Yin and Yang is a concept steeped in mysticism, being a core part of Taoist philosophy. Even with its mystical elements removed, however, its central principle – that opposing forces can complement one another – can serve as helpful guides in the pursuit of good health and wellbeing – not only in the realm of psychology, but also in nutrition, physical fitness, and self-actualization.
Although there are many differences between Yin and Yang, neither of their energies are inherently good or bad. The aspects that are related to each energy are all present in a person, and must be balanced to avoid dysfunction. By extension, being in harmony with all facets of one’s own nature is the transcendent goal of Taoism.
In fact, the Yin-Yang can be symbolic of the healthy interplay between many contrasting ideas, emotions, frames of mind and cycles of activity. One can appreciate the Yin-Yang in dynamics such as rest and action, intuition and logic, negativity and positivity, introversion and extraversion, or emotion and intellect. None of these aspects should be neglected.
This article will outline four general areas in life in which one’s Yin-Yang energies can be nurtured and balanced.
Bask in moderate amounts of sunlight outdoors
Being cooped up in the contemplative and restrained environment of an office or your room can cause too much Yin to accumulate, inducing lethargy and negative emotions.
The human body instinctively associates the Sun with energy. The UVB light in its rays kickstart the body’s pathways for synthesizing cholesterol into Vitamin D, which protects the skeletal system, and also acts as an inflow of Yang. Sunlight also wards off the effects of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and contributes to a better sense of wellbeing.
Note that glass absorbs UVB, so it’s necessary to go outdoors to benefit from sunlight as well as fresh air.
Strive for good-quality sleep and earlier bedtimes
Although the temptation exists to sleep late and do more work, watch shows or play video games, late bedtimes disrupt the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. It can also make it harder to get uninterrupted, high-quality rest.
Sleep relaxes the mind and gives the body an opportunity to replenish its store of Yin and Yang. It also regulates metabolism and hormone balances, promotes the preservation of new information and memories, strengthens the immune system and helps dispel brain fog.
For high-quality sleep, it can help to follow a strict bedtime schedule and do enough fulfilling work during the day to feel tired.
Work towards being financially sound
One cannot neglect the importance of settling debts, earning a healthy stream of income, and saving for emergencies in improving their mental health, as the burden of debt and poverty are powerful stressors that can make it difficult to pursue the self-fulfillment aspect of Yin-Yang.
There are times to indulge in material pleasures and times to pursue austerity, minimalism and delayed gratification to save and invest for the future. It is, thus, helpful to control the impulse to spend haphazardly and be savvy with one’s money.
Have your fill of essential macronutrients
New Age dietary fads that promise unparalleled health benefits can distract the health-conscious from the actual essentials to a good diet – macronutrients, including carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
Ensure that the macronutrients in your food are of high quality. The complex carbohydrates in starchy foods like potatoes, for instance, provides energy over a long period of time and contributes to a feeling of satiety. Fats and oils high in omega-3 fatty acids should also not be neglected, as DHA contains a bevy of health benefits.
Proper macronutrient intake varies with dietary restrictions, as well as specific goals such as bodybuilding or cutting down on body fat.
Detoxify your body from alcohol, drugs and processed foods
People can fall into the dangerous habit of eating nothing but heavily-processed foods, such as instant noodles, processed meats and cheeses and fast food items, for days on end.
These can all add copious amounts of junk calories, salt, fat, preservatives and other bad chemicals to one’s diet, which wreak havoc to the body’s nutrition. Frequent intake of beers, liquors and drugs also heap another layer of stress to the liver.
It is preferable to avoid accumulating these substances in the body. Learning to cook, eating homemade meals regularly, and ingesting water, tea or coffee are better choices for preserving the yin-yang balance of one’s metabolism.
Note that this tip is different from following ‘detox’ methods found in many health fads that are rife with pseudoscientific New Age cons that does its followers more harm than good.
Health and fitness
Practise sublimation with sports or martial arts
Stress, anxiety and frustration are frequent companions in life. They can cause excess Yin to fester in the mind, or feed Yang energy into violent, destructive outbursts.
Engaging in a sport is an excellent outlet to redirect these energies into a productive physical activity where both force and finesse come into play. Team sports also have the added benefit of being a social activity that sharpens cooperation and the ability to read people.
People who aren’t particularly keen with sports might enjoy martial arts, which has the capacity to channel Yang-potent emotions like rage into concentration and meditation, while providing the opportunity to fight.
Do aerobic exercise with no excuses
Many jobs and lifestyles revolve around using a computer, which makes it easy for people to turn into sedentary creatures steeped in Yin.
Aerobic exercise – jogging, running, biking, jumping or even walking – reinvigorates the body, allowing the Yang in the blood to circulate. To that end, it’s no surprise that the cardiovascular benefits of exercise are virtually limitless.
Barring any existing medical conditions, people can find that the good effects of regular aerobic exercise stack up and lead to better physical and mental wellbeing.
Devote time to meditation and reflection
Yang can overwhelm the body with too much activity, which invites reckless behaviour, choler and burnouts. Time must be allotted for consolidating victories, healing from losses and recounting one’s recent thoughts and actions. These acts of introspection can balance the internal self from the disruption of the external world.
People rest in different ways – creating art, taking a trip to someplace quiet, bathing and grooming, sleeping, or disconnecting from the Internet and social media. All of these activities allow the Yin to bloom, replenishing the sensitive aspects of the mind which make one human.
Recognise the flow of Yin-Yang in media
Modern-day media has become an effective tool for Yin-Yang energies – mostly Yin – to flow from one’s devices into their consciousness.
When news sources are designed to heighten emotions, and social media is packed with content made to stir up feelings of desire and dissatisfaction with one’s life, the unbalanced Yin and Yang energies from other people can hijack the internal harmony in the self.
Disconnecting from social media can be an excellent respite to help reorient the mind and reassess how one is dealing with the stressors they are encountering online.
It also helps to be wary of how television shows, films, and even particular songs can plant unhealthy ideas into one’s psyche.
Pick a meaningful goal and struggle to attain it
People can become pathologically addicted to drifting through life. Beyond the needs of food, shelter, security and income, they feel no motivation towards engaging in activities that will bring them to a higher goal of self-fulfillment.
Grand, strategic goals serve as a beacon towards which people can aim for a few months or years. By achieving goals and conquering difficult challenges, one can allow the potent creative and destructive energies of the Yin-Yang to flourish within.
Tommy Williamson did his degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. He is interested in mental health and well-being.