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In today’s innovation driven world, we are constantly looking forward — wondering what’s new and what’s next. It’s part of human nature to look into the future and get excited for what is to come. This drive is a powerful and wonderful part of being alive. Sometimes, however, we forget to look back and consider the wisdom of those who have come before us. While the future may be full of exciting innovations, I don’t want to lose track of the foundational truths they are built on.

A recent article in the Huffington Post, “8 Ancient Beliefs Now Backed by Modern Science,” highlights how the scientific community is now connecting the dots between ancient beliefs and their connection to modern wellness. While some age-old practices like yoga and spas have become a regular part of our culture, recognized for their beneficial properties, other practices are just beginning to receive solid scientific backing. Science is only now fully acknowledging what many of us thought all along: many of the beliefs and practices pioneered by our ancestors are extremely effective in enhancing mind, body, and spirit wellness.

Science is Validating Ancient Philosophy

Among the “8 Ancient Beliefs,” pointed out in the article, are a number of practices I have embraced on my journey to greater well-being and an enriched life experience. Here are three of my favorites:

1. Helping others can make us happier and healthier.

Helping others makes us happier, but what ancient Greek philosophers knew (and science is now confirming) is that it can also make us healthier. The Greeks differentiated between two types of happiness: hedonic and eudiamonic happiness.

  • Hedonic happiness focuses on increased pleasure and decreased discomfort.
  • Eudiamonic happiness, or “human flourishing,” focuses on doing for others, or extending our focus beyond ourselves and into the world.

A recent study conducted by Barbara Fredrickson of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill explored the health benefits of both types of happiness. The study, which measured the effects of both types of happiness at a genetic level, determined that while both types of happiness can make us feel good, eudiamonic happiness has even greater benefits and implications for our health. People with more eudiamonic activity actually displayed an increase in the antibodies that attack viruses as compared to those with just great levels of hedonic happiness. That’s right — focusing on doing good for others increased the bodies ability to fight disease!

2. Balancing our energy systems can restore balance and health to our bodies.

The principles of traditional Chinese medicine led to the development of tai chi and acupuncture centuries ago, but science is only now seeing the numerous benefits that they provide. Several recent studies show that these ancient practices provide numerous health and wellness benefits, including one from the Center for Integrative Medicine at University of California-San Diego. The authors write:

“Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on an ancient philosophy that describes the universe, and the body, in terms of two opposing forces: yin and yang. When these forces are in balance, the body is healthy. Energy, called ‘qi’ (pronounced “chee”) flows along specific pathways, called meridians, throughout the body. This constant flow of energy keeps the yin and yang forces balanced. However, if the flow of energy gets blocked… the disruption can lead to pain, lack of function, or illness. Acupuncture therapy can release blocked qi in the body and stimulate function, evoking the body’s natural healing response through various physiological systems. Modern research has demonstrated acupuncture’s effects on the nervous system, endocrine and immune systems, cardiovascular system, and digestive system. By stimulating the body’s various systems, acupuncture can help to resolve pain, and improve sleep, digestive function, and sense of well-being.”

3. To thrive we need the support of a community.

Compassion and community have long been revered for promoting wellness on both an individual and social level. Science is now seeing that when a person is part of a community they enjoy many increased health benefits, both mental and physical. We even live longer when we are part of a social unit. When we have a sense of community and regularly experience empathy and compassion for others we become stronger and more connected. It’s those connections that humans need for survival.

Tibetan Buddhists have known the power of community for centuries. As Carolyn Gregoire writes in the Huffington Post,

“In this tradition, the community is just as important an element as any other in living a happy, purposeful life. Increasing your happiness and well-being is a difficult thing to do alone. It requires the support and love of others, and a sense of belonging to a community.”

We are inextricably linked to one another energetically!

Return to the Basics

My own journey in finding wellness is what led me to many of these ancient practices such as acupuncture and meditation. These beliefs have been serving people well for thousands of years. Their methods are more holistic and more natural than many of today’s innovations; they address the root of the issues that impact our health instead of putting band-aids on symptoms.

In this age of increasing stress, both in our bodies and in our environment, it is good to return to the basics. They are like a reset button, allowing our energy to freely flow and helping us become more balanced, helping us return to our natural state, where health and happiness can flourish. I’m glad to see that science is catching on!

What ancient practices help you navigate the modern world? Comment or tweet @ace_wagner to start a conversation.