The Chinese calendar considers Spring to be February, March, and April, a bit sooner than the Spring Equinox observed in the Western calendar. We see early flowers like crocuses start to poke through the soil in February in our temperate climate here in Oregon but our Spring has faked us out a couple of times already this year. However, these past couple of weeks have us heading full steam ahead into this most beautiful time of year here in Portland!
It’s undeniable that when the skies clear up and the temperatures start to rise, we all want to fling our coats off and celebrate, and traditional medicine has suggestions for how to best take care of our health during this transition.
Ancient advice is still relevant today! The Huang Di Nei Jing, known as the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine is a classic Chinese medical text that investigates all facets of illness: cause of disease, physiology, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of sickness. The Neijing stresses that we are not separate from universal happenings and are simply a reflection of nature. Staying in accordance with what is happening on a larger scale in the environment will clue us into healthy lifestyle habits and may give us ideas about why certain disorders arise.
“The three months of the spring bring out the revitalization of all things in nature. It is the time of birth. This is when heaven and earth are reborn. During this season it is advisable to retire early. Arise early also and go walking in order to absorb the fresh, invigorating energy. Since this is the season in which the universal energy begins anew and rejuvenates, one should attempt to correspond to it directly by being open and unsuppressed, both physically and emotionally.”
~Huang Di Nei Jing
When we find ourselves out of balance, the clinical relevance of the natural force of upward movement of Qi in springtime is often manifested in a trend of headaches, seasonal allergies, pain in neck and shoulders, muscle and tendon injuries, mood swings, irritability, frustration, anger, energy slumps and insomnia. To avoid these ailments, here’s a quick guide to staying in accordance with the nature of spring:
“Detox” your body and mind of stagnant energy
Spring seems like the best time of year to do a cleanse. The inclination to be out with the old and in with the new is definitely in accordance with the nature of spring. However, typical cleanses often include lots of cold and raw food, green juices and fasting.
A better guide for lightening up in spring is eating fresh food cooked quickly at higher temperatures and avoiding the heavy, rich, slow-roasted foods that nurtured us through winter.
Start your day with a large glass of warm water and lemon juice to wake up your digestive system and clear out old waste.
Here are some perfect spring foods to include in your diet to keep your body energized this spring:
- Brussels sprouts
- English peas
- Leeks and onion family
- Fava beans
- Bone broth soups
- Sprouts: try chickpeas, lentils, and mungbeans!
Spring can be a great time to bring awareness to what and how you eat.
Taking time to relax before you eat prepares your body to receive the nutrition you are about to take in. Checking in with your body and emotions before you take the first bite can help give you some sense of whether you’re eating because you’re hungry for good food or feeling stressed, sad, tired, lonely and craving food to fill that void.
Breathe slowly, chew food thoroughly, take reasonable bites and savor your food. It takes at least 15 minutes for your brain to catch up with your stomach to know it’s full, so slooooowww down and enjoy your meal!
Rest at night and Wake up early
To get fully energized by spring’s energy, stay in alignment with the Yang energy of the sun as it makes its hemispheric comeback.
Going to bed by 10 or 11 pm and rising with the sun in the morning is the best practice.
It’s not uncommon to find yourself with insomnia issues in spring and waking between 1-3am and feeling irritable, hot, and restless if you have a Chinese liver imbalance.
The Gallbladder is the paired organ of the Liver in Chinese Medicine. Restoring the energetics of the Gall Bladder requires rest between 11 pm and 1 am.
Sleeping at this time is the best way to cultivate tomorrow’s get-up-and-go energy for the day. Waking from nightmares or with a feeling of fright is a sign of Gallbladder deficiency in Chinese medicine.
A sluggish liver can manifest as a groggy feeling in the morning. Luckily, we have herbs that nourish and soothe Liver and Gall Bladder imbalances, but avoiding too much caffeine, alcohol, and toxic cleaning products in your home can help you stay on track.
8 Activities that align with Spring’s nature
- Try a new hobby, take on a creative project or search for a new job
- Start a new self-care regimen
- Daydream about where you’d like your path to lead you
- Spend time in nature, absorbing the abundant greenery
- Pick up the pace with your workout routine and sweat regularly: try high-intensity interval training
- Get your hands dirty: plant your own food!
- Go foraging for mushrooms
- Plan your next adventure
Indulging too much in feelings of anger, frustration, depression, sadness or any excess emotion can damage the Chinese energetic liver leading to headaches, acid reflux, mood swings, menstrual disorders, and digestive upset.
Having a meditative practice of some sort helps you stay cool when you encounter adversity in your life.
Everyone has different ways of relaxing, but here are some great ideas and practices to help you keep centered for when the going gets tough:
- Invest in a practice such as yoga, meditation, Tai Chi or Qi Gong
- Go for a walk without indulging in overthinking; feel the ground below your feet with every step
- Lay in the grass and daydream
- Ask yourself if a worry or concern will matter in 6 months, 1 year or 5 years, and then Let It Go
- Ditch sugar, alcohol, and coffee, or any substance that may get in the way of you being a less-reactive human
Spring has a natural ascending movement of energy and it’s the best time of year for us to take advantage of it!
Living in accordance with the seasons helps us not only feel better now but also prepares us for better health in the next season.
Wherever you find yourself with health concerns this spring, we’d love to be a part of your journey towards wellness.
Wondering if Chinese medicine can help? We would love to talk about it!
Book an appointment at Willow Tree Wellness Clinic or give us a call!
Wishing you a spring filled with vitality, optimism, growth and feeling great!
Haas, E. (2013). Staying healthy with the seasons. Berkeley, California: Celestial Arts.
Ni, M. (1995). Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine. Boston, Massachusetts: Shambhala.
Pitchford, P. (2009). Healing with whole foods. Berkeley, California: North Atlantic Books.