If you live in a country that moves through significant seasonal shifts, you probably know what it feels like to look forward to warm, bright Summer days, the golds and reds of Autumn, cosy Winter evenings and the hope that a flourishing Spring season brings.
There’s a reason each season elicits such a strong emotional response within us – whether that’s happiness, or sadness for those who experience SAD (seasonal annual depression). These experiences are linked to how humans have evolved.
For thousands of years, we lived in partnership with nature, and the boundaries between human, plant and animal life were non-existent. We were (and still are!) nature. We evolved to wake at sunrise; spend our time outdoors in natural daylight; consume seasonal and local foods; to move and sleep differently depending upon the season; and to even socialise differently throughout the year. These oscillations in our seasonal routines meant we rested when we needed, and we were more alert and active when necessary.
Consuming seasonal foods meant we gave our bodies and minds the specific nutrients they needed at that exact time, supporting healthy digestion and detoxification. Today, we’re blessed with the ability to live comfortably, consuming watermelon in December if we want to, and sleeping in late whilst on Summer holidays. Having more technological and comfortable lives means we don’t have to live seasonally any more, but it’s also the reason we may experience health issues that can be largely improved with very simple changes.
If you want to start living more seasonally, keep reading for ways to reconnect to nature, and shift your daily routines throughout the year.
Spring – nature’s New Year
The journey through the seasons starts with Spring. This is nature’s ‘new year’, and as we very much are nature, it’s really our new year too. New year’s resolutions would perhaps be made with far more clarity and enthusiasm if we set them in April, rather than in the midst of a dark and cold January 1st, when it’s more suitable to stick with a seasonally Winter approach to living.
Spring is when the world starts to come to life again. It’s the season of love and fertility, growth and abundance, and a real sense of ‘new beginnings’, which makes it a great place to start cultivating a change to your seasonal rhythms. Below, you’ll find some key practices to help you connect more to Spring, which could make a real difference to how you feel in body and mind.
Growing Yang energy
Spring is a season of ‘growing Yang’ energy. If we spent the Winter resting and recovering from the previous year, Spring naturally feels like the time to emerge back into the world with enthusiasm. If we powered through and pushed ourselves through Winter however, you may already be feeling a little burnt out. Let this be the time of year to transition towards a brighter, lighter way of being.
‘Spring cleaning’ may sound trivial, but it really is a key practice to help release not only physical possessions, but old and stagnant energy too. Having a house full of things we don’t need pulls energy down, so by donating and giving away items we no longer want or need, we create more lightness, and physical and mental space.
As the energy of Spring is more ‘yang’, this is a good time to start planning projects, working on the beginnings of new ventures, and using the energy of growth all around us to grow mentally and spiritually too.
Movement – get outdoors
The growing hours of sunlight indicate that we’re naturally supported to move for longer periods of time in Spring. Whereas Winter is all about short bursts of strength-building movements surrounded by rest, Spring is when we emerge from hibernation and start moving for longer periods of time. Walking and cycling outdoors is a great way to reconnect to Spring energy, tapping into our innate human desire to spend more time outdoors in this season.
Try this Yin Yang yoga class with Marcel
Sleep – waking with the sun
Although sleep is incredibly important year-round, we evolved to sleep slightly less in Spring and Summer than Autumn and Winter. Just like movement, our sleep is deeply connected to the sun, and our circadian rhythms (the body clock). When the sun rises early, this supports us to wake earlier too, and when the sun sets later, we may feel like staying up a little later than usual.
It’s important to recognise that sleep is key to overall health, so if you’re feeling tired and drained, choose a sleeping schedule that allows you more rest. If you feel like aligning your sleep with Spring however, try to not use an alarm clock when you next have the opportunity – you may notice you wake early with the sunrise. If so, get up a little earlier, head outside to expose your eyes to natural daylight (thus setting your circadian rhythms) and listen to your body throughout the day to notice whether an afternoon nap is needed, and whether you feel like you’d naturally like to stay up a little later than you did in Winter. Of course, ensure you’re switching off all screens in the evening (or wearing blue-light blocking glasses), which will allow your body to secrete melatonin, the darkness and sleep hormone.
