunar New Year, begins on Jan. 25 and will be celebrated with large family dinners festooned with red decorations, gifts of red envelopes filled with money and plenty of fireworks.
But instead of looking at obligatory resolutions, strict diet plans, or extreme exercise regimens, Eastern cultures often see the new year as an opportunity to rebalance the whole self: mind, body and spirit. This holistic approach follows the centuries-old path of Chinese medicine in which every part of one’s self—physical, mental, emotional and spiritual—is intertwined.
Let’s look at how you can take advantage of this season by rebalancing yourself and incorporating Chinese traditions to support your health and happiness.
Choose healthy foods that nourish your body
Chinese takeout fans probably have their restaurant favorites memorized, whether it’s moo shu pork or a container of crispy crab Rangoon. But these meals, which can pack a lot of extra salt and fat, don’t reflect the traditional Eastern diet.
Rebalancing mealtime in the Eastern fashion has a lot to do with using meat as more of a flavoring than a main ingredient. Much of the Chinese diet is plant-based. Shifting toward this way of eating can go a long way toward supporting your health and giving yourself a fresh start.
To eat a more balanced, nourishing diet, take a page from their meal menus with these tips:
- Enjoy warm soups with vegetables, mushrooms, noodles and lots of broth.
- Adjust your meals to include smaller amounts of meat or fish, and larger amounts of vegetables whole grain rice, or noodles.
- Serve hot tea or water with meals and skip the soda.
- End your meal with fresh fruit instead of dessert.
Try a new way to deal with stress and pain
It’s tough to focus on rebalancing your mind and body when you’re stressed out. Or maybe you’ve got a nagging injury that just won’t go away. Many people seek relief through acupuncture or acupressure, a component of Traditional Chinese Medicine that is now offered more regularly in modern settings.
By inserting very thin needles into the skin or applying sustained pressure at specific places on your body, it’s believed to help re-balance the flow of energy.
People turn to acupuncture and acupressure to ease pain in certain parts of the body or as a stress-reducer. It’s seen as a way to support your mental and physical health.
Learn some Eastern exercises
The opposite of a crowded, frenetic spin class or boot camp session, Eastern exercises are gentler ways to work out that often focus on a mind-body connection.
Tai chi is one of these, combining a continuous flow of slow, precise movements with gentle stretching, all while practicing mindfulness. You don’t need special equipment for this, just the time and space to perform the movements.
People who practice tai chi have said it improves their balance and builds strength and stamina. If you want to tap more deeply into the mind-body-spirit connection, try qi gong. This series of movements also involves meditation and controlled breathing. It can be done standing up or sitting down.
Pay attention to your “shen”
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, your spirit or vitality is known as your “shen,” and it needs attention if you’re trying to rebalance your life. The simplest way to do this is to find things that refresh you and recharge you emotionally. Here are a few things to try:
- Set aside time for friends: A call to reconnect or meeting someone for coffee can lift your day.
- Unplug: Set aside your phone and turn off the TV for at least a half hour before bed.
- Find your joy: Go back to a hobby you loved, pick up a new book, cook a great meal.
- Get outside: Fresh air and a brisk walk are good for your mind and body.
If the Chinese New Year comes and goes and you still haven’t taken any steps, don’t worry. The journey toward self-improvement or a healthier lifestyle doesn’t have to be dictated by someone else’s calendar. Here are some more tips for getting back on track.
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