Now that summer is here, you may be noticing yourself having more energy, feeling more social, or experiencing all-around better moods. This is normal for this time of year, when the extroverted, lively, enthusiastic, active aspects of you are at their peak.
In acupuncture theory, humans are viewed as microcosms of the natural world that surrounds them. Weather and climate, particularly during the transition from one season to another, factor significantly into diagnoses and treatment plans. Each season is linked with a natural element, organ and emotion.
The element, organ and emotion of summer are Fire, Heart and joy, respectively. So, how does this influence the way you feel in summertime? And what can you do about it?
Here are some acupuncture-inspired pointers for maintaining balance, and for staying happy and healthy all summer long.
1. Be active
By remaining active during summer, you work in accordance with the extra energy that’s available to us this time of year. Also, since the Fire element is associated with the Heart system (which includes cardiac function as we think of it in western medicine), summer is a good time to pay attention to heart health. Exercise keeps your blood and oxygen circulating so that proper nutrients can make their way to the rest of your body. Be cautious though about overdoing it with exercise, especially on very hot days or at signs of excessive sweating or face flushing.
2. Hang out with friends
Characteristics of the Fire element include connection, intimacy, communication and joy. What better way to tap into these qualities than spending time with friends? Have that BBQ on your rooftop, go hiking upstate, or organize a day at the beach. Nurturing connections during summer not only makes the season more fun, but it also helps ease the transition into fall and winter, when we tend to pull inward and spend more time alone.
Every season has an associated emotion and expression of that emotion. Summer’s is joy and laughter. When you’re hanging with friends or strangers this summer, crack jokes, appreciate theirs, tell funny stories, then tell them again. Keeping the laughter flowing will keep your Fire burning bright.
4. Enjoy ‘cool’ foods
In general, acupuncture favors warm foods— i.e. foods with warm properties; not necessarily warm from a temperature standpoint. They are thought to ease the digestive process by causing your system to relax and more easily break down food. Cold foods cause contraction, which means your body has to work a lot harder to digest. Summer, however, is the one time of year when it’s okay to cool things down diet-wise. It’s not a license to chug ice water all day and eat raw salad at every meal, but cooler fare such as watermelon, cucumber and leafy greens are better tolerated in summer.
5. Spend time near water
All of acupuncture’s natural elements keep each other in balance. Perhaps the most important relationship is Fire and Water. As we are in the season of Fire, maintaining a balance between Fire and Water is considered important. Heart/Fire is responsible for the way we interface with the external world, while Kidney/Water is about our inner life and ancestral/genetic identity. Since there is a natural increased expression of Fire/Heart qualities in summer, being physically near water can be a grounding calming experience.
6. Drink more water
Going along with #5 above, it’s also important to remember to drink more water during the summer months. We naturally sweat more during hot summer days, and we lose fluid as we sweat. It’s very tempting to chug ice water to stay refreshed, but that can actually cause cramping and constriction in our GI tracts. Try to drink mostly room temperature water, or water that is only slightly chilled. Your body will be able to function more easily that way. A good rule of thumb is to drink half of your body weight, in ounces, per day. E.g.: a 140-lb woman should aim to drink 70 ounces per day!
7. Get enough sleep
With summer Fridays, sun shining into the evenings, and social events revving up, sometimes sleep is the last thing on our minds in summer. It’s natural to sleep fewer hours when daylight is so abundant, but rest should still be a priority, especially since many of us move and sweat more than usual this time of year. Also, sleep in acupuncture is a function of the Heart, the organ of summer. Keeping a regular sleep schedule helps prevent disruption in this aspect of the Heart system, which is prone to imbalance during summer.
Remember, these tips are just for your awareness and balance. Know that summer is a time for fun and for your energetic personality flourish. Happy summer!