Spring has sprung here in the North Country. People who have been bundled up and hunkered down all winter are emerging from their caves to witness the sun shining, the lake ice melting, and 70 degree days. Hooray!
In fact, spring is why many of us live in Minnesota at all. The dramatic shift from the deep freeze of winter into the drama and glory of spring is an incredible thing to behold. If it weren’t for spring, many of us Minnesotans would be somewhere else sitting under a palm tree sipping a cool drink and slapping on the sunscreen.
In Chinese medicine, the season of spring is aptly associated with the elemental energy of wood. While many people think of wood as the hardwood logs that you throw on the fire, those tender green shoots poking out of the ground are also elemental wood.
The wood element and spring also relate to the Chinese organ system of the Liver. Responsible for the free flow of everything in your body, your Liver is prone to blockages—both physical and emotional. In fact, when you’re deeply frustrated or angry, your Chinese Liver is compromised; basically things aren’t moving as smoothly as they should. (Same goes for menstrual cramps, digestive problems, some headaches, and constipation—it’s all about flow.)
So, in honor of spring and all manner of couch spuds heading outdoors, here’s my top ten ways to be a little healthier this spring:
1) Eat more sprouts, shoots, and greens. Remember, those baby plants are chlorophyll-rich manifestations of the wood element. And they’re really good for you.
2) Start a garden. Whether you grow some lettuce in pots on your balcony or convert part of your back yard into a pumpkin patch, gardening is good for your soul. In addition, it can be a cost-effective way to get pesticide-free produce on your table this spring and summer.
3) Get your eyes checked. While this may seem unrelated to anything, your Chinese Liver is actually responsible for the health of your eyes. So take care of them this spring by getting your vision checked.
4) Commit to being a little more flexible. Wood is healthy when it’s strong, yet bendable. Inflexible wood will quickly break when it’s stressed. Likewise, flexible people are better able to handle stress and take life’s bumps and bruises in stride. If you struggle to deal what life dishes out, give a little, like branches in the breeze.
5) Get moving. Spring, the wood element, and your Liver are all about flow and movement. Get off the couch and get the sap going in your veins. Take a walk, play outside, ride your bike. Whatever you do, a little movement will wake you up and make you feel good.
6) Go outside. Get in touch with the natural world around you. Be a witness to the incredible changes this season brings. Much of Chinese medicine is based on the cycles of nature, and those cycles are most apparent in the spring.
7) Take care of your Liver. Um…how? Eat foods that closely resemble their original state. (E.g. eat raspberries, not a raspberry-filled jelly doughnut.) Take a little break from adult beverages. Skip highly processed foods and foods with very long ingredient lists. It will feel like a mini detox.
8) Stretch. The Chinese Liver also governs the health of your tendons and ligaments. Avoid injury while you’re performing Item #5 above by stretching a little. Massage is also a good way to get the circulation going in your muscles, ligaments, and tendons.
9) Eat darkly colored foods to enrich Liver blood. Black beans, eggplant, greens, blueberries, spinach, peppers, beets, etc. You get the picture.
10) Start something new. Spring is a time of growth and expansiveness. By starting a new project, hobby, skill, job or relationship, you’re creating movement, change, and growth that are the essence of this time of year.