New Year's Resolutions, per Chinese Medicine

As an acupuncturist the last thing I want to do is discourage people from taking action to improve their health. God knows I spend most of my waking hours in clinical rooms informing clients of the changes they should make, finally non-verbally compromising somewhere between their ingrained habits and my inflexible demands.

However, in spite of its calendar significance, from a Chinese Medical perspective, that January 1st is not necessarily the best time for certain resolutions. It might be different for people in Los Angeles, but here on planet Earth where the climate shifts as it is supposed to, Winter is a time of holding and conservation. As opposed to warm weather months, which are more conducive to (all forms of) purging, as well as growth and personal challenge.

For this I offer what I hope does not come off as a prescription to neglect wellness, but information with which to proceed intelligently. I've always believed a healer's job, no matter Western or Eastern, is as much to educate as it is to restore balance. If your doctor or acupuncturist does not offer advice and/or homework he/she sucks.

In Chinese numerology nine is an auspicious number that signifies longevity and good health. Here are my nine recommendations in regards to New Year's resolutions. 3 good resolutions that fit January 1st just fine:

  1. Quitting smoking. Really this is always a good idea, as smoking creates heat in the body, which is obviously aggravated by summer temperatures. However it also crushes the immune system and our body's blood circulation, which are all more vulnerable in the cold. If January 1's your date, go for it. If you fail, make January 3 your date. If that fails, go for January 7, and so on. Don't look at it as continuously failing, but continuously quitting. Find solace in the fact that you have no choice. Quit or die. Like "skate or die," only more morbid and adult.

  2. Exercising. Once again... always a good idea, though it should be qualified. If you can avoid it Chinese Medicine highly recommends not beginning an outdoor running discipline in January temperatures. The cold air is less forgiving on the lungs than a Scorpio of their ex, which if you believe in holistic medicine (or astrology), ends up affecting more than just the lungs. Also, we are more prone to injuries pounding on our knees on that cement in the frigid air. Join a gym or yoga studio or just push some furniture to the side at home!

  3. Adding bone broth. Isn't it annoying when something becomes so trendy that it ends up in hipster window fronts in Williamsburg and subsequently ends up deterring regular people from hopping on board just to immaturely define themselves as separate from the herd? Well, bad news. None of us are that unique, regardless of mustache, which means all of us would benefit from a weekly, if not daily dose of homemade bone broth in the cold weather.

3 resolutions that don’t fit as well:

  1. A juice fast… or any kind of fast really. Winter is the time to hold and conserve, not drain and purge. The climate demands more rest as it saps more energy and strength, and is thus not conducive to any kind of cleanses. Better advised to wait for springtime… really May, which is when spring actually begins in NYC.

  2. Quitting coffee. The coffee bean has a wonderfully warming energy, which makes abstaining from it highly unrealistic on those frigid February commutes. Don’t get me wrong. Chinese Medicine does not subscribe to the latest sexy scientific evidence that coffee, in a vacuum, is good for everyone. Firstly, all people are different. Aside from water, green vegetables and bone broth, nothing is good for all of us. For most people any more than a few small coffees a week is harsh on the adrenal glands and systemically dehydrating. However, if you’ve been indulging in that soul-cuddling cup of warm java over enjoyable holiday brunches all month, be good to yourself by not abrupt deprivation when the body wants that bean the most.

  3. Vegetarianism! First, I’d like to qualify that I have vegetarian and vegan friends and am not at all racist against them. I understand and respect their choice, in spite of it going against the medical paradigm I practice. But if it’s something you’re just considering exploring I would encourage you to wait until springtime when your body won’t as much miss that “yang” warming energy of animal protein. Maybe a good idea to begin weaning around the beginning of March.

3 fallback dates for if your resolution fails.

  1. Chinese New Year! I’ve always liked this one because it gives me another full month to enjoy my vice, also happens to pretty closely coincide with the end of American football season… so any indulgences that tend to go hand in hand with the big game at my bro’s crib at least are no longer susceptible to environmental association. February means the end of fun, hence a good time for discipline.

  2. Spring Equinox. Per Chinese Medicine this is actually the perfect time for healthy growth and purging of pathogens. The warm, yang energy has returned, giving us a surge of will power with which to avoid our childish crutches.

  3. April 1. As a New Yorker I like this one because anyone who’s lived here for more than a few years has long since learned that it isn’t March, but April that “goes in like a lion, out like a lamb.” March 21 may be the beginning of Spring on the calendar, but it sure isn’t on the NY1 five day forecast. Personally, I recommend Thanksgiving-Easter be a time of conservation and nourishment.

Instead, I wish you all a wonderfully discipline-filled, healthy new year regardless of intentions, and am eager to help anyone looking to abstain from anything bad or add anything good. Ultimately the most important rule in holistic medicine is that there are no rules, except for how you feel. If you feel great, no need to listen to anyone else’s principles. And if you’re at your strongest on January 1 go for it!

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