By Dr. Anna Gold
Autumn is the season when the world feels like it's in transition. Daylight shortens and darkness lengthens. Here in northern California where I live, the temperature fluctuates weekly from warm to cold to mild and back to cold, as if Mother Nature is easing our bodies slowly into hibernation.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the fall season is associated with the metal element and by extension, the metal organs: Lungs and Large Intestine. Lungs and Large Intestines sift through substances to keep those that nourish and eliminate waste. The emotional aspect of the metal element is grief. Sometimes grief arises when change occurs, especially if we are facing loss, much like the transition from warm weather to winter frost.
Chinese Medicine teaches us ways to stay balanced and healthy during every season. When we align with the energy of Fall we are less prone to sickness and fatigue. The following are ways to support balance in your body and mind during this season.
1. We should always be eating seasonally and what fun it is to eat in the Autumn when we harvest plentiful fruits and vegetables. Apples, pears, pumpkins, squashes, sweet potatoes, carrots, and cabbage, for example, are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can boosts the immune system and are said to nourish lungs. They are sweet and pungent, which helps clear phlegm and moisten dryness, weaknesses to which Lungs are prone.
To offset the cool and dry nature of the Fall season, one should eat soups, stews and porridges, which are warming and moistening. Incorporating spices such as ginger, garlic, cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves to your dishes also enhances warming elements to your dishes.
2. Breathe deeply and practice letting go. The Lungs are the organ of respiration, which connects us to the air and the energy of life. Breathing deeply can help to oxygenate blood, improve circulation, and calm the mind. Mindful breathing techniques helps release negative emotions that you may be holding onto, like sadness, anger, or resentment.
For example, as you sit quietly to focus on your breath, say to yourself "Let" on the inhale, and "Go" on the exhale. Do this ten times and notice how much lighter you feel when you get up. The Lungs are also associated with attachment, so Fall is a good time to practice letting go of anything that no longer serve the best version of you, such as clutter, unhealthy habits, or toxic relationships. In addition to mindful breathing, you can also practice letting go by decluttering your home, donating or recycling unwanted items, or writing a letter to someone you need to forgive or say goodbye to. By letting go, you can create more space and clarity in your life.
3. As the weather gets colder and drier, it is important to dress warmly and protect your skin from the elements. The skin is the largest organ of the body and the first line of defense against external pathogens. It is also controlled by the Lungs in TCM.
To keep your skin healthy and hydrated, drink enough water and moisturize with microbiome friendly products such as Marie Veronique's outstanding new Body Barrier Emulsion or Barrier Lipid Complex, my favorite facial moisturizer in cold weather.
Wearing warm clothes and covering your neck and chest when the weather is windy will keep you warm and lessen exposure to cold pathogens. According to Chinese medicine, Wind and Cold are considered pathogenic factors which can cause symptoms such as headaches, sore throat, cough, or nasal congestion.
4. As with every season, expressing gratitude helps to uplift spirits and enhance well-being. In Autumn, as we collect Mother Nature's harvests, I like to especially emphasize the importance of gratefulness, a mindful state of appreciating kindness and giving thanks to all that surrounds us. You can practice gratefulness by taking walks in nature, observing its changes in color and scents. Keeping a gratitude journal, expressing thanks to others, giving compliments, or performing random acts of kindness can all contribute to health. Studies show that being in a state of gratitude improves sleep, lowers blood pressure, strengthens the immune system and prolongs lifespan.
Incorporating these small changes into your daily routine can fundamentally keep you healthy in body, mind, and spirit through the Autumnal season.