By Susan Monaco – reprinted with permission
As the long hot days of summer give way to cool crisp autumn weather, simple lifestyle modifications can help us adjust to the change in seasons.
Ancient Chinese sages developed simple guidelines for living in harmony with seasonal changes based upon the principles of yin and yang. Autumn is a transitional season, moving from the hot bright yang nature of summer toward the cold dark yin nature of winter.
The cooling weather ushers in the harvest and signals the start of the dying cycle in nature – leaves and fruits wither and fall, seeds dry, tree sap descend to the roots. The seasonal change also affects our bodies – especially the respiratory system, leading to an increase in colds, coughs and allergies.
The following five lifestyle tips for autumn help your body to make this transition gracefully, ensuring health this fall and the coming winter.
Food choices: eat juicy fruits and vitamin-filled veggies. Climatic changes in autumn may lead to dryness affecting the body, especially the lungs and skin, resulting in dry skin, dry cough and constipation. Eating more moistening, juicy fruits like pears, pomegranates, persimmons and apples can reduce these effects. To help boost the immune system, add some vitamin-packed seasonal vegetables like yams, sweet potatoes, carrots and winter squash. If you do come down with a cold or allergies, try adding some pungent flavored foods to your diet such as green onions, fresh ginger or sweet onions.
Food preparation: warm it up. As the weather becomes colder, prepare more warm cooked foods and reduce the amount of cold raw foods in your diet. Try using cooking techniques like baking, braising, roasting and stewing to improve nutrient absorption in the cold weather months.
Exercise: be gentle. Try to avoid heavily aerobic exercise outdoors in the cooler autumn months, as it may reduce vital energy or qi, and weaken your system. Instead focus on gentle or moderate exercise like brisk walking, tai chi or yoga. Light exercise boosts your immune system by enhancing the activity of neutrophils (a common white blood cell), which are instrumental in protecting the body against viral and bacterial infections.
Sleep: early to bed and early to rise. According to ancient Chinese philosophy, one’s sleeping habits should adjust with the changing length of days through the seasons. In autumn, as the days become shorter, try going to sleep earlier to avoid the chilly nights and waking early to enjoy the crisp morning air.
Clothing: layer, layer, layer. A Chinese folk saying states that one ought to “muffle the body in spring and freeze the body in autumn.” That is to say, people should avoid wearing heavy winter coats and adding thick quilts too early in the autumn season. Especially in the beginning of autumn, the body needs some time to cool down from the summer heat. Adding too much clothing may prevent the body from adjusting to the cooling temperatures.
As the weather cools more, gradually add more clothing and blankets to your bedding to give your body time to adjust. Layering is very important in autumn, as mornings and evenings tend to be cooler than the warm afternoons. Carry a sweater and scarf to layer on when spending time outside in the wind or shade.
Susan Monaco L.Ac. is a licensed acupuncturist, Chinese herbalist and qigong practitioner. She maintains a busy practice in Olympia specializing in family wellness, women’s health and allergies in Olympia Washington. Visit her web site at www.mind-body-healing.com.