8 Concepts of Mental Health from Acupuncture Theory

  1. Three treasures of humans are our Chi (energy), Jing (structure/essence) and Shen (spirit/vitality/consciousness). Mental state and emotions directly impact the Shen and the Chi. 

2. Shen (spirit/vitality/consciousness) is expressed in the eyes. A good Shen is full of light and awareness, without chaotic movements. A depleted Shen is lacking energy and enthusiasm, and seems heavy or sad. 

3. The facial complexion expresses three things: the Shen, the Heart Blood (important for circulation, nutrition, and energy) and the Stomach Yin (digestion and nutrition). Two main cause of lifestyle disease or un-balanced living are emotions and alimentation, in other words, our mental state and the things we eat and drink. Research has named this and includes the microbiome in the “gut-brain axis”. Eating improperly for our body type or “eating our feelings” is sub-optimal alimentation that causes weaknesses of the chi over time. 

4. Strong emotions have varying effects on the health of the Chi:

Excess joy (mania) slows the chi. 

Worry ties the chi in knots. 

Sadness / grief deplete the chi. 

Anger flares the chi upwards. 

Fear or shock scatter the chi. 

5. A calm, balanced spirit which is “returning to center” or as the old Taoist text Secret of the Golden Flower states it, “turns the light around” is nurturing and protecting the chi. Turning the light around, or ever returning to one’s natural and balanced state, is preserving and growing the helpful chi, and preventing leaks of energy which deplete the chi. 

6. Tai chi and Qi gong are full of gentle, graceful, full-range-of-motion movements that allow Chi to express with freedom, without becoming chaotic. 

7. Acupuncture moves and regulates the chi, and returns balance to the body Yin and Yang. It is said that “all dis-ease starts with the Shen”. This means that the state of our mental health directly influences physical health. An unbalanced mind has the potential to create an unbalanced way of living, which impacts the body. 

8. The ancient Chinese character for “Healing” depicts a heart (Shen) in a boat headed in an away-direction. Healing means a journey to the “other shore”, or moving the heart, one’s consciousness, to another shore which is a new perspective. Taking the next positive step in our life is healing. 


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