Tips to optimise your health and well-being this summer
Updated: May 31
The elements are a way to understand the shifting of nature, and of your health and well-being, the offer insights and offer tips to optimise your health for summer The elements are descriptions of a collection of changes and manifestations that exemplify that element. I find them to be a great way to describe health, and ill health, we are after all part of nature and I find my patients better understand their health when we use these beautifully poetic descriptions of their bodies, empowering them to optimise their health and well-being. Deciduous trees are an illustration of the elements in motion: in the winter, they retreat, they reduce their burden (leaves) and essentially hibernate, in the spring they start to open up, creating new buds and leaves, in the summer they are in full bloom, mature and ready to show off with their flowers etc, before beginning the retreat with autumnal colour changes, reabsorbing the nutrients from the leaves before letting go.
The summer is a great example of the fire element at work. As we shift into summer (finally!!!) we shift out of the wood element – that one all about growth and development – and into fire – all about maturity and expansion, an outward expression.
In the TCEAM model the seasons are divided more than the classically are in the UK, with the 'first summer corresponding to the month of June. As we move closer to the sun at this time of year, we can feel the heat starting to build, the earth beginning to warm (in the northern hemisphere!), the soil starting to dry as the water is transformed to vapour (the most dynamic of the elements).
Understanding the Fire element
Fire is the most yang of the five elements. It wants to expand every upwards and outwards, in the way fire eats its way through everything, we need to express, but contain it.. we need the winter to allow things to become more nourished before being able to burn bright.
It is associated with the emotion of joy, the sound of laughter, and the organs of the Heart, Small Intestine, Pericardium and San Jiao (unique to Chinese medicine). The compassion and connection to others, it is also helps us develop and understand our sense of self. It is involved in receiving, transforming and making things thrive (Small Intestine)
The Shen is the ‘personality’ that is stored in our heart. It is said in Taoist tradition that when the yin and yang essences of the parents meet at moment of conception the “star seeds of the shen are scooped up in the ladle of the Big Dipper and poured down into the heart of the developing embryo. … This pure light mixes with the essences of earth and eventually becomes the stuff of awareness, intelligence and consciousness, as well as the basis of our own unique sense of self. “ (Dechar 2006 pg 171).
This light, this shen, can be seen through our eyes, that sense of lustre and brightness
It is about creating that spark of fire within us – that ability to create joy, happiness, a lightness, an ability to dance and move lightly on our feet, to feeling inspiration and a sense of awareness.
The heart is also considered the ‘emperor’ of the body - it is the ultimate ruler of how we function, it is responsible for the organisation of the heart mind
What is your dominant element (your Constitutional factor?)
It is important to remember that we ALL have 5 elements dancing within us, but we can have 1 or 2 that are dominant and this can greatly impact on your health, well-being and how you interact with the world!
My constitutional factor (dominant element) is fire, (you can find yours here) it’s the one I find the easiest to understand and to relate to. We fire types are driven by drama, by sensation and sentiment and are prone to anxiety, agitation, frenzy, insomnia and bizarre perceptions.
For me this means that I love a great tv show and can get lost in a book, food excites me as it creates different sensations, its also a great opportunity to share the love with others cooking for them, and to spend time with my friends and family sharing a meal together, be that at home, or out and about. I love to try new things, and can most definitely be distracted by shiny objects. I have learned to work with my bodies lack of need for sleep on occasions and instead use that time as needed, and then nap later in the day - I mean I have all day access to a bed – it would be rude not to!
Us fire types have to be careful to not get too carried away, and stop ourselves from burning out by slowing down occasionally, find the space and time to rest – to tend to the coals".
Fire element for us all
That increase in heat, causing the earth to warm also dries out the water, from the earth, causing it to rise, but also that drying out can cause more symptoms of heat within our bodies. e.g. hayfever – that red, itchy feeling is an excess of heat in TCEAM terms
It is a time when the body has to be super clever at responding to the changing temperatures – and no where more so than Scotland. I believe we are unique in our climate being affected by more streams than anywhere else in the world, so our wee bodies have to pay attention to the quick fluctuations. This means our body has to be continually adapting, from the exterior to the interior, protecting us from the external environment. If our health is not at optimum this can cause things like muscle stiffness, exacerbation of skin conditions like eczema, more headaches.
