As the vibrant energy of summer gradually gives way to the slower calm of fall, we are reminded that changes in nature are deeply intertwined with our own inner balance. While leaves change color and fall, our minds and bodies undergo transformation as well. Traditional Chinese Medicine teaches us that it is important to be mindful of how our bodies respond to the changes in season and act accordingly to maintain balance.
Characteristics of the Fall Season
In TCM theory, fall corresponds to the element of metal, which is associated with the lung and large intestine. As we transition from summer to fall, the weather gets drier and colder, with each phase of the fall bringing on its own set of changes.
When autumn begins, our bodies often retain dampness left over from the humid summer months. The spleen takes center stage during this phase, as it plays a crucial role in transforming the food we eat into nourishing energy for our organs while bolstering our body’s immune system.
As mid-autumn arrives, it's crucial to focus on nourishing our yin energy by slowing down, resting, and restoring our energy. Dryness increases even more during this time, so focus on moisturizing both internally and externally by hydrating your skin, eating juicier foods, and drinking plenty of water. This approach ensures your body is well-prepared for the upcoming colder months.
In late Autumn, the temperature drops, and the environment becomes even drier. During this phase, the lungs are most vulnerable to colds and flu, and it is important that we take measures to protect them. Dress warm and wear a scarf and hat when venturing outside and avoid drafts from air conditioning and fans when you are inside.
Unlike the summer months, which are filled with lots of cold and raw fruits and vegetables, the fall calls for more warming foods. Stick to cooked, warm vegetables such as sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and beans. Dishes with longer cooking times and heartier ingredients, such as soups and stews, will benefit your body most during these months.
Moistening foods will help you counteract the dryness that characterizes the fall season. Juicy foods like apples, pears, grapefruits, mushrooms, and cabbage are great options to hydrate your body. Incorporating healthy oils like coconut oil, olive oil, sesame oil will also help combat dryness within your body.
Pungent foods will help stimulate the lungs, build immunity, and disperse phlegm. These foods are key to fighting colds and viral infections in the fall. Some examples of pungent foods include onions, garlic, turnip, ginger, pepper, and horseradish.
Cultivating Wellness and Balancing Emotions
We can help our bodies transition from the high energy summer to the calmer fall by aligning our daily routines with nature’s changes. As days shorten, wake up early to capitalize on the brightest, most energizing hours of the day, and tuck into bed earlier in the night to get more rest. Daily breathwork and movement practices like Qi Gong are another way to help our bodies adjust by supporting the lung qi.
In TCM, the large intestine represents the need to let go and move on. Thus, the fall is a time to declutter our physical, mental, and emotional spaces. This can mean letting go of physical items that are no longer necessary or useful to us, or it can mean letting go of more abstract things, such as bad habits, toxic relationships, and feelings of the past.
Processing Grief and Sadness
Feelings of grief and sadness are more likely to arise during the fall. It is important to work through these emotions, especially because the lungs are easily affected by them. When such feelings arise, we must acknowledge them, process them, and finally let them go. If you find this task difficult, acupuncture is excellent for supporting this process.
The changing of seasons can bring challenges and discomfort as we re-align our bodies with nature. By cultivating harmony through diet, lifestyle, and emotional changes, we can gracefully navigate autumn's transformative season.