East Asian Medicine teaches that humans should live in harmony with the seasons. According to East Asian Medicine (EAM), there are five seasons – winter, spring, summer, late summer and fall. Each season has many associations that help us change our habits allowing for a more balanced mind and body. When these systems were being developed, people were living in harmony with nature. People rose with the sun, ate what was available during the different seasons and they were much more aware of their natural environment. What to wear, when to wake up, when to go to sleep and what activities to engage in were all dependent on the weather and the environment. Because of this, people were capable of staying healthy throughout the year and their immune and organ systems were strong enough to ward off disease.
Summer is a time of abundant energy, long sunshine-filled days and warmth. In EAM, summer has many different associations that help define it. The element of summer is fire, the color of summer is red, the emotion of summer is joy and the governing organs are the heart and the small intestine.
The East Asian Medical System relies heavily on the five elements and how they work and interact within the body. In EAM, there are multiple levels. The first is that of yin and yang. At the most basic level, yin is like water and yang is like fire. As mentioned, fire is the element of summer. Thus fire is yang in nature, which means that it is symbolic of maximum activity. During the summer months, everybody and everything is more outgoing or outward in nature. And as the heart is the main organ associated with the season of summer, it should be paid close attention to and nourished to remain healthy.
One of the best self-care tips for the hot summer months is to keep the body hydrated. Because of the extreme heat of the summer, many people prefer to drink iced beverages, including their water. However, ice is actually detrimental to the body and particularly the digestive tract. Iced drinks shock the digestive tract and make it work twice as hard to process everything. So skip the ice. And if regular water isn’t your thing, consider coconut water. It adds a little flavor and still replenishes the electrolytes without all the added sugar of something like Gatorade.
Do some grounding work. Everything is energy. And our bodies absorb energy from the things around us. Grounding involves going barefoot or lying on the ground to absorb the energy from the Earth. Grounding is particularly helpful if you are starting to feel lightheaded or overheated.
Cultivate joy, the emotion of the heart. During the summer months, it is easier for people to be happy. Find ways to perpetuate this by spending time with friends and family enjoying outdoor activities or sharing a refreshing meal. Take the kids for a bike ride or help them catch fireflies down by the stream. These simple acts can be very calming and helpful to the mind and body.
Eat more cooling foods. Foods like watermelon and cucumber are great for helping to regulate the body temperature. Also avoid eating excessively sugary foods that can weigh the body down and create excess phlegm. So instead of having an ice cream sundae every day, opt for some fruit sorbet that has less dairy, but is still sweet, satisfying and refreshing.
Lastly, consider getting regular acupuncture treatments. Acupuncture is a great way to keep the heart and small intestine functioning properly. The tiny needles can help release stagnation and improve circulation. Acupuncture also helps balance emotions that and hormones that may become imbalanced.
When we align ourselves with the natural processes of life and the seasons, our bodies will adjust and perform optimally, just as they are intended to. This is how we are supposed to live and can quite possibly be why there is so much more disease now than in the past. So to be the healthiest you possible, learning to take cues from the seasons might just be the best suggestion ever.