Summer is the season of heat and vitality. It’s the most yang time of the year. Long days and abundant sun drive us outside and propel us into activity, motivating us to move our bodies and soak in the warmth.
Chinese Medicine teaches us that each season is connected to one of the five elements, and summer belongs to Fire. Fire is symbolic of heat and yang, joy and outward movement, in nature and in our lives. Ancient Chinese medical classics tell us to cultivate yang in the summer while the world is at its peak. In summer we can nourish our health by taking actions that support our warmth and embrace the spirit of the Fire element.
Joy is the emotion most strongly tied to the Fire element. Take time this summer to find joy. Laugh, dance, play! Think back to your childhood and the joy felt around summer vacation. Go for walks in the park, swim in the ocean, or a local pool. Take a vacation and fill your time with things that bring you relaxation and joy. Take advantage of outdoor dining, or picnic in Central Park, and enjoy a meal with the company of friends.
This leads us to another important theme of the Fire element: connection. Summer is the time to build and savor connections with friends and family. With long summer days and plenty of time for outdoor activity, summer is the perfect time to support old friendships and build new ones.
Summer is also the season of damp-heat. Heat and humidity affect our digestion, as do an overabundance of fried foods at summer barbeques. Getting out, eating with friends and family, and enjoying the sunshine or warm summer nights, can help form meaningful connections. Barbeques, picnics, and even a popsicle on the way home from the park can bring people together in a beautiful way. But a summer diet should be predominantly light and cooling, full of leafy greens and summer fruit. This can help your body adjust to the hot days and keep you healthy through the summer months.
Watermelon is called Xi Gua in herbal medicine, and is used to clear summer heat and promote hydration. Adding watermelon to your diet during the hottest months can keep you cool and hydrated. Cantaloupe, asparagus, sprouts, bok choy, corn, cucumber, summer squash, and watercress are all delicious cooling foods to include during the summer.
Hydration is also so important, but when the weather is humid it can be difficult to drink all the fluids we need to stay healthy. Adding lemon or cucumber slices to a pitcher of water can help. Chrysanthemum tea, hot or iced, is also cooling and delicious during the summer months.
Get outside and enjoy the summer! Find joy in simple activities and hug your friends and family. When the Fire element is in balance, we speak from our hearts, the mind is calm and sleep is easy.