It feels like it’s been a strange summer this year in the Illawarra, with frequent bouts of cold, wet, windy weather dispersing the usual fine, hot days. Nonetheless, we are still riding the Qi of Summer in these final weeks of February.
We can enhance our mental-emotional-physical health by harmonising our body’s Qi with that of the season. This applies to what we eat, how we behave and our attitudes. A classic text of Chinese medicine (which is 2000 years old), the Huangdi Neijing Suwen, tells us about Summer:
“The three months of summer, they denote opulence and blossoming. The qi of heaven and earth interact and the myriad beings bloom and bear fruit.“ (Suwen 2)
Yang has reached its maximum. The days are longest, it is a time of growth and activity – look outside and observe the trees full of vigour and rustling with birds as the young are learning the ways of the world. Summer is ruled by the fire phase which corresponds with the organ of the Heart (the emperor of our body), the emotion of joy, sound of laughter, and the colour red.
To be in harmony with the atmosphere of summer we want to cultivate our yang energy:
- rise early and go to bed later
- be inspired, move, get outside and enjoy the sun
- welcome a joyful mood, express the principles of lightness, brightness, creativity and expansion.
Summer is a time to favour brightly coloured fruits and vegetables, lightly cooked. Plenty of variety in the diet helps to replace the minerals and oils sweated out. Cooking methods to use are a light steam/simmer; or saute on high heat for a very short time.
It is OK to use some pungent or spicy flavours to align with the season ruled by fire. A little hot spice (such as fresh ginger, black pepper) brings body heat out the surface to be dispersed. Take care to use only a little, as too many dispersing foods lead to loss of yang which makes us ill-prepared for staying warm in the approaching cooler seasons. In a similar line, taking warm showers and drinking hot liquids helps to bring warmth to the exterior to generate sweat and cool the body. This is counter to using overly cold ways to reduce our heat such as iced drinks and ice cream. Using cold causes contraction which blocks sweating, holds in heat and interferes with digestion.
On hot days instead of using ice-cold foods, make use of naturally cooling fresh foods to balance the heat. These foods help the body cool, even if served at room temperature. Good choices are salads, sprouts, fruit (watermelon, apples, lemons, limes), cucumber, tofu, flower teas (chrysanthemum, chamomile).
But I get it, it’s summer and who doesn’t love ice-cream! If you’re lucky enough to have plenty of yang you’ll likely get away with eating ice-cream more often than someone who tends to feel the cold. The joy that ice-cream brings my partner is priceless (and summer is the season of joy!). As with most things, trust your own knowledge of your body and apply this information in a way that works for you. If you tend to feel the cold and have excess fluids/damp/phlegm, then steer clear of cold foods, even in summer.
Take care of your Heart during summer, the organ of the fire element. The Heart connects to our speech and our mind. Practice being aware of the words you choose to speak to strengthen the Heart. Avoiding mental hyperactivity (e.g. screens at night time, refined sugar, caffeine, late-night eating) can also help maintain a calm and anchored Heart.
Please note that this blog provides general lifestyle seasonal information and does not constitute health advice. Please contact your health professional for individual-tailored advice.
Photo by Chris Galbraith on Unsplash