Nature provides what we need with each new season and when we align ourselves with this wisdom our health thrives. Summer is all about the heart and embodies yang energy which brings warmth, growth and activity. The heart is the "root of life" represented by the fire element. It is considered the emperor of all other organs and from a Western perspective this makes sense as the body cannot survive without the heart to pump blood to the rest of the organs.
The heart embodies the spirit, giving rise to our personality, and when balanced we live life whole heartedly and with exuberance. During the summer there are more hours of sunlight and yang energy. This gives us motivation and enthusiasm to get out and enjoy social gatherings with friends and loved ones. The energy of the heart opens into the tongue making summer a good time for communication and "heart to hearts". When heart energy is abundant, communication comes easily and we have a desire to be social and speak from the heart. When heart energy is low we may become more despondent and have no desire to talk.
Summer months are the perfect time to pay close attention to matters of the heart, mind and spirit, collectively known in Traditional Chinese Medicine as the shen. A balanced shen is peaceful and carries with it a sense of true joy and happiness. It provides clarity of consciousness so that we may see things for what they really are and respond accordingly. Strong heart energy allows the shen to be settled and sleep to come easily. When the shen is not settled there may be anxiety, depression, insomnia and perhaps withdrawal from people or activities previously enjoyed. This is often a temporary state that will correct itself once things are running smoothly again. For some this may become a prolonged issue and is a sign that things may need to be addressed to get back in balance.
On a physical level the heart is responsible for moving blood (the fluid of the heart) through the vessels. When heart energy is weak or there is a lack of blood due to anemia you may experience poor memory, heart palpitations, depression, anxiety and insomnia. The heart controls perspiration especially in the underarm area where the heart meridian begins. Spontaneous or excessive sweating with little exertion is a possible sign that the heart energy needs a boost. There is a tendency to be drawn to cooler spaces in the heat of summer but it is not good to be exposed to too much air conditioning or be directly under a cooling fan as this can prevent the smooth flow of qi and blood.
The flavour of the heart is bitter. Enjoying foods such as bitter greens, dark chocolate or coffee will improve the overall function of the heart. In addition foods that are red in colour are excellent for heart health and the same holds true in Western nutritional science. Although we are drawn to cooling foods during the hotter summer days don't over do it with too much raw or cold food, as this will impair digestive function.
The heart energy is at it's peak between the hours of 11:00am to 1:00pm. This is a great time to slow down and enjoy lunch or a short nap, or even better make time for both. It is best to avoid anything that would raise blood pressure at this time such as stress or strenuous exercise and opt for activities that are good for the soul.
During the heart of summer enjoy some downtime and reconnect to what your body, mind and spirit need. Pay attention to natures cues and enjoy a happy, healthy summer.
Jeanette is a Registered Acupuncturist and Reiki Master at Trinity Registered Massage Therapy located at Huron Crossing and Sage Naturopathic Clinic in Kitchener.