Living with the Seasons: Summer
Updated: Jan 3, 2018
Summer represents the outward expression of energy, expansiveness, movement and activity. It is the most yang of the seasons and is ruled by fire...
by Emma Suttie, D.Ac
Summer in TCM is the season associated with the Heart and Small Intestine. The colour is red, the emotion joy, and it is a time for growth, expansion, light, abundance, and is the manifestation of all we have been cultivating throughout the spring.
Many look forward to summer all year round. the weather is hot and the sun is out, improving people's moods and people are drawn outdoors to participate in all the activities they have been longing for all winter. Plants grow quickly, people are full of energy and the body's qi and vitality are at their peak. It is a time to cultivate the yang energy (fire), while making sure that it does not come to excess. In TCM, the heart, mind, and spirit are ruled by the fire element, so priority should be given to these important aspects of ourselves in the summer season.
Rising early in the summer allows us to benefit from the suns' nourishing rays. Being up early enables us to get all of the suns' nourishing energy which is the most bountiful this time of year. in summer, our work, play, and relationships should be filled with joy and should instill in us a feeling of happiness and delight. We should live our lives and go about our daily activities with joy, passion, and laughter. This is how we know that the heart energy is balanced in us.
Physically, when we are properly balanced, the heart circulates oxygen rich blood throughout the body, and assures proper assimilation in the beginning stages of digestion in the small intestine. In Chinese Medicine, mental acuity is associated with the heart; therefore; thought processes, emotional well being and consciousness are also attributed to the heart and the fire element. This is a time to nourish our spirits, realize our life's potential; finding joy in hot summer days and warm summer nights.
When our heart is balanced, the mind is calm and we sleep deeply and wake rested. When the heart is imbalanced, we may lack joy (which manifests in depression) or have an excess of joy (mania or manic behavior). Some indications of a heart imbalance are nervousness, insomnia, heartburn and confusion, red complexion, poor memory and speech problems.
Emotionally, because the heart is connected to our spirits, summer is the best time to heal our emotional wounds that we have carried with us from our pasts. Healing these wounds frees up space that we can fill with love, joy and happiness and ensures that we will not carry our old hurts with us into the future.
Here are some tips to help you make the most of the summer season:
Drink plenty of water and other fluids
Wake up earlier in the morning
Go to bed later in the evening
Rest at midday
Add pungent flavors to your diet
Refrain from anger; keep calm and even-tempered. (Anger causes and exacerbates heat!)
Summer is about abundance, and this is definitely the case with foods. Fruits an vegetables abound in summer, and we are lucky to have a multitude of choices when it comes to what we eat. Because it is the season of maximum yang, it is important to stay cool and hydrated. There are many foods that are beneficial to eat during this season. All foods in Traditional Chinese medicine have a temperature and energetic properties, so in summer we eat cool, yin foods that are moistening to balance the heat. Many raw foods are seen to be cooling in nature, so summer is the perfect time to indulge in salads, which are full of raw vegetables, very cooling and hydrating to the body. Eating more foods with pungent flavours and reducing bitter flavours help to strengthen the lungs - responsible for sweat so helps maintain the normal sweating mechanism. Foods with cooling properties also clear heat, can reduce toxins and help to generate body fluids, Generally, most vegetables and fruits are cooling, eating them raw makes them cooler still, and many seafoods are also cooling in nature.
Here is a list of foods that are beneficial to eat in the summer months:
Living in harmony with the seasons is at the core of Traditional Chinese Wisdom. It was based on living in harmony with nature and one's environment. Traditional Chinese medicine is also a system that is rooted in prevention. Food is medicine and the ancient Chinese used food and its healing properties to build up the body when deficient, cleanse it when toxic, and release it when in excess. When these basic principles of eating with the seasons, and an awareness of the organs associated with each phase and their emotions, we can all stay healthy, strengthen our bodies, minds, and spirits and live long, happy, healthy lives.