Look around and you may notice that nature is in full bloom right now. Summer is the peak of ‘yang’ energy in the seasonal cycle (as opposed to the deep restful ‘yin’ of Winter), and this is the time of year when plants and animals are most energised and full of life. Having evolved with nature and the shifting seasons, humans have also evolved to be at the peak of energy and enthusiasm in Summer, but if you aren’t living seasonally, this can feel hard to do. As you might have read in the Aligning Your Lifestyle With The Seasons blog post, living seasonally involves the foods we eat, how we move, socialise and sleep, and the daily routine we adopt.
Why is living seasonally important?
How we eat, move, work, play, rest and socialise all sends messages to the brain and body, telling it how to function. Food is information, and the foods we eat tell our bodies whether to move towards a lighter, cleansed state (known as a langhana effect in Ayurvedic medicine), or a more grounded and nourished state (a brmhama or ‘building’ approach). Foods also give us vital nutrients and vitamins, protect us against allergens, and remedy oxidative damage caused by physical and emotional stress. When we consume foods that are in season and preferably local, we provide ourselves with the exact nutrients we need at that very moment. Spring greens are bitter and encourage the body to digest and ‘detox’ heavy Winter foods like fats and proteins. They contain lots of chemicals that protect against hayfever, and aid in building up minerals like vitamins K, C, magnesium and iron, which all contributes to giving us a refreshed and Spring-like feeling. When we move towards Summer, the abundance of fruits, greens, sweet vegetