10 Mental Health Strategies That Have Asian Origins

Mental health strategies of Asian origin

Verywell / Madelyn Goodnight

How many times have you been encouraged to meditate or hit a yoga class when you've felt stressed?  What you may have thought was just a simple tip is actually a tried-and-tested mental health strategy designed to improve your well-being and help alleviate symptoms of common mental health disorders, such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD. 

What Is a Mental Health Strategy?

By definition, a mental health strategy is one that can help to maintain a sense of emotional well-being, reducing common symptoms...and, in some cases, curing them altogether. There are several different types of mental health strategies, ranging from physical treatments, like supplementation, to ones more focused on mindset training, such as affirmations, and they can work in tandem to soothe the nervous system from a medical and emotional standpoint. 

While getting professional help is a great step forward to improving one’s psychological and emotional health, having a few mental health strategies in your toolbox can be helpful for when life gets overwhelming—and you don’t have immediate access to a therapist.

Many mental health strategies used in society today may seem pretty commonplace, but if you research them closely enough, you’ll see that many of them have Asian origins that date as far back as several thousand years. In honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (APAHM), we’ve researched 10 of the most common mental health strategies that you may not have known are of Asian origin.

Herbal Remedies

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) makes use of several herbs to help treat a number of medical conditions, such as stroke, respiratory diseases, anxiety and other mental health disorders, and heart disease. These herbs can be in the form of capsules, teas, or powders, and include herbs such as licorice, rhubarb, and ginger. This ancient practice is thousands of years old and has actually changed very little in terms of its basic premise—that one’s qi, or life force, has to always be in balance, in terms of yin and yang.

Dating back to the Zhou dynasty in China over 3,000 years ago, Chinese herbal remedies have now found their place in Western medicine, with several holistic doctors now encouraging their clients to make use of certain herbs and spices to help deal with both emotional and physical disorders, depending on what’s going on with them.

Yoga

Yoga has been touted as having several benefits, including lowering heart rate, improving sleep, relieving stress, improving flexibility, and helping with general aches and pains. While there are several different types of yoga classes one can attend these days, the traditional form of yoga comes from the Sanskrit word Yuj, which means to join and unite.

Dating back to 27,000 BC in the Indus Saraswati Valley in ancient India, yoga has been practiced in India in a way that’s very spiritual in nature, as a way to get closer to God. However, a consistent yoga practice can also be considered a wellness routine, with a host of mental and physical benefits. And, of course, it’s a great workout, too.

Meditation

There have been studies that suggest that a consistent meditation practice, even if it’s only for a few minutes a day, can actually rewire one’s brain and help improve the symptoms of several mental health disorders, including anxiety, depression, PTSD, irritation, and acute stress. There are several types of meditation, from transcendental to mantra-based, but most of them rely on having a quiet space and focusing on one’s breath.

Archeologists have discovered evidence that meditation dates as far back as 5,000 to 3,500 BC in India, but it wasn’t until the early 20th century that Swami Vivekananda introduced it to the United States.

Qigong and Tai Chi

Tai chi is the most popular form of qigong, with subtle differences involving the complexity of the movements. At their core, tai chi and qigong have often been described as meditation in motion, consisting of gentle movements and physical postures tied to deep breathing.

Benefits include balance, muscle strength, calming the mind and body, and stress relief. But even though tai chi and qigong are used commonly to help treat physical and mental issues in present day, their origins actually go way back to ancient China, where the system was used as a martial arts practice: In fact, it was described in a book called “Yi Jing” almost 3,000 years ago.

Reiki

Reiki has also been described as energy healing, and is known as a relaxing form of healing where the practitioner uses gentle touch to treat a huge variety of mental health issues, including anxiety and stress, and reduce the perception of physical pain.

Normally done by a reiki practitioner, the concept consists of opening up the energy centers in the body. While many people doubt the efficacy of reiki, it has been seen to have a number of benefits over a placebo. It originated in Japan in the 1920s by Dr. Mikao Usui.

Ayurveda

Ayurveda is a complex healing system originating in India more than 3,000 years ago. This ancient alternative medicine relies on the belief system that disease is caused by imbalances or stresses in a person’s consciousness, with the words ayur meaning "life" and veda meaning "science" or "knowledge" in Sanskrit.

Ayurvedic strategies are aplenty based on one’s specific dosha, or constitution, ranging from herbal remedies and massages to skincare and diet changes. Overall, Ayurveda has been touted as having several benefits, including weight loss, stress relief, and promoting an overall sense of well-being.

Daoism

Daoism (or Taoism) has traditionally been linked to a philosophy or way of life that originated in China as far back as the fourth century BCE. Some basic concepts of Daoism include the belief system that we are all microcosms connected to the cosmos. It also believes that reality doesn’t actually exist, but can be changed by free will, due to the rule that everything is constant. It has been suggested that since Daoism relies on living in harmony with the universe, it can help promote a sense of well-being and govern a calmer way to navigate life.

Japanese Rock Gardens

Nature, in general, is said to have a calming effect on the body, but the concept of Japanese rock gardens—also called Zen gardens or karesansui—takes this idea to a new level. By design, a Japanese rock garden relies on gravel, rock, and sand being arranged by a set of principles laid down by Shingen in 1466. (Some factors include naturalistic, asymmetric, and branching structures.)

It has been suggested that following these structures provides a sense of tranquility and calmness, promoting a reduction of stress in the body.

Feng Shui

Feng shui is also known as Chinese geomancy, or the art of placing buildings and other sites favorably, and is an ancient Chinese traditional practice that believes that the way items are placed in a room can help harness energy and control emotional responses. These responses may include increased focus, reduced anxiety, and a sense of calm. Developed in China in BC, it was first used in gravesites, and literally stands for wind-water.

While there aren’t several studies out there definitively explaining the benefits of feng shui, the idea of a place promoting a certain mood certainly isn’t new, and the principles of feng shui have been followed over thousands of years to promote better health in one’s living space.

Acupuncture

A part of TCM, acupuncture is an alternative form of medicine where small needles are placed on the meridians or pressure points of the body in order to stimulate the central nervous system. It has been suggested from a spiritual perspective that this helps to block stagnant energy and helps improve a wide variety of physical and emotional symptoms, from pain and stiffness in the joints to anxiety, stress, and depression.

It is based on an over 3,000-year-old healing technique, originating in China, with several clinicians now integrating it into their healing practice as a collateral form of treatment.

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11 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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