If you are noticing moods that seem to shift as quickly as the weather this spring, you’re not alone. Just as the weather exhibits volatile swings between sunshine, torrential downpours, and even hail storms, the energy of spring can similarly influence our emotions.
Spring brings us the return of growth, renewal, and the expansive energy of yang. Think of how hard it is for the first crocuses to push up out of the frozen ground in early spring. While most of us look forward to spring after the long winter months, growth and expansion are often uncomfortable experiences. The discomfort of spring often shows up in our emotions.
Spring is the season of the liver and gallbladder. Two organs championed with metabolizing toxins and removing them from the body. The liver also makes a wide variety of hormones and precursor hormones. In East Asian medicine, it is in charge of promoting the free and unhindered movement of qi throughout our bodies. This translates to keeping circulation clear and keeping our bodies free of pain. Finally, cognitively the liver is in charge of planning and bringing plans into fruition.
Since spring is the season of the liver, if the energy of the liver is stuck or depleted, we are more likely to experience some symptoms of the liver acting out as it tries to correct itself. Stuck liver qi, or liver qi stagnation, can cause ache neck and shoulders, headaches, and alternating emotions- to name a few symptoms.
The most common emotional experiences are feeling edgy, depressed, easily irritated or enraged, alternating between anger and weeping, and waking up between 1am-3am. The excess energy of spring can fill your body with an edgy restlessness that is quite uncomfortable. If you are experiencing these emotions, it is both a part of the energy of spring, and a sign that your liver needs a little help moving some stuck energy.
Ways to help your liver in the spring:
- Exercise; movement of any kind, especially quick bursts that will tire you out
- Eat more sour flavored foods and beverages. Sour is the flavor of the liver and is particularly helpful for irritability. Good ideas are hibiscus tea, drinking vinegars, citrus, and fermented foods.
- If you are feeling more depressed, try eating lighter meals with more fresh sprouts. In Chinese food therapy, the fresh energy of sprouts and young greens will help raise your energy upwards.
- Incorporate sweet root vegetables in your diet. The sweetness of root vegetables will help sooth the liver, and ease irritability as well. That’s why many of us crave sugar when experiencing stress, but sugar is too sweet. It will temporarily offer relief, only to exacerbate the situation.
- Consider trying a mindfulness meditation app, like Headspace for your smartphone. Meditation or mindfulness based breath work helps to retrain our brains to respond less strongly to stress, and to calm ourselves when struggling with anger.
If you’d like to learn more about how to use food preventatively with springtime moods, check out Lindsey Thompson’s 40 minute video on understanding food for the Liver and Gallbladder meridians here. About 20 minutes is devoted to Chinese medicine theory, about 20 minutes is devoted to what and how to cook your food to support your mood in spring.
Lindsey Thompson is an East Asian Medicine Practitioner at the Thompson Family Acupuncture Clinic in Walla Walla, WA. She loves growing vegetables, raising chickens, and striving to get the most out of life. Practicing medicine and help people find ways to improve their health at home is one of the most fulfilling aspects of her career.