How can you enjoy Spring refreshment in a healthy way?
As warmer temperatures herald the end of winter, I find myself wanting to lighten up for Spring Refreshment. Right about now, most of us long to shed the heaviness of winter, exchanging layers of Long Johns and jackets for shorts; ditching the heavy soups and stews for salads; cleaning our home and removing the clutter both externally and internally.
Cleaning your home and lightening your diet is certainly beneficial, but consider doing so with prudence. Over the years I’ve found that Spring’s welcome sunlight and beautiful flowers can fool us to abandon winter precautions against cold and damp, which usually still persist through April and May. Light-weight, sweater-free clothing may feel good emotionally, but the body still registers “Cold! Damp!” You may be tired of root vegetables, but the body still wants them.
Have you ever wondered why people get so many colds in Spring? Yes, it’s the change of season, but it also has to do with our organ system. Spring is a time of rising Yang energy. If you are mindful, you can see and feel the energy rising all around you as the Earth awakens from its winter rest. This time of new growth corresponds with our body’s liver. My teacher taught me that during Spring ‘the liver can become too strong and out of balance with the rest of the organs, especially the pancreas, stomach and kidneys.”
On a physical level, this imbalance can result in colds, sinus and eye irritations, allergies, and digestion difficulties. But it can also cause imbalance of the emotions associated with the liver – anger, rage, frustration. Lethargy and Listlessness can also set in. To avoid that, Spring Refreshment precautions are in order.
In Daoist tradition, Spring was time for cleansing and refreshing not only the physical body but the emotional and spiritual body as well. Qigong practitioners do specific exercises and meditations during this time, called ‘Bigu’. Even if you’re not a Qigong practitioner (and I hope you WILL be someday) you can draw from this tradition to stay healthy with these tips.
Avoid Grains and Processed Sugar
Ancient Daoist masters discovered that avoiding grains during Spring gave them more energy and dispelled internal ‘devils’ or ‘evil spirits.’ Modern thinking is that excess grains can cause an overgrowth of bad bacteria in the gut. I’m guessing if you’ve ever had candida, IBS or other digestive problems, you would probably agree those bacteria are definitely devils or evil spirits. Try cutting back or eliminating grains for at least a week if not longer, to give your gut a rest and chance to clear.
As for processed sugar, well, there’s enough evidence that it’s just plain bad for you all around. This time of new growth is a good time to start a new life without sugar. (If you need help with that, contact me.) If you do nothing else, this step alone will do wonders for your Spring refreshment.
Ditch the Processed Foods
They all have chemicals, most have GMO’s. The point here is to cleanse, not add more toxins. Enough said!
Go Easy on Raw and Cold Foods
All foods have energy, not just in how much nutrition they give us but also in warming (Yang) and cooling (Yin) energy. In winter months we are naturally drawn to heavier, warming foods, and in summer to lighter foods. But adding too many cooling Yin foods to our diet in early Spring can cause an upset of the balance in our organ system with too much Yin energy, so go easy on the salads and raw foods for the next couple of months. Add them in gradually.
Eat Warming Foods in the Morning and Cooling Foods in Afternoon
This aligns with the rhythm of nature. In the morning we need Yang foods to fuel our day; in the evening we need to calm down and get ready for sleep. Warming foods include spices like ginger, curcumin, cardamom; sweet potatoes, kale, mustard greens, black beans, cabbages, parsnips, winter squashes, dates, nuts and seeds. One of my go-to breakfasts is previously roasted sweet potato ‘toast’ on which I stack all kinds of goodies, depending on my mood; things like almond butter with cinnamon or mashed avocado with steamed dark leafy greens, red pepper flakes and lemon.
Yin foods include sprouts, apples, avocados, Swiss chard, dandelion greens, broccoli, tomatoes, zucchini, and pears. You can do a search online for a full listing of Yin/Yang energies of foods.
Try to make your meals just a tad smaller and simpler.
Take time to savor your food, using all your senses. Relish the beautiful colors, aromas, textures. Taking a slow breath and moment before your meals to acknowledge what the food does for you, and where it came from can do wonders for your enjoyment of the meal. This simple act will calm your system and help digestion.
Use this meal time also to pay attention to the energy of foods and what effect they have on your body. In this way you can develop your own personalized diet that is most beneficial for you, not only for Spring refreshment but for all seasons.
Consider Short Fasting Or Reducing Food Intake
Science shows us that short-term calorie restriction can improve longevity and health. Fasting can give your digestive system a much needed break.
But be very cautious! If you don’t have a good knowledge of fasting, you can release too many toxins into the body and become ill. Please don’t do more than a day or two if you have no experience with fasting, and always check with your health care practitioner.
I prefer to do short fasts by allowing 12 to 14 hours between dinner and breakfast. This seems to give me more energy, and I don’t experience much hunger. But each body is different. Experiment to find what works for you, and again, check with your health care practitioner.
After your fasting period, be sure to eat small, nourishing meals to gradually build up to what is right for your body.
Spring Refreshment Benefits of Eating This Way
Eating small amounts of nutrient-dense foods and gently following the rhythm of nature can clean the digestive system, help to balance the body’s energy and organ system, detoxify the body and perhaps even slow down again. Who doesn’t want that!?
One Last Tip
Be kind to your body and get all the rest you need. It’s particularly vulnerable this time of year and you want to give it all the support you can.
Ooops, Make That TWO Last Tips
Take Time to Come to Your Center. This is your source of knowledge and power. You develop this by being calm and connecting to the Greater Source, whatever you may call it. Allow yourself a few minutes of quiet time every day for internal observation and calming breathing.
Wishing you a lovely, refreshing Spring!
Let me know what you’re doing for Spring Refreshment. Post your comments below.
Photo: Ryan Yao on Unsplash