Here in the Northern Hemisphere, fall is colorfully marching its way toward winter. Daylight is gradually becoming more scarce, temperatures are steadily dipping lower, and we find ourselves looking forward to the holiday season and the end of the year.
The change in seasons not only impacts the environment around us, but also our own mental and physical states. The study of Chinese medicine, in fact, attributes great significance to the effects seasonal changes have on the mind and body.
“The best way to stay healthy, according to Chinese medicine, is learning about the nature of each season and living in harmony with its spirit,” writes acupuncturist Emma Suttie in her article, “Living With the Seasons According to Chinese Medicine: Autumn/Fall” on her website, Chinese Medicine Living.
According to Suttie, “this season governs organization, setting limits, and protecting boundaries. In autumn, we move from the external, expansive nature of summer to the internal, contractive nature of autumn.”
So how can you and your family lean into the season at hand, adjust your lives to jive with nature, and nurture yourselves in ways that align with the values of this time of year?
Wrap Up Projects
Suttie suggests that autumn is a great time to finish anything you started earlier in the year and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Don’t let those holiday to-do lists linger undone for too long. Finish cleaning out that closet, decorating that guest room, or polishing the silverware.
Encourage your children to finish anything they’ve been working on as well. Perhaps they’re making improvements to their room, or they’re building a model, or they have a long-term homework assignment.
Bring projects to completion and clean up when you’re done. How nice it is to march toward year’s end with a mindset of wrapping things up.
“It is also a good time to begin new projects that focus more on the internal—cultivating body and mind and becoming more introspective,” Suttie writes.
If you and your family have a spiritual practice, perhaps now is a good time to draw more attention to that. Even if you do not, looking within and allowing for some time for pensive reflection is a worthwhile activity for family members of all ages.
How can you better nurture your body and spirit? How can you improve your character? How can you live a life that has more meaning? How can you reach your fullest potential? These are some valuable questions to ask yourself over a cup of tea, with a journal in hand.
When we exhale, we are releasing the air from our lungs. Suttie says autumn is an ideal time to release things we’re holding onto, “so we can make room for new experiences that will help us to learn and grow.”
What can you and your family let go of this season? Is your physical space cluttered? Can you let go of toys, clothes, or other unnecessary belongings?
Consider aspects of your life that are causing you stress. Is there an emotional attachment there you can let go of? Are you stubbornly holding onto opinions or ideas that you’d actually be better off releasing?
Letting go can be powerful. You give yourself space to be more content and carefree.
“If you have a hard time letting go of people, objects, [or] experiences, or spend a lot of time reliving the past, this can point to a deficiency of the lungs,” Suttie says. She also recommends breathing deeply and walking outside to take cool, fresh air into the lungs.
Nourish Your Body
Not surprisingly, hearty, slow-cooked foods are beneficial to the body this time of year. Warm stews and soups featuring in-season ingredients are healthy and comforting options. Such foods “nourish the body and support the immune system throughout the winter months,” Suttie explains.
So dust off the slow cooker and stock the kitchen with the season’s best to feed your family all autumn long.
Get More Sleep
With less daylight and colder temperatures, the urge to hibernate can be strong. Don’t fight it.
“If we are living in harmony with the world around us, we see that nature is slowing down and contracting, preparing to rest, so it is good for us to do the same,” says Suttie.
Consider taking a second look at your family’s schedule and whether or not you’re allowing enough time to wind down and get a good night’s sleep. Eating dinner earlier, dimming the lights in the early evening, and maintaining welcoming sleep spaces can enhance your family’s quality of sleep.
Wishing you a happy and healthy autumn into winter!