07/19/2011 09:49 am ET | Updated Sep 18, 2011

The 4 Best Ways to Balance Emotions

By guest blogger Mao Shing Ni, DOM, PhD, ABAAHP, Lac; doctor of Chinese medicine, antiaging specialist, and author of Secrets of Longevity: Hundreds of Ways to Live to Be 100 (Chronicle Books, 2006)

When so much is uncertain in the world around us, it is natural for our anxieties to rise and for our emotions to fluctuate. But when you let your emotions run wild, the imbalance can spell trouble for your long-term health.

The Chinese healing tradition groups emotions into five predominant states: joy, rumination (including worry), sadness, fear, and anger. Experiencing these emotions is a normal part of life, and you usually shift naturally from one to the next in reaction to events that pop up in your day. However, when one single emotion dominates, it brings your entire body out of balance and can produce illness. Learning to manage your emotions is essential for your happiness, health, and longevity. Here are four tools that can help you achieve emotional balance.

1. A nerve-calming neurotransmitter.

A healthy brain has a balanced chemistry that can cope more effectively with emotional stress. Some neurotransmitters in the brain excite the nerves, while others have a calming effect. One such neurotransmitter, GABA (gamma amino butyric acid), is a chemical that is especially helpful when emotional turmoil strikes. As the primary neurotransmitter for calming nerve signals, it prevents anxiety-related messages from reaching the brain. However, over time the body's production of the chemical wanes, and when you have low levels of GABA, you may begin to feel an increase in anxiety, insomnia, irritability, and depression.  Good sources of GABA include almonds, whole wheat, mackerel, halibut, whole oats, beef liver, walnuts, rice bran, lentils, and brown rice.  When you take GABA as a dietary supplement, be sure to pair it with vitamin B6, which helps your body best utilize the nutrient.

For 3 more tips on balancing emotions, and more from Maria Rodale, go to