Updated: Aug 17
Image Credit: Clemence Taillez, via Unsplash.com
As the days start to become noticeably longer, and the weather starts to turn warm enough to feel the sun on our faces, it's easy to get so caught up in enjoying the glorious, beautiful fresh weather, and optimistic signs of spring in nature, that we run the risk of forgetting the need to still support your wellbeing during Springtime's energetic influence - just as we do during Winter and Autumn. The sunshine is definitely good for our wellbeing, but external factors alone can only do so much. But part of the energy of springtime is moving forwards and being assertive - and can't it be tempting to move straight from Wintertime comfort foods to pancakes, chocolate eggs and hot cross buns?!
I'm not saying that we shouldn't enjoy these seasonal treats - they're definitely important! But it's worth remembering that they would normally come before/after a period of leaner eating - think Lent!
Now I'm not one to live on bread and water, and I don't necessarily think that feast/famine/feast is a particularly healthy way to approach Springtime. But that said, there is something to be said for making a few tweaks to support ourselves physically, and energetically, as we move through the growing influence of the Wood Element of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) or 5-elements/5 phases theory.
The Wood element is related to the TCM organs of Liver and Gallbladder. So if you choose to cut back on fatty foods and alcohol (each of which is processed by the Gallbladder and Liver respectively) you will be giving your Wood element organs the chance to replenish, recuperate and rest - and to support you in other ways than simply processing what you've put into your body. Rather than running at base level, you'll be giving your inner Wood element the chance to shine! This might manifest in terms of your energy levels improving (Liver stores and deploys the Blood to where it's needed - and Blood carries energy and nourishment around the body), your hormonal system and any menstrual cycle/peri/menopause symptoms, improving (Liver processes hormones), as well as emotions being expressed, processed smoothly and released (again - the Liver!). And by freeing up your Gallbladder's resources, you could turn them instead to connecting with your purpose in life, making practical plans for your future which align with your soul and vision for your mission in life, and being flexible, tenacious and resilient enough to pass through or around obstacles to your progress.
The flavour profile which is associated with the Wood element is "sour". Eating dark leafy greens is brilliant for the Liver & Gallbladder (Wood's colour association is green) and you can add some extra Woody nourishment to your plate, with a twist of citrus on your food, and by incorporating some fermented foods - maybe a helping of kimchi or your favourite sauerkraut - or a little miso paste stirred into your sauce or gravy - or as part of a glaze or marinade for your protein or veggies!
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Another top tip is to make a cold infusion with fresh cleavers (unless you have hypertension, as this acts as a diuretic)! Cleavers grow wild in abundance from Spring through Summer, in many parts of the Northern Hemisphere. They're called "goose grass" in some places, and they have little velcro-like hairs on the underside of their leaves, which grow in a circle.
To make a cleavers infusion, gather a bunch of fresh young stems, away from areas that dogs may have "watered". Once at home, give them a wash under running water, and pick off any old, dry or damaged leaves or parts of the stem and any woody bits and roots.
Chop them up finely (the whole thing, stems and leaves), and place into a clean bowl or kilner jar, and fill with fresh cold water to cover the plant materials. Stir and cover, and leave for 4 hours up to 24 hours at room temperature (or in the refrigerator if overnight or too hot). Strain and drink sweetened or unsweetened! This is a brilliant tonic for the endocrine system, and a great way to gently detox. Not only that, but it tastes lovely and fresh - green, cucumbery and almost citrussy!
The Gallbladder also loves movement, self expression through the voice, being assert- (Image credit: Simona Todorova, via Unsplash.com)
ive and being heard - so maybe take the opportunity to go out dancing - or even just dancing around your kitchen or living room, singing along to your favourite songs on YouTube on a Sunday morning (ahem - well maybe that's just me). Worried that you're no good or that you'll look silly? To that I would say - pah! Life is for living! It's about how it makes you feel, not about whether you're "good" at it! "Good" in this instance is about how "good" it makes you feel! So step away from perfectionism and self-consciousness, wait until you're on your own, kick off your shoes, and put on your favourite tunage (you know what I mean! That song that your feet just can't help moving to, and that makes you break out in a silly wide grin! Surrender to the music and strut that funky stuff! It's good for you!)
And my last hint for nourishing your Wood element is to use your eyes, and look after them! Points on the Gallbladder meridian have a strong connection with the physical eyeballs, and there's also the association with looking forward/planning - which includes horizon-scanning, all of which include using the eyes. So getting plenty of rest, using your glasses if you need to, switching off screens early at night, and giving yourself regular breaks from your laptop or phone, and maybe using a gel eye mask or a clean cloth soaked in cool water and wrung out, placed over the eyes for 5-10 minutes. All these things will benefit your eyes, and are helpful to your Wood element. Plus, getting out in nature, and looking around you (directly - not through the camera on your phone!) is a great way to boost your Wood element - and all that new plant life, flowers, blossoms and shoots, as well as the animals in their natural habitat, if you're anything like me, will be "a sight for sore eyes", and help you to feel reconnected to, and part of nature - and the Wood element manifesting through everything around you!
Whilst some of these ideas might not sound "you", these characteristics as well as the potential to embody them, live within everyone - it's simply a part of the cycle of existence, and it follows the same patterns of behaviour as the phases of energy or Qi. So why not give some of these ideas a try? Once you get used to embracing your Wood element characteristics, you'll be more fully integrating with yourself and all your facets and potentials! And that, my friends, can only be a good thing!
And it's worth bearing in mind also, that other influences at play in your life, your environment and your body, might be a combination of different elemental influences. So whilst seasonal advice is always going to be useful to integrate in your life, it's always even more beneficial to receive support from a Professional Holistic therapist for your specific and unique needs. They will be placed to treat energetic imbalances and needs during treatment, and can offer advice which will be more tailored for you to properly support yourself Holistically, right where you are.