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All is Well With Dr. Anna Gold

This feature was originally published on DORÉ

Photos: Smeeta Mahanti

As we gear up for the holidays, and the inherent stress that comes with them, we wanted to take a little extra trim to ground down into our wellness. So we have some reliable tools at our disposable to combat the stress. No one better to speak on that than Dr. Anna Gold, an East Asian medicine doctor specializing in women’s health and pain management, based in San Francisco. With her cool demeanor and deep knowledge of yoga and Traditional East Asian medicine, she has a few tricks up her sleeve in how to stay grounded in this ever chaotic world.

What do you do daily for your wellness?

Move my body
I make sure that I exercise for at least a half an hour each day. On weekdays when time is limited, I squeeze in a half hour jog, bike ride or yoga practice. On the weekends, I hike on a trail or do a longer Ashtanga practice. Movement helps to create the happy neurotransmitters like dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin important for mental and emotional well being. When I exercise, awareness of my breath makes space for inspiration.

Meditate
With a busy work schedule and family life, I’m lucky if I get to meditate for ten minutes. The key is to schedule it in. I used to go on long meditation retreats before having kids and I miss those days, but I also want to spend as much time with my family as I can. Ten minutes a day may not be a long time but it is essential to set the tone for the day.

Slowing down to practice kindness
I am by nature an impatient person. (There is always so much to do!) I’ve been known to inadvertently offend people with my curt personality. My dosha in Ayurveda is pitta-vata (fire-air) and in Chinese medicine my element is water with wood tendencies. In both systems, my constitution lacks earth so it’s really important that I incorporate activities that are grounding to me. This includes slowing down and partaking in mindful acts of kindness. We live in such divisive times with hateful speech and isolating dogma. Offering to help strangers or spending time listening to people on a daily basis are ways for me to incorporate slowing down to practice kindness. It counteracts judgmental and negative thoughts that may come up when I’m hurried. Taking my BALANCE herbal tincture throughout the day (extra doses if it’s PMS week) also helps to keep irritable tendencies away.

Count my blessings
One ritual I’ve shared with my kids since they were babies (they are now teens), is to recall three things I’m grateful for when going to bed. Studies show that practicing gratitude creates happiness and satisfaction. It helps to focus on the positive aspects because what we choose to focus on is what flourishes in our lives.

Sleep at least 7-8 hours
In our society, the importance of getting enough sleep is not emphasized enough. Lack of sleep negatively affects cognitive function, emotional wellbeing, and immunity. It’s associated with high blood pressure, diabetes, weight gain, and other long term health issues. Prioritizing sleep is important so that I can be fully present when I am helping patients. I take three dropperfuls of BUILD SLEEP at bedtime to ensure I fall asleep right away and that I get right back to sleep if I happen to wake up in the middle of the night. The formula has Chinese herbs to nourish the deficiencies contributing to chronic insomnia so that when taken over time, it fortifies one’s sleep cycles.

What do you do weekly for your wellness?

Every weekend, I walk barefoot in my yard and work with my bare hands while I garden. I have a no shoe policy in my home and walk barefoot on hardwood floors, which feels important for grounding from being on electronic devices all the time. On the weekends, I make sure I walk barefoot outside. When I spend time touching the earth, whether with my hands or feet, I feel all this electromagnetic energy in my body sinking down and neutralized. I am more grounded afterwards. Now there are studies that show walking barefoot benefits the nervous system, improves sleep and lowers pain.

This is something I’ve intuitively done since childhood. I’ve emphasized it even more since I started teaching yoga 25 years ago. The first and most important pose everyone learns is “mountain pose,” or Tadasana. It’s basically learning to stand properly on all four corners of your feet. If you can perfect your connection to the earth, you perfect yoga and become a conduit between heaven and earth.

What do you do monthly for your wellness?

Half the year when the weather is amenable here in California, I go on monthly camping or backpacking trips. Sleeping out in nature forces my family and me to get off the grid and engage deeply with each other.

The other half of the year when it’s too cold to camp outside, I make sure to go on a long hike in the mountains or to a beach at least once a month.

Being in the midst of grand landscapes with large trees and vast oceans reminds me of how insignificant my troubles are compared to the grand scheme of Life. Nature is humbling. It’s a way to de-stress and reset priorities.

What do you do yearly for your wellness?

I give myself the gift of time off. At the end of the calendar year, around the time of the winter solstice, I take two weeks off from work. All beings in nature go through cycles of growth and contraction. At the end of the year it’s nice to fully disengage from the mindset of forward momentum. I give myself permission to press the pause button so that I can replenish my resources on a deep level.

Our society puts too much pressure on us to overwork. There’s always more to do, more tasks to finish, more goals to achieve. Giving myself this time to engage in joyful activities without deadlines helps me reflect and rediscover the purpose behind my work.

How do you define wellness?

Wellness is a feeling of self worth, of satisfaction, of sound mind and body. Wellness is a feeling of strength, of being supported so you can in turn support others. It’s being connected to a higher Source and having a purpose in serving others.

What is one thing you wish everyone did for their own wellness?

I wish that everyone can find peace and purpose. Everyone’s path is so different and finding one’s purpose can be circuitous. A well lived life takes so much inquiry, experience and introspection to realize what truly brings one Joy. I’m not talking about the kind of Joy that involves highs and lows, but the kind of Joy that brings peace and calm. We all need to find what brings us the feeling so that we can say definitively, at the end of our lives, that it was all worth it.