Autumn represents a shift from the busy rush of harvest to the slower paced introversion of the colder months. The last big push to harvest wraps up. The weather gets colder. Autumn weather can make us naturally inclined to drift off into introspection, memory, and nostalgia. If we are not careful, these wanderings down memory lane can lead to sorrow and melancholia- the emotions that are considered a sign of the autumn organ systems being out of balance. To avoid drifting off into melancholia, we can look at the lifestyle adaptations that the ancient sages in Chinese medicine suggested for autumn health.
1) Find ways to slow down– Autumn is a season of transitions. The weather ebbs back and forth between temperate, clear or crisp days, to wild, wet, and windy days filled with a penetrating chill. Autumn is the transition from the peak energy of summer towards the dark hibernation of winter. According to Chinese medicine, our health thrives when we mimic the energy of the season. Since autumn is a time where nature starts to slow down and move internal, our bodies also crave a slower pace and more opportunity for mental reflection. Fall is a time to assess what can you do in your daily life to slow down? Can you walk or ride a bike to work instead of drive? (provided you have good rain gear). Can you shift a few days a week to gentler forms of exercise? Can you plan to do less on your days off? If you can find something in your daily routine to transition to a slower pace, you may notice huge shifts in your stress levels and body tension. Only you really have the answer. What can you do this autumn season to slow down?
2)Wear a scarf, layer clothing
This seems ridiculously simple, and it is simple. Take time to wear layers will help your body fight the constricting action of cold from our external environment. Many patients come in this time of year with a sudden, painful stiff neck. Often a simple fix of starting to close your windows in your bedroom at night, making sure your covers cover your neck, and wearing a scarf during the day will help people avoid these stiff necks. You may find your neck and shoulder tension lessening when effective layering is employed. Also, there are multiple acupuncture points on the neck and upper back with the word wind in their titles. These points are considered places where the cold wind can penetrate into the body causing muscle spasms, tightness, and even lowering your immune system enough to catch a cold or flu. Wearing a scarf is seen as a way to protect these wind acupoints, and thus protect your body from the chill weathers negative influence. Chalk it up to an old wives tale, but it rarely hurts to wear a scarf.
3) Eat mostly warm foods
Along with the external chill, we want to protect your body from an internal chill. There is a reason we feel more inclined to roast vegetables, meats, and cook stews in the fall. Chinese medical nutrition shows us that seasonal eating is not just our choices of ingredients, but places equal importance on food preparation. Eating fully cooked and warm foods is especially important during the autumn and winter months.
Chinese medical theory notices that continuing to eat cold and raw foods during the late autumn and winter can lead to negative changes in your digestive system, as well as set your immune system up for a rough ride in the spring. Too much raw or cold foods in the late fall and winter can lead to looser bowel movements, watery diarrhea, or loose bms with undigested food in them. It can also lead to increased gas and bloating after eating. Protecting your digestive system during these months of inwardly directed energy, will ensure that you have enough vitality and vigor to take the spring by storm.