I got into an interesting conversation with a client of mine the other day which left me feeling quite inspired.
It doesn’t take much, when I see the light go on in people’s eyes, as soon as the anxiety disappears and our eyes are met with understanding and empathy instead, going with the flow and adapting to what’s really going on instead of forcing ideas and opinions, the exchange between two people is absolutely priceless.
But before I’ll continue on my philosophical spin, let me get into the gist of why I’m actually writing this post. I decided to share something about cravings. I want to share the misperceptions of cravings and if left unattended and unacknowledged, how it leads into addictions, obsessions and / or just life long habits.
In Chinese Medicine we don’t really believe in mind over matter, or mind over body, but rather try to understand what the body actually tells us through signs and symptoms. What gets in the way of us understanding our body is generally because our minds misinterpret, and most of the time, even judge our body’s symptoms as failure to function as it’s ‘supposed to’.
Let’s be straight here: we all have high expectations of ourselves, want to feel superhuman, have super powers and be basically clear, energised and never down or tired. When was the last time you actually welcomed in a low mood or tiredness? I’m not suggesting you should. But our focus on being ‘up’ all the time, is exactly what gets in the way of understanding your natural, and ever changing state of your body and spirit.
The conversation my client and I had was specifically about alcohol. Many people ‘crave’ alcohol. The taste of it, the ritual of drinking it, the way it makes one feel.
But what is it really that is being craved?
In Chinese Medicine it’s the liver that controls the release and free coursing of Qi (or Life Force) in the body, mind and spirit. A lot of the time the liver gets overwhelmed. Due to for example:
- Unresolved emotional burdens
- Traumatic events
When that happens, the liver stops creating the ‘free flow’ we so need for our body, and other aspects of our being, to feel nourished and nurtured. We feel blocked, out of whack, depressed, frustrated, angry and / or simply constantly stressed and stuck. Physically we may find it difficult to breathe, we may get stomach pains, feel bloated, hormonally out of whack.
How does ‘Free Flow’ make you feel, what is it we are seeking?
First of all you are present, in the moment, you are enjoying yourself, you can connect to what’s around you and within you, in other words there’s a balance between your focus on yourself and the world around you.
We’ve all been there before, we know what it feels like to ‘have flow’ (within and without) and what it feels like to not have it, to feel stuck and burdened, if not depressed.
In an attempt to recreate a ‘free flow’ of energy, we’ll seek out anything that will make that happen.
So what is it that you do? What is your coping mechanism?
As mentioned before, alcohol, or other substances or addictive behaviours for that matter, are a preferred choice for many. And as mentioned before, we don’t want to look at this through a ‘mind over matter perspective’, i.e. using self restraint and discipline to overcome these habits. That rarely works. After all, whatever we are doing is creating the release of energy we so desperately need.
Alcohol creates a free flow momentarily, and we can feel all these things we want to feel at least for a limited time, we feel happy. What’s unfortunate is the aftereffects and the vicious cycle the already overburdened liver then finds itself. It gets more stressed with the addition of toxins and therefore craves more substances, stimulants and the like to experience the release.
But, there is a way out, or I wouldn’t be writing this in the first place!
Using the principles of Chinese Medicine to overcome addictions and cravings, we need to attend to what the body is asking for. Let’s attend to the body’s need to create a free flow. Let’s attend to the body’s needs to fill up the tank with life force, qi, energy!
What can help? In my experience, personally and professionally, I recommend:
-Talking, either in a counselling session or to a good friend who knows how to listen.
-Your preferred choice of exercise (running, swimming, dancing, etc.)
-Taking time off and spending it in your preferred environment (beach, forest, bush, any sanctuary)
-Reading inspiring material
-Quality time with your favourite people, including just yourself if that’s right for you now.
Some helpful guidelines:
Be curious. Consider a new habit, e.g. using guided meditation or doing yoga, but just find the practice, or teachers that resonate with you.
Don’t entirely reinvent yourself. If you really don’t enjoy something don’t do it. Don’t go against your own flow. No matter how ‘good’ you think it would be, we are all wired differently and it’s about listening to what it is that really brings you joy.
Start slow, do 1-2 yoga classes per week, a few minutes of meditation per day, or a couple of hours in nature, whatever you want to try. Increase your time spent just as you feel you need it.
Notice the aftereffects. Clearly, eating a block of chocolates during a few hour Tv binge, isn’t gonna make you feel great afterwards. Nor is a bottle or two of wine- you don’t get up the next day and shout “yay!”. So, how do you feel after yoga? Meditation? Some time out in nature? A healthy meal? Tune in, this is you.
The more you engage with the practices that make you feel better in the long run, the less you’ll be overcome by cravings. The more you’ll tune into what’s right for you on all levels, the less your body will produce extreme demands that can be interpreted into cravings and / or addictions.
The most important thing is to remember that you are slowly building a natural flow of Qi / Life Force within you. This will take time. You may not get the appearance of amazing endorphins right away. There can be resistance in the beginning, your conscious mind reminding you of all the other important things that have to be prioritised. It’s okay to force yourself in the beginning sometimes to break a habit. I sometimes don’t allow myself to spend some time at the beach, getting caught up in the idea of putting work first at all times. But as soon as I’ll go, it usually takes half an hour of being there, I start to relax and realise how silly I was to resist this kind of nourishment in the first place. I get in my flow.
You’ve probably figured out that I’m talking about balance here. Other times you’ll get in the flow when you start working on your project, it can be about working more and resisting less. Just realise for yourself what it is that will energise you and get you into your own flow. Realise that cravings, of any kind is your body’s way of saying “Hey, you’ve overdone it here, it’s affecting your health and you gotta supplement what’s missing.” That can very well relate to not doing enough of something or simply doing too much in something else.
As I could go on on this subject forever, I’d love to hear from you and hear what it is that you may feel that you’re craving. I’ll be happy to explain from a Chinese Medicine, Acupuncture and Healing’s perspective what this may relate to and what you could do. Likewise, if you are just after more info, I’m equally happy to help. Just comment on this post 😉