Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Autumn affects your body and mind


How does September make you feel? 

I feel like a kid again as I head back to grad school, new bag in hand, giddy to see my classmates again. Some people get nerdy for football. I get nerdy for school supplies. And finally, this pale chica can cover up!

A friend didn’t share my excitement for fall. She said, “The end of Labor Day weekend means WINTER is coming soon, and I HATE winter.”

Chinese medicine recognizes that weather and seasonal changes really do affect you. They affect your happiness, your health, and your sense of wellbeing.  Thousands of years before SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) was even a ‘thing’, Chinese medicine noted how people reacted when spending time in the elements, since back then they had more of a first-hand relationship with the weather. I used to think that in this day and age we should be able to escape the elements with our artificial heat, AC, down coats and deodorant. 

But I’m learning that we are not separate from the elements; we cannot escape them. According to Chinese medicine, heat, cold, wind and dampness can ‘invade’ you and bring you down, potentially making you sick. This medicine also emphasizes that when we can find a way to embrace [the benefits and beauty of] each season, we can transition more smoothly to the next season. Embracing a season means yielding to what it brings instead of trying to fight it. For example, fall brings us shorter, dimmer days, slightly cooler temperatures and more root vegetables. Our ancestors- and even plants and animals- historically paid attention to this and used the fall and winter to store up reserves for the next spring and summer.

I used to fear and loathe summer, so I can relate to my friend who hates the impending doom that fall brings. I found immense relief with acupuncture; now the seasonal change in light and temperature doesn’t physically or even psychologically bother me.

Here are a few tips that can help you buffer the transition into fall:
  • Kiss summer goodbye: One last trip to the beach? One last mojito or margarita?
  • Kiss fall hello: Plan a hike when the leaves start changing? Fish out your favorite sweaters and boots? Order the pumpkin spice latte?
  • Consider adding some cozy into your meals: Eat more soup and cooked foods, including root veggies like carrots, squash and sweet potatoes. These are easier for your system to digest and are more warming in nature. Lighten up on the cold, raw foods like salads and ice cream.
  • Build in more rest: Start turning off the computer AND tv AND phone 15-30 minutes earlier at night to power yourself down earlier. Holy silence Batman! It might be scary to disconnect at first, but your body will thank you.