In China’s cultural tradition, nature played an important role in all aspects of their lives from art to daily living to medicine, including acupuncture. The tradition of focusing on nature’s relationships created a philosophy which permeates Chinese Medicine: Five Element Theory.
In Five Element Theory, humans are viewed as microcosms of the natural world that surrounds them. Weather and climate, particularly during the transition from one season to another, factor significantly into diagnoses and treatment plans. Each season is linked with a natural element, organ, and emotion.
Summer is linked to the natural element of fire, the organ of the heart, and the emotion of joy. So how does this affect the way we feel in summertime? You may notice that you have more energy, feel more social, and experience and all-around better mood. This is normal for this time of year, when, from an acupuncture perspective, the Yang—extroverted, lively, enthusiastic, active—aspects of a person are at their peak. Not feeling it so much? How we feel in the summer is largely determined by our constitutional expression of the Fire element.
The acupuncture perspective on seasons is that during each season, the associated element shines a bit brighter than it does in other seasons. So for example, in summer, Fire qualities tend to be more strongly expressed.
We all know people who can run around on 90-degree days with plenty of energy to spare. Often, these people are high energy, charismatic, communicative, optimistic and alert. They have a playful attitude, enjoy intimacy, and are quick to connect with others. This is the profile of a Fire-type person.
Then there are those people who constantly complain about the heat, and spend June through September feeling lethargic and fatigued. They may be perceived as selfish, distant and introverted, becoming easily overwhelmed by too much socialization or noise. This is the profile of someone with an under-expressed or deficient Fire element.
Over the next three months, it’s normal to feel an extra pep in your step. You should feel a bit happier, freer, more spontaneous, energetic and connected. You should want to stay up a little later, talk a little longer and run a little farther.
If you’re someone who tends toward under-expression of the Fire element, you’ll want to pay extra attention to encouraging these qualities in yourself throughout summer. However, if you’re a Fire type, someone for who Fire qualities come naturally—or perhaps have a tendency to be overpowering—your focus should be on appreciating these things but remembering to keep them in check. Elemental qualities can more easily become excessive during the time when they are naturally in bloom.
How to manage your Fire to stay happy & healthy this summer
Go Outside and Play
When you take advantage of summer’s long days and fine weather to be physically active outdoors, you work in accordance with the extra Yang energy that’s available to us this time of year. Since the Fire element is associated with the Heart system, summer is a good time to pay attention to heart health. Exercise keeps blood and oxygen circulating so that proper nutrients can make their way to the rest of your body. Fire types should be cautious about overdoing it with exercise, especially on very hot days or at signs of excessive sweating or face flushing.
connection, intimacy, communication and joy and are personality traits associated with a Fire-type. What better way to tap into these qualities than spending time with friends? So have that BBQ, hit that pool party, organize a day at the beach. Nurturing connections during summer not only makes the season more enjoyable but also helps ease the transition into fall and winter, when we tend to pull inward and spend more time alone.
Strike up Conversation
A stranger is simply a friend you haven’t met yet! Think about the joy you get from learing all about a new person. First dates that last well ito the night or girlfriend gab sessions that last well beyond that cup of coffee. During the summer months, you may find yourself more inclined to smile at someone in the grocery aisle or spend a few extra minutes chatting up the postman. Connection is important and even a bit easier this time of year with the Fire at your back, so if you have the urge to strike up conversation with someone you don’t know, go for it. It’s just your natural Fire coming out to play and who knows what may come of it.
Every element has an associated emotion and expression of that emotion. The emotion of Fire is joy, it’s expression is laughter. When you’re hanging with friends or strangers this summer, crack jokes, appreciate theirs, tell funny stories, then tell them again. Keeping the laughter flowing will keep your Fire burning bright.
In general, acupuncture favors warm foods—that is, foods with warm properties, not necessarily warm from a temperature standpoint. They are thought to ease the digestive process by causing your system to relax and more easily break down food. Cold foods, in contrast, cause contraction and stagnation, which means your body has to work a lot harder to digest. Summer, however, is the one time of year when it’s okay to cool things down diet-wise. It’s not license to chug ice water all day and eat raw salad at every meal, but cooler fare such as watermelon, cucumber and tofu is better tolerated in summer.
All of acupuncture’s natural elements keep each other in balance but perhaps none have a more complementary relationship than Fire and Water. Maintaining balance between the Heart (Fire) and Kidney (Water) systems is especially crucial because they represent opposite ends of the continuum in terms of how we perceive reality—Heart/Fire is responsible for the way we interface with the external world while Kidney/Water is about our inner life and ancestral/genetic identity. Since in summer there is a natural exaggerated expression of Fire/Heart qualities, being physically near water can be a grounding experience that reminds us of the interconnectedness within and around us.
With school out, sun shining into the evenings, and social events revving up, sometimes sleep is the last thing on our minds in summer. It’s natural to sleep fewer hours when daylight is so abundant, but rest should still be a priority, especially since many of us move and sweat more than usual this time of year. Also, sleep in acupuncture is a function of the Heart, the organ of summer. Keeping a regular sleep schedule helps prevent disruption in this aspect of the Heart system, which is prone to imbalance during summer.
Manage your Fire and make the most of summer!