This time of year is a beautiful one for nurturing those connections, to engender love and compassion, to express the growth that has happened until now (those things that you started in the Spring after the mastermind will be coming to fruition now - maturing into easy habits.
Tips to optimise your health and well-being this summer
There are so many ways you can include these tips to optimise your health this summer
Nap at noon (solar) on the solstice – the 21st June. (the yin within the yang)
Try practicing a simple Qi Gong exercise called ‘The Inner Smile’.Begin with a smile and take a deep breath inwards letting the smile and feeling radiate downwards in the body to relax the Organs.
Moxa on Ren 4 (assuming you are not overheating - feel free to check in with me if its appropriate for you!) – try it on the full moon for even more benefit (the optimal Yin within the Yang season) (buy your moxa here)
Tune into what brings you joy – and do it every single day!
Spend 10 mins a day in the early morning sun with arms, face and ideally legs exposed, or in the evening (avoiding the potential burning of the yang yang time (summer afternoons!).
Create a home environment that generates peace and serenity ( I have recently been reading Atomic Habits (and would highly recommend it) and one I've already implemented is to get better at tidying as I go - folding my sofa blanket before bed, putting my dirty cup near the sink (rather than left on my coffee table - I hadn't realised how much it messed with my joy in the morning seeing the slight mess, but it really does lift me).
Eat some dark chocolate/drink cacao – do a ceremony!
Surround yourself with people who make you smile and feel loved – Weevolution, meetup – find something you love and then go to groups that celebrate that (e.g. we’ve recently joined Quior (lgbtq+ choir – so getting to sing with others, which is incredibly powerful for me, and meet folks who are similar/open/friendly and I was introduced to this fantastic song Chosen Family by Rina Sawayama . the lyrics genuinely brought a tear or three to my eye - if this isn't the epitome of the fire element I don't know what is!
Nurture yang with warming foods e.g.
Cinnamon tea has a wealth of health benefits, I really like the Pukka Range
snack on smacked garlicy cucumber (great side dish for your BBQs!)
My favorite side dish to optimise my health this summer
Smacked cucumber in garlicky sauce (from Every Grain of Rice by Fuchsia Dunlop)
This is delicious on its own frankly, but is suggested as a side dish - works great for a BBQ. The cucumber is cooling, but also very hydrating, while the garlic etc create a bit of heat and balance the salt and sweet energies- a wee yang omph to a very yin food - again balancing the Yin and Yang.
1 cucumber (approx 300g) 1/2 tsp salt 1 tbsp chopped garlic 1/2 tsp caster sugar
2 tsp light soy sauce 1/2 tsp chinkiang vinegar (rice) 2 tbsp chilli oil a pinch of rach sichuan pepper.
Lay the cucumber on a chopping board and smack it hard a few times with the flat blade of a Chinese cleaver or with a rolling pin. Then cut it, lengthways, into 4 pieces, hold your knife at an angle to the chopping board and cut the cucumber on the diagonal, into 1/2 -1 cm slices. Place in a bowl with the salt, mix well and set aside for about 10 mins.
Combine all the other ingredients in a small bowl.
Drain the cucumber, pour over the sauce, stir well and ENJOY immediately
*I have made the sauce before hand, and prepped the cucumber and taken separately for lunch - making in the morning - it works, but it is DEFINItELY better fresh!)
Of course, the treatments we offer at Health Rediscovered can also help you to optimise your health this summer - you can book here
Enjoyed this? You might also like
Books mentioned above and others that you might enjoy if you fancy a deep dive into Chinese and East Asian Medicine Theory
Five Spirits: alchemical acupuncture for psychological and spiritual healing. Lorie Eve Declar 2006.
Every Grain of Rice, Fuschsia Dunlop
Healing your Emotions: Angela Hicks (link)
Between Heaven and Earth: Harriet Banfield (link)