Global climate change impacts everyone. Many people get severely sick due to the extreme heat of summer and the freezing cold of winter.
They seek help at hospitals, increasing the burden on already-overstretched emergency rooms. In terms of mental health, urban dwellers – with their sedentary lifestyles – can get easily depressed in cold weather and irritable when it’s very hot. Despite the problems related to climate change, the ancient wisdom of traditional Chinese medicine is able to help people adapt and improve their physical and mental fitness. Symptoms, such as headaches, shortness of breath, mood swings, and high blood pressure can disappear.
First, let us look at how the traditional Chinese adapted to different weathers. In Sima Qian’s Shiji Records of a Grand Historian from about 100 BCE, he says: “Spring for sprouting, summer for growing, autumn for harvesting and winter for hibernating. This is the principle of the cosmos. Not obeying this will throw the whole country into disorder.” For individuals, conforming to the natural rhythms of the seasons is the principle for maintaining a healthy body.
When it is summer, the growing phase, which is divided into the following sub-seasons: the start of summer, grain full, grain in ear, summer solstice, minor heat, and major heat (ending on the day before the start of autumn). During this time, the sun shines and the earth is hot. The energy, or chi, of heaven and earth mingle harmoniously. All living beings in nature grow abundantly, and all colors in nature are lustrous.
During this time, people should go to bed later, get up earlier; be agreeable and not lose their temper. In this way, the essence of energy inside us will be in line with the brilliant performance of nature. As summer progresses, the energy flow should continue to be outwards. Avoid being depressed, and use air-conditioning sparingly so that pores can detox through natural sweating. You should also avoid overstimulation of the senses. It is better to go outdoors to a bright and open place, overlooking nature, and reach a peaceful state of mind.
Don’t complain about the sunshine; embrace it instead. Recharge the body with Yang energy. Otherwise it becomes a inert, cold, and hollow. Summer is the best time to get rid of the cold residue inside our bodies. Spending all day in an air-conditioned rooms, taking cold baths, and consuming cold beverages will accumulate endogenous damp heat and may weaken the spleen and stomach.
Lingering in places full of sensory stimulation and staying up late will drain the kidneys and overheat the heart, resulting in various symptoms such as boils or carbuncles.
In the summer, everything needs to be in accordance with the principle of “growing.” Being melancholic and introverted are against the natural flow of summer and will have a negative impact on the heart. People might experience heart palpitations, shortness of breath, lassitude, paleness, insomnia, excessive and spontaneous sweating from minimal movement, even collapsing.
Autumn, like summer, is divided into subseasons: the arrival of autumn, ending of the heat, white dew, the autumn equinox, chilly dew, frost falling, until the day before the arrival of winter. During this time, the weather turns colder.
In ancient China, autumn was called the time of “peaceful ease.” After the vigorous growth of summer, all living organisms reach a ripe and mature stage. The mood is prosperous, calm, and full of ease. In the autumn months, Yang energy starts to draw in. (Spring and summer are for cultivating Yang energy, while autumn and winter are for cultivating Yin energy). The convergence of heaven and earth naturally produces a crispness in the air. The energy of the heaven is purging; the earth is cleansing and drying. People should get up a little later to avoid the coarse, cold autumn air. Mentally, one should also turn inward and the human mind should not be overactive.
This is the phase of “drawing in for the autumn.” If one fails to draw in and store Yang energy, indigestion will result and people may suffer from constant diarrhea. As a result, Yang energy in the kidneys will be depleted which will weaken the body even more. Additionally, Yin energy will be even more forceful when winter comes.
During the autumn months, there is a big temperature difference between morning and evening, making it difficult to know what to wear. However, in the early autumn, there should be no rush to put on heavy clothing. Follow the old saying, “Keep on winter clothes longer in the spring; put on warm clothing later in the autumn.” If necessary, put on some thin layers. On the other hand, elderly people who are more frail due to their poorer immunity, should add warm clothing as soon as they sense the brisk autumn wind. This is not the time to prove whether one is brave or not. It is more important to resist the invasion of the cold.
Autumn can be refreshing and crisp, or brisk and dry. People may easily suffer from the symptoms of insufficient body fluid, such as dry skin, and a dry mouth or nose. To remedy this, more porridge is recommended, such as lily, almond, and Fritillaria porridge. This will have a moisturizing and lubricating effect.
In autumn, the functions of stomach and spleen will also become inadequate. If people still consume cold drinks and food as they did in the summer, their stomach may become deficient and not be able to process liquids properly. Therefore, one should eat melons moderately. Generally speaking, melons are relatively cooling in nature.
If you suffer diseases in autumn, the life energy will be depleted, and will cause ailments in the winter, such as catching colds and fevers. In traditional Chinese medicine, this is described as, “Not enough storage of the essence in winter, febrile illness is bound to occur in the spring.”