Several thousands of years ago, the most famous book of Chinese medicine, the Nei Jing or Inner Classic stated, “He who would nourish life surely follows the changes of the season, adapts to cold and heat, harmonizes joy and anger, and dwells in calm”. This is still good advice because we need times of rest and activity to balance our body and mind. In todays world, where technology seems to counter the cycles of the day and seasons, balance is still important to maintain our well being and ensure a healthy longevity.
In order to balance with the seasons, we need to adjust our schedule, activities and diet to conform to the changing seasons. To understand this, it is helpful to understand an energetic view of the seasons. Spring and summer are seasons where the energy of nature is full of activity. Fall and Winter are quieter energetically. The energy of nature is going inside for rebuilding.
In order to stay healthy, it is important to harmonize with the nature of the season. In spring, nature is letting go so it is important for us to do that in our lifestyles. It is important to literally and figuratively let your hair down, take leisurely walks and stay relaxed in all endeavors.
Gentle stretching and movement such as done in Chi Gung is helpful in order to let the flow of energy from nature move through us. Deep breathing and meditation can help to keep the emotions more tranquil. To further harmonize with the season, rise early and take a walk outside in the morning.
In spring, it is important to avoid becoming angry or uptight so that the energy of nature which we are a part of can flow through us to sprout and grow similar to the green shoots sprouting and budding in nature. It is also best to avoid excessive worry. Ancient people, in my view rightly so, knew that energy from nature flows through our body. If we block this energy, known in China as chi (qi), sickness arises. Health is achieved by keeping the chi dynamic flowing. The chi dynamic is the proper flow of energy plotted by the ancient Chinese which is the basis of acupuncture, acupressure and chi gung/nei gung practices.
In diet, it is important to eat a little lighter in the spring and to eat a little more food that energetically release energy. It is important to regularly eat lightly cooked leafy greens and radishes. This includes: daikon radish, barley, mushrooms, sprouts and sour tasting foods. Slightly less heavier foods such as fats, natural red meats, and cheese should be eaten.
The liver is associated with spring. Habits in the modern diet that hurt the liver especially in the spring are overeating deep fried foods and poor-quality greasy foods, overeating commercial red meats, and highly processed foods such a sodas, chips, donuts and other pastries.
Although one needs a diet that has some lightness in the spring, it is important not to eat too lightly and not to eat foods that interfere with digestion. Overconsuming cold beverages or foods, eating too many salads, drinking too many juices or smoothies, not eating enough complex carbohydrates and moderate amounts of natural animal foods - or supplements to replace animal products for vegans, will weaken the liver. Drinking lots of alcohol, smoking or ingesting cannabis, taking too many stimulants, beverages or foods such as coffee and chocolate will all weaken the liver.
In Chinese and related oriental medicines, the liver has a broader meaning. The liver in these medicines control the smooth flow of energy, thoughts, emotions and blood. If a person puts out to much energy in the spring, has been too active in the winter, has not gotten enough sleep or is not eating a nourishing diet of cooked grains and vegetables with natural animal foods, fats and other natural foods, they may become exhausted. This creates a lack of energy to fuel the body, or to fuel the liver’s energy which causes health issues to arise in the spring.
Despite the benefits of modern technology, understanding how to balance with the cycle of the changing seasons can help us to create a healthy long life.