Socialising – getting out into the world again
Whilst Winter is all about connecting intimately to loved ones and close friends, Spring encourages us to get out into the world a little more. This is a great time of year to plan get-togethers with those you may not have seen over Winter, and to re-establish friendships you really value. When it comes to big parties and meeting lots of new people however, that is best saved for the height of ‘yang’ energy in Summer.
Organs to care for – love your liver
According to Chinese medicine, Spring is the season when our liver needs some extra care. This makes seasonal sense, as a traditional Winter diet is often higher in fats and protein, which can put extra pressure on the liver. It also makes sense because Spring is so abundant in green foods and herbs, which support the liver’s natural digestive capacity. Traditional Chinese medicine teaches us that when energy is running smoothly through the liver, emotions run smoothly too. To give your liver a boost, try consuming at least two litres of water a day, drink a moderate amount of coffee, get plenty of movement, reduce heavier foods and processed foods, and try to eliminate as many ‘toxins’ as you can from your home, which may mean swapping to more natural cleaning and selfcare products.
Spring foods and herbs
When you think of Spring foods, think ‘green’. Leafy greens and vegetables are exactly what our bodies are craving right now, and if you’re able to shop locally and organically, you’ll be providing your body with the exact nutrients needed to prevent seasonal allergies and illnesses too.
The foods we eat provide our cells with information, and by consuming seasonal Spring foods, our body starts to align with Spring energy. When adopting a lighter Spring diet with seasonal greens, you may notice your energy levels rise, and your digestion may improve too. This is largely due to the abundance of bitterness present in kale, chard, spinach, chicory, and other greens.
Bitterness is a very important taste to include in order to boost digestion, cleanse heavy energy, and encourage a healthy liver, but it happens to be lacking in most Western processed foods. Opt for asparagus, artichoke, chicory, new potatoes, leeks, sprouting broccoli, radish, sorrel, kale, lettuce, watercress and peas. These greens are said to hold the most energy or ‘prana’ during Spring too.
If you’re a confident forager, the following plants and herbs are likely growing in your local hedgerows and woodland right now, and are all very high in nutrients: nettle, dandelion, wild garlic, wild garlic mustard, cleavers, and wood sorrel. Always consult a professional before picking any wild plants!
Yoga Postures for Spring
To reawaken and re-energise your body and mind in Spring, try more twisting postures such as Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes pose), reclined twists, and Parivritta Anjaneyasana (Twisted lunge). Core-focused asanas like Navasana (Boat pose) can boost circulation to the digestive system, and a few rounds of Surya Namaskar (sun salutations) each morning, is a great way to stimulate physical and subtle channels, raising your mood and energy.
Whilst Winter is the perfect time for deep yin and restorative yoga, Spring is the time to bring in a little more movement and flow. If you feel as though you curled up and spent much of Winter in a hunched and rounded position, this is a great time to reintroduce heart-opening backbends and postures that open the chest and lungs
If the beginning of Spring is also the beginning of hay fever season for you, then Kapalabhati breath is a great way to cleanse the sinus passages, as well as giving a boost of energy and clarity. To shift from a state of ‘yin’ to ‘yang’ energy, practices such as Surya Bhedana (‘sun activating’ breath or simply ‘right nostril breathing’) awaken the Pingala Nadi channel of energy, linked to feeling more vibrant and energised. Any type of deep, diaphragmatic breathing you’re able to practice will go a long way to boosting energy levels, brightening your mood, and encouraging more oxygen saturation in the muscles and organs.
If these tips have inspired you to start reconnecting with nature, the simplest way to begin is by heading outside. Which plants are growing around you? How does the sun feel on your skin? Which scents can you smell? Which colours can you see? How does Spring make you feel?
Other articles in this series:
- Living seasonally – Tune into Summer
- Living Seasonally – Tune Into Autumn
- Living seasonally – Tune into Winter
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