In Traditional Chinese Medicine, our bodies are believed to be deeply connected to nature and the planet. Part of that includes seasonal changes and shifts.
In the world around us, the changing of the seasons is distinguished by characteristics like the shifting temperature, the leaves on the trees, flowers blooming or returning to the Earth.
It’s not just nature that responds to the change of seasons – our bodies do as well!
Importance of Seasonal Transition to Summer
The energetic shifts accompanying seasonal changes are reflected in both our physical and emotional bodies.
For this reason, it can be very helpful to adopt practices that support our bodies through these transitions.
According to Chinese medicine, living in alignment with our planet helps bring us closer to optimal health.
Tune your attention to the changes in nature around you in order to encourage a transition of ease from Spring to Summer.
Characteristics of the Transition from Spring to Summer
Although not as dramatic as the transition from Winter to Spring, the shift from Spring to Summer has its own unique energetic changes.
In Chinese Five Element Theory, Summer is related to the Fire element. In TCM theory, Summer corresponds to the Heart organ and channel system.
In Summer, the flowers are in full bloom, the days become longer, and the temperatures rise. It is a time of movement, growth, and expansion.
By its very elemental nature, heat causes things to quicken and expand. The increase in heat during this time of year is of course related to the strength of the summer sun. This strong sun that blazes down and enlivens our internal and external worlds can be viewed as the embodiment of the Fire element in Chinese Medicine.
All of the seasons can also be characterized in terms of yin and yang theory. Summer is considered the full expression of yang, with its quick, hot, bright, and active nature.
What to Expect During the Summer Transition
Summer is a time of increased heat, vibrancy, movement, and growth, but what does that all mean for our bodies?
Just as nature’s energy increases, you may notice an increase in your energy as well, whether mentally or physically.
In Chinese Medicine, Summer and the Fire element are related to the emotion of joy, the sound of laughter, and the color red. This associated imagery and characteristics are reflective in many of our modern summer rituals, celebrations and activities – such as gathering around a fire.
When the Fire element is balanced, the mind is calm, there is restful and restorative sleep, and the heart is healthy and vital.
If there is an imbalance in the Fire element, however, there may be experiences of emotional disturbance, difficulty with sleep, and possibly cardiac weakness.
How to Support your Body in the Transition to Summer
A change in the environment’s energetics means a change within ourselves. And this means new opportunities and ways to best support these shifts.
Through gentle modifications of diet and lifestyle, we can better align with the flow of Summer.
In Summer, the heat energy is at its peak. In our bodies, the Fire element is more engaged.
In particular, the digestive fire is typically more active, which means our bodies can handle foods that are otherwise more difficult to digest (such as cold and raw foods).
So, especially during hot summer months, incorporating seasonal raw fruits and vegetables can be a great way to help the body stay nourished. By incorporating more cooling foods, we can help to prevent the body from taking on too much heat.
Eat raw fruits and vegetables in moderation – avoid overconsumption which can lead to bloating and indigestion, especially if you are prone to digestive difficulties. If you notice bloating or digestive upset, try cutting back on the cold, raw foods and replace them with warmer and lightly cooked vegetables.
Foods to Prioritize during Summer
Support your body by focusing on whole foods, preferably organic and free of pesticides and other chemicals, that have a cooling characteristic in Chinese medicine.
Energetically cooling foods help to clear heat from the body, and they also generate body fluids to keep the system hydrated and replenished.
Particularly cooling foods include cucumber, berries, green leafy vegetables, salads, oranges, watermelon, mung beans, snow peas, bok choy, and cantaloupe.
Foods to Limit during Summer
Especially during hot months, restrict your intake of heavy, greasy, and fried foods, as well as excessive alcohol. These types of food preparations can add more heat to the system – leading to imbalance.
For those who are particularly sensitive to heat, it may also help to reduce the amount of spicy foods in your diet during Summer.
Recipe tip: Watermelon and Mint infused water
- 1 cup watermelon (cut in 1” cubes)
- 1-2 tablespoons loosely packed mint leaves (or as much is desired to taste)
- 2 cups of room temperature water
Add all ingredients to a container of choice and refrigerate for around 2 hours to infuse. Strain if you wish and drink throughout the day! It helps to tear, cut, or muddle the mint to help release the flavor and its properties.
Traditionally, watermelon is used as an herb in Chinese medicine to clear heat from the body. While it is super hydrating and delicious, it is also a source of vitamin C and A.
Healthy Expressions of Joy and Connection
For many, Summer brings to mind joyful memories in the sunshine, gatherings with loved ones, time spent outdoors, dining alfresco, sun-warmed skin and souls.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the emotion related to the Fire element is joy and the sound is laughter. Summer is an invitation to fully embody the joy we are all so deserving of.
With this invitation of experiencing joy, explore what lights you up and find ways to bring more of that into your day. Imbalances of joy can present as mania or on the other end of the spectrum, sorrow and bitterness.
It is important to note that there is no judgment attached to these emotions. Often joy is seen as positive and sadness as negative, but a familiarity and feeling of both is a healthy experience. Finding support through a mental health care provider is another great tool to care for the Heart and Fire energetics.
Summer energy is quick and lively. You may notice yourself feeling more active than usual!
During the summer months, try incorporating more active workouts with a focus on cardiac health. In Chinese Medicine, the season of summer is related to the Heart organ and channel system.
That means finding ways to support cardiac health and promote circulation are helpful to live in alignment with the season. Feel free to break a sweat! A simple way to gauge what intensity works for you is to listen to your body. If you feel tired, or like you have to take a nap after your workout, it was most likely too intense.
Always listen to what feels best for your unique body on any given day.
As the temperatures increase and we start spending more time outdoors, becoming more active and sweating, hydration is very important. To calculate how much water to drink, divide your body weight in half and aim to drink that amount in ounces.
In Summer, choose cooling teas that can help clear heat from the system and keep you feeling cool and hydrated. Try incorporating Green Teas, White Teas, Mint, Chrysanthemum, or Honeysuckle flower tea.
In Chinese Medicine, these individual herbs are part of the herbal Materia Medica. While they are often used alongside many other herbs in Chinese Herbal formulas, they are great to use on their own in your kitchen!
As always, check with your health care provider before making dietary and lifestyle changes.
Summer is a time when the energy in the environment and within us is abundant. Like the hot and expansive nature of heat, we can tune into this shift and align ourselves with the momentum and fullness and live in the full expression of the season!