Qigong for Mood Recovery

In a January 2013 article in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies called 'Qigong and mindfulness-based mood recovery: Exercise experiences from a single case' researchers from Örebro University, School of Health and Medical Sciences in Sweden report on a 12-week qigong intervention for "Sara, the participant in this single case study, had to leave work due to burnout."

"Sara feels that her moods (more energy, wellness and joy, as well as less stress and worry) have stabilized at a high level (good to very good), and her mindfulness score also improved to a high level (4.2 on a six-point scale). Sara also states that she enjoys life more: accepts stressful situations as they are, is less worried about becoming burned out again, and is more open to life."

The authors describe qigong as follows:

"The Chinese mind-body technique Qigong aims to cultivate energy e life force (Qi) as theorised in Traditional Chinese Medicine through regular exercise (gong), and often combines movements and mind focusing (Chen, 2007). The philosophy of Qigong exercise is that the mind "guides" the organism's Qi, life force, to a healthy state. If the Qi flow is disturbed, illness may occur (Chen, 2007). During Qigong exercise, concentration on the Qi flow correlates positively with a subjective feeling of energy and health, and negatively with a subjective feeling of stress (Jouper et al., 2006). Entering the "Qigong state", being deeply relaxed, may trigger the relaxation response that supports the individual's recovery process (Benson et al., 1975). Qigong practice has been found to reduce stress symptoms (Johansson et al., 2008; Lee et al., 2000) and to improve well-being (Jouper et al., 2006) and physical health (Lee et al., 2003)."

The article describes the utility of qigong in the release of emotions:

"During the latter part of the intervention, Sara experienced the appearance of some old memories. One of the aims of Qigong is to release emotions (Chen, 2007) so they do not get stuck in the body and cause prolonged disturbed moods. Similarly, mindfulness focuses on letting go and accepting all one's inner experiences. This may cause old emotional material/memories to surface. Qigong may used in the same way as Emerson and Hopper (2011) discuss the possibility of using yoga, a similar mind-body method to Qigong, as a way to rehabilitate oneself from traumatic experiences. Individuals who have had a traumatic experience may disconnect from their bodies in order not to feel the pain of the memory. However, disconnecting from the body, one also disconnects from feelings of joy and happiness, as Sara states. Emerson and Hopper (2011) further propose that by being in the present moment, like in Qigong, the individual may increasingly begin to tolerate a greater number of memories, bodily perceptions, thoughts and emotions. Instead of being limited by the traumatic memories they may start feeling more in control of their lives, and may live a more happy life. In Sara's case, she began to get into contact with deeper layers of herself old memories, patterns of thinking and behavior and developed a willingness to be "more open" to inner and outer experiences of her life."

The article concludes with the following statement:

"Sport psychologists and exercise professionals could use mindfulness practice and Qigong exercise for recovering moods, and they are likely even better in preventing burnout syndromes (McCracken and Yang, 2008). Clients who are more intrinsically motivated to exercise (Jouper and Hassme´n, 2008) and have the ability to stay concentrated during exercise (Jouper and Gustafsson, in review; Jouper et al., 2006) probably receive more benefits from Qigong exercise than they who are more extrinsically motivated and have less concentration ability. However, when working with mind-body methods, hidden memories or emotional trauma may appear (cf. Kabat-Zinn, 2009). Therefore, let the individual practice together with others or under the regular supervision of professionals, to allow them to give necessary feedback."

The text of this article is available here.