yoga at sunset  #9

Emotion Commotion:

How Emotions Affect Our Well-Being

We all have emotions. It’s simply a part of being human. Most of us take it for granted that we’ll experience the whole spectrum of feelings at one point or another throughout our lives. But how much do our emotions really weigh—on us? Are we truly aware of their effect on our wellness?

The groundbreaking work of Dr. Candace Pert in the 1980s demonstrated once and for all the link between emotions and health. Dr. Pert discovered that certain brain chemicals called neuropeptides, which she called “molecules of emotion,” act as messengers between the mind and the immune system. Her findings revealed that thoughts and emotions directly impact the physical body and our health.

Paradigm-shifting as it was at the time, Dr. Pert’s work confirmed a concept that has firmly been in place as part of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) theory for at least several thousand years: the understanding that emotions are powerful energies that strongly affect our Qi (internal life energy) and our health overall.

This wisdom is clearly stated in the Nei Jing, a classic text of TCM, written some 2,500 years ago: “Overindulgence in the five emotions—happiness, anger, sadness, worry, and fear—can create imbalances.” TCM views emotions as potential “internal pathogens” that have the ability to unbalance the function of our organs.

This unbalancing “emotion commotion” can occur when we experience an emotion very intensely, suddenly, or when we chronically hold onto any emotion over an extended period of time. From the TCM perspective, it’s completely natural to experience emotions; however, they must flow in order for them not have an adverse effect on your well-being.


TCM’s Five Element theory forms a Universal template, organizing everything in this reality into five interacting, comprehensive patterns. It links, for instance, the spring season with the Wood element and the color green, along with an infinite number of correspondences.

The Five Elements tells us each emotion corresponds to a certain internal organ. TCM’s concept of an organ is much broader than the Western concept. According to this ancient medical system, an organ is a holistic complex of functions that includes physical functions but also energy, as well as psychological and spiritual, functions.

So each organ is very much affected by its related emotion. For instance, anger—which also includes feelings of stress, frustration, bitterness and resentment—is related to the Liver. It’s important to realize that if we are continually angry or if we feel stressed out all the time, this directly impacts Liver function.

Given that the Liver is responsible for managing the smooth flow of blood and Qi—and emotion—throughout our bodies, it’s easy to see that chronic anger or stress will, sooner or later, take its toll on the health of the Liver and our health overall. Symptoms such as migraines, heart palpitations, high blood pressure, insomnia, digestive problems, changes in vision, and menstrual difficulties can be signals from our bodies of Liver function imbalance.

How does each emotion affect our Qi?

  • Anger makes Qi rise, so many of its effects will be felt in your head and neck: headaches are the most common symptom, yet dizziness, ringing in the ears, red blotches on the front of the neck, and thirst can all be signs of a Liver imbalance.
  • Excessive happiness, meaning a state of overexcitement, can adversely affect your Heart Qi.
  • Anxiety or worry, related to the Spleen, depletes this organ’s Qi, potentially affecting the digestive process.
  • Sadness affects both the Lung, to which it is related, and the Heart. Sadness also depletes Qi.
  • Fear corresponds to the Kidney. This emotion depletes Essence, the basis for Qi, which is stored in the Kidney.

What’s the best way to prevent internal—not to mention, external—commotion from our emotion? According to ancient TCM wisdom, “letting it go” is the most powerful technique. Granted, it’s easier said than done, but this approach encourages you to step back and see things from a different perspective and not be so attached to one outcome or the other. It takes some practice, but its healing benefits are well worth the effort.

Letting It Go ‒ Some Traditional Emotional Healing Techniques

In springtime everything begins to grow and sprout. Accordingly, germination is the operating principle at this time of year. The natural movement of Liver Qi or energy is to rise: think of a tree moving freely upward and outward in all directions. Frequently in spring, Liver Qi rises too forcefully and then you can experience symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, irritability and hypertension. Because your Liver processes emotion, releasing pent-up emotion can help heal your Liver.

Try these traditional exercises:

  • Buy a dozen eggs and smash them.
  • In a safe area break several glass bottles. (Green is the color that resonates with the Liver, so green bottles are great if you are trying to release anger.)
  • Scream your head off! (This can be done in your car or in the shower.)

The point is to let all your excess emotion go! Click Here for more tips on Liver Health.