Element

Color

Stage

Emotion

Climate

Taste

Organs

Wood

Green

Birth

Anger

Wind

Sour

Liver/Gallbladder

Spring is a time for exploration, growth, and renewal. Creativity and motivation bloom, allowing for expansive movement following the quiet hibernation and introspection of winter. This year, spring feels especially significant and metaphorical, as our collective winter was a more isolating one than most of us are accustomed to. As roots take hold and stems push up through the earth to find the sun, so are many of us, reaching out toward hope and light and connectivity. 

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) theory, each season is intricately related to a specific stage of development, element, organ, climate, emotion and taste. This serves both to help explain our physical and emotional states in any given season as we experience our inter-connectedness to the earth and one another, as well as to offer guidance to help us achieve our optimal health.

Here are five tips to help you live your best spring season:

1. Physical Movement
Movement and exercise are great for the Liver. In TCM, the Liver is mainly responsible for the smooth flow of Qi (vital energy) throughout our bodies, which helps us to feel at ease. When the Liver and Gallbladder systems are in balance, we may feel inspired, assertive, decisive, forgiving, and vibrant. Conversely, if these organ systems are out of balance, we may feel agitated, frustrated, angry, resentful and indecisive. Movement helps to smooth the flow of Qi in the body, which is why most people feel good after moderate exercise. It doesn’t need to be anything intense to get your energy moving; gentle yoga, Tai Chi, Qi Gong and walking are some examples of exercise that most people can tolerate well. It doesn’t take long to feel the difference of increased movement in your life, affecting the body, mind and spirit.

2. Mental Movement
Ever wonder why it feels so good to do a thorough spring cleaning? Clearing physical space also makes room for more mental space. What new things would you like to cultivate in your life? This is the time to bring action to projects you’ve been thinking about. It’s also the time to let go of resentments and move forward. Resentments can stir up anger and agitation  – remember, these emotions are more likely to come up in the spring, due to the Liver being out of balance. It’s a great time to start or deepen a meditation practice, as well as taking a deep-dive into therapy to resolve old issues. Whatever feels right to you, try to incorporate some playfulness into the process, finding wonder and joy in your life.

3. Eat Green
The fact that green is the color of spring is no big surprise. There’s nothing quite like seeing the different shades of green growing in gardens, out in nature and even along the sides of roads. Edible green plants that grow at this time can help smooth the Liver Qi. Try to eat something green with every meal, such as peas, lettuce, spinach, chard, kale, dandelion greens, celery and mint. Add in foods with a sour taste, such as vinegar, lemons, pickles, sauerkraut, and all fermented foods, to help counteract the effects of heavier foods eaten during the winter months.  

4. Letting Go
Spring is a great time to let go of some of the habits or patterns we have fallen into during the colder and more inward months of winter (not to mention all of the holiday food!). Start with taking inventory of your diet, not to beat yourself up, but to bring an awareness. It’s usually easier in the spring to cut back on (or eliminate) some of the heavier foods (think fried or very fatty foods). It is also important to notice and probably cut back on sugar intake, as well as committing (or recommitting) to a diet very low in  processed foods. If you are having any seasonal allergy symptoms, it is especially important to cut out dairy. Whatever your individual dietary needs, eat slowly and savor the fresh tastes of spring.

5. Seasonal Tune-up
The transformation from winter into spring, as welcome as it usually is, can agitate the Liver and cause us to feel out of alignment. The wind in spring plays a part in stirring up agitation. So if you live someplace windy (hello Bay Area!), get in the habit of wearing a light spring scarf to protect your neck. I’m often accused by my family of having way too many scarves, but hey, there are 365 days in a year. Everyone who has been treated in my clinic has heard me say, “Come in to see me at the first sign of anything, and if you’re well, come in once a season.” So here we are in spring…schedule an acupuncture treatment for any symptoms you may be having, or for a spring seasonal tune-up. Tune-ups help to keep you and your family healthy!