7 Ways Joy Affects the Heart

In TCM (traditional Chinese medicine), each organ has a corresponding emotion. Joy is the emotion of the heart. It’s easy to assume that when it comes to joy you can’t go wrong but according to Chinese medicine, you can actually have too much or too little joy. Either can cause an imbalance of heart Qi (energy).  

Since the heart is so directly associated with the mind, all emotions can have an effect on the heart but sadness/lack of joy or too much joy (think euphoria or mania) most directly effect the heart’s Qi.

A deficiency of heart Qi (sometimes caused by prolonged sadness) manifests as fatigue, shortness of breath, palpitations, a pale face, and spontaneous sweating. Scattered heart Qi (sometimes caused by excessive joy) disturbs the shen and shows up as insomnia, excessive talking, heart palpitations, inappropriate behavior and a red tipped tongue.

As mentioned, long term sadness can deplete the heart’s Qi and we all know what sadness looks and feels like. But you may be wondering, how can you actually have too much joy?

Have you ever met someone that exudes joy but also has so much energy that it almost seems a little manic? Have you ever met someone who is so focused on keeping things positive that it borders on toxic and keeps them from processing their negative feelings?

This person may have these characteristics because of their constitution or because they’ve developed them over time. Either way, they may have a hard time connecting with and showing us their innermost self. Their true emotions may be hidden from you underneath all of that joy and in the worst case scenario, they may be hiding these emotions from themselves as well. I think it’s safe to say that in both western and TCM terms, repressed emotions never lead to anything good.

Another possibility is that this overly joyful person flits from one thing to the next while taking no time to rest and go inward. Sounds exhausting right? Well, this kind of behavior also scatters and exhausts the Qi of the heart. While our society tends to reward a “go, go, go” mentality and generally appreciates joy and happiness more than sadness, it’s so important that we find a balance between being joyful and also knowing the value of our other emotions.

So how do we find a healthy balance of joy?

  1. Seek out the people you feel most at ease and happy with.
  2. Seek out the pastimes and hobbies that light you up and bring you true joy.
  3. Make more time for playfulness in your life but also make time for rest.
  4. If you are experiencing burnout (not just from work but from too many hobbies or outings with friends) and can’t seem to slow down, try to make a habit of finding 20 minutes each day to find stillness and reflect.
  5. If you are experiencing a lack of joy, open up to someone, a trusted friend or a professional who is invested in you and helping you find joy again.
  6. Allow yourself to feel both joy and sadness without shame. Know that all emotions are a normal part of our human experience.
  7. Examine what sadness and joy mean to you and how they motivate you. A good place to start is the book Bittersweet, How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole by Susan Cain. You can also listen to Susan’s interview with Glennon Doyle on the podcast We Can Do Hard Things, episode 85. As a side note, this is the best podcast ever and I encourage everyone of you to give it a listen.

As always, If you have any questions about how acupuncture can help you, please reach out to me anytime. Sending you all love and a perfectly appropriate amount of joy!