Give Yourself a Valentine

Valentine’s Day is traditionally when we celebrate our love for one another: couples, families, friends, what have you. Qualities of selflessness and giving to others are highly valued in our culture, while paying attention to one’s own needs and one’s own care is not so highly valued.

I want to challenge you to send some of that love to yourself in 2010. If you’re worried that that sounds too selfish, think of it this way: how can you care for your family and friends if you aren’t taking good care of yourself?  Good self-care means different things to different people.  Maybe you could use a weekly massage to combat the stiffness that comes from sitting at a desk all day.  Maybe you need to start taking a yoga or meditation class to reduce the impact of stress.  Maybe you need to get some psychotherapy to help you navigate a difficult life issue.  Maybe you need to try some acupuncture for that nagging pain in your back or neck that hasn’t gone away as quickly as you’d hoped.  Whatever it is, there is no better time than right now to start taking better care of yourself, and this is especially true when times are hard.  How else will we get through those hard times in one piece so we can enjoy the good times when come around again?

Here are my top five reasons to make acupuncture a part of your self-care routine this year:

  • Deep Relaxation: Acupuncture triggers your body’s relaxation response, the opposite of the fight-or-flight response, triggered by stress or trauma.  During deep relaxation, your digestive system works more efficiently, your immune system can mount a better response to invaders, your breathing and heart rate slow – giving your heart a rest, blood vessels relax allowing for better circulation and your mind gets a break from thinking and planning.
  • Balance: Acupuncture taps into that part of the brain which regulates temperature, blood pressure and circulation, levels of hormones and neurotransmitters, immune function, etc.  Regular acupuncture treatments encourage the body to “reset”, bringing attention to what is out of balance and needs to be regulated.
  • Energy Boost: Most of my patients, regardless of why they’ve come for acupuncture, report feeling more energetic.  Some folks have even been able to stop taking their medications prescribed to treat fatigue!
  • Improved Sleep: You might think that improved sleep and an energy boost would contradict each other, but that’s not true.  In healthy, well-balanced bodies, there is enough energy to do what needs to be done AND sleep comes easily.  When we trigger the relaxation response and balance hormones with acupuncture, it often leads to deeper, more restful sleep.
  • Improved Mood: Acupuncture causes a release of endorphins, the body’s own pain-killing chemicals, creating a feeling of elation or well-being.  Along with triggering deep relaxation and promoting biochemical balance, this is no short-term high.  Acupuncture has been known to treat anxiety and depression, in many cases with better results than medications.

No one is saying that acupuncture is a “cure all”, but I will say that it is darn good medicine.  It is, however, a medicine that must be experienced to be believed, so I encourage you to try it and evaluate the results for yourself.

However you choose to take better care of yourself in 2010, stick to it.  Bring the same patience and determination to self-care that you bring to the care of others and over time you’ll see the benefits of your healthy choices begin to pile up.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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