Today, February 4th, 2020 marks the “Beginning of Spring” (立春 LiChun). We just celebrated Spring Festival aka Lunar New Year on January 25th , so how come there are two Spring’s beginnings in the Chinese Calendar? Well, one follows the Moon Cycle while the other follows the agricultural calendar that is based on Solar Movements and consists of 24 Solar Terms (二十四节气 ErShiSi JieQi). Just like the Lunar New Year, the “Beginning of Spring” signifies a rebirth, fresh start and a time for new beginnings which this year is further emphasized by the Year of the Metal Rat that started a new 12-year cycle. So there is no better time than NOW to focus on new ideas and making changes in daily life. Spring is also a time to establish “regularity of our daily life” to help develop good life habits. So start to mariekondo-ing your physical and mental space.
According to the theory of 5 phases, Spring is associated with Wood element. Wood phase carries energy that is free, dispersing, upward and outward moving. It is like a new sprout coming out of hibernation that is full of life, vibrant and free. In Traditional Chinese medicine, Wood is linked to the Liver and Gallbladder organ systems. There is a classical saying that “Liver promotes the free flow of Qi”, it doesn’t like to be obstructed or depressed and it facilitates the flow of energy (function) of all the internal organs. Just like our Central Nervous System, if Liver doesn’t work properly, nothing in the body is going to work well.
Characteristics of expansion, growth and movement make Spring a Yang phase based on the theory of Yin & Yang. After a colder winter, weather outside starts to warm up, days are getting longer and Yang Qi is gradually growing. Nevertheless, it is not strong enough and thus referred to as Lesser Yang (少阳Shao Yang).
5 tips to promote health during the spring:
1. Keep positive attitude
In our body, health preservation in spring should comply with characteristics of Yang Qi in nature and more attention should be paid to the care of the Liver and Gallbladder. It is highly advisable to control negative or depressing emotions. There should be no restrictive thoughts or worry. HuangDi NeiJing – ancient Chinese medical classic- states: “give more rather than demand from others, praise more rather than criticize”. It also encourages us to be more generous, open-minded and optimistic.
2. Wake up earlier
In our daily life, cultivating Yang Qi means going to sleep a little later compared to the winter time of year, while waking up earlier. It is also recommended to wear loose comfortable clothes but still keep warm as weather in spring can be very irregular and warmer days can be followed by cold nights. It is very difficult for the human body to adapt to rapid climatic changes and therefore many of us tend to catch cold/flu. Rapid weather changes in spring can also exacerbate fatigue, dizziness, anxiety, insomnia and poor memory. Due to close relationship between Liver and Spleen & Stomach (controlling cycle in five phases), it can bring about gastrointestinal issues like bloating and poor appetite. Spring’s winds can stir up internal wind problems like hives, neurodermatitis and acne.
3. Eat more vegetables
Diet in spring should still be warming but much lighter compared to wintertime. It means, instead of warming meats, you can incorporate acrid and warming vegetables such as garlic, fresh ginger, scallions, leeks, chives, cilantro, mustard, onion, etc. Dark leafy vegetables are also food of choice including all the sprouted ones. Cooking methods also should be light and quick such as sautéing, searing, stir-frying, and blanching. Individuals that are strong and healthy can start mild detox or intermittent dieting after February 4th. According to the theory of 5 phases, the flavor associated with Spring/Liver is sour and the color is blue-green. Sour can really soothe the Liver, but keep in mind that it might increase joints and nerve pain if used excessively. It can also make Liver more irritable and force it to suppress Spleen & Stomach, negatively impacting digestive system.
4. Exercise outdoor
Spring is a great time to resume physical activities. Outdoor activities are particularly good for our health. It is the perfect time of the year for morning hikes, jogging, outdoor yoga, pilates, TaiJi or QiGong. Don’t forget Liver’s associated tissue is tendons and ligaments, so stretch those stiff joints to liberate the movement! I know it is very tempting for many to start vigorous exercises after binge eating during the holiday season, but try to increase the difficulty and intensity gradually, pay close attention to the way your body feels after physical activity. After all the motto of Spring season is to feel happy and comfortable inside and out.