Summer is over, kids have settled into a school routine, leaves are changing colors and starting to fall, and Halloween is just around the corner. The earth has shifted from summer (its most yang cycle), and has begun its yin cycle (autumn), where the days are becoming shorter and cooler. In contrast to the hottest, busiest, most vibrant time of year, life has begun to slow down. We are harvesting the abundance of the summer months, and are preparing for winter. And like plants that shift their energy from their leaves and fruit down to their roots, people tend to become more introspective during this time of year, often experiencing feelings of sadness, anxiety and depression as winter approaches.
Oriental medicine is based on the laws and cycles of nature. Living in harmony with the seasons can help us to stay healthy. Autumn is about transformation, change, letting go and moving on. The season of the metal element, autumn is associated with the Lung and Large Intestine. The Lung is directly connected to our environment, and is vulnerable to pathogens and germs that we breathe. When the Lung is weak, our immune systems are weak. The emotions of the Lung are grief, sadness, anxiety and worry; in excess, these emotions can injure the Lung. The Large Intestine, both physically and emotionally, is about letting go of what no longer serves us. Just as trees shed their leaves temporarily so that new leaves can grow in the spring, autumn is a time when people can let go of their old “stuff” in order to grow.
During this transitional season, feelings of anxiety, depression and sadness are common. However, when our emotional balance becomes disrupted, physical symptoms often follow—and during the fall, our Lung and Large Intestine organs are often the most vulnerable. Fortunately, there are ways to keep ourselves healthy and well as we enjoy autumn and move towards winter.
Breathe / mediate / yoga.
Breathe deeply down to the belly. Count to 5. Let the breath out.
Deep breathing expands and strengthens the lungs, and floods our bodies with oxygen. Meditation and yoga can help us to feel to feel grounded and balanced, as can drastically minimize stress and anxiety.
Re-prioritize / organize / detox our lives.
Let go of anything that is no longer useful—just like trees—and make room for the new. This is an opportunity to rid our lives of any clutter that may be weighing us down.
Wear a scarf or put on an extra layer of clothing before going outside. Drink more tea and warm soups and beverages. Staying warm can help to ward off cold and keep the lungs healthy.
Eat “fall” foods.
Color-rich veggies are full of beta-carotene and Vitamin A—essential for a strong immune system and nourishing the lungs. Carrots, garlic, ginger, rice, pumpkin, kale, cinnamon, sweet potato, broccoli, vinegar, wasabi, and greens are all great foods to eat during autumn months. They are also easy to digest, especially when they are cooked rather than eaten raw.
Acupuncture is a safe, effective way to treat anxiety and depression without the use of medication. Acupuncture is a powerful treatment for emotional problems, including anxiety, depression, and Seasonal Affective Disorder. In addition to its emotional benefits, acupuncture is well known for improving both the immune and digestive systems, which is particularly important during the fall months.
Essential for bone health, Vitamin D also improves the immune system and fights depression. Known as the “sunshine vitamin,” our bodies create most of our Vitamin D from sun exposure. In fact, very few foods contain enough Vitamin D for our bodies’ needs. During fall and winter months, when sun exposure is limited, it can be beneficial to take a high-quality Vitamin D supplement to improve our overall health.
By embracing autumn and making some simple healthy changes, we can boost our immune systems and ease feelings of anxiety and depression, allowing us to enjoy this beautiful time of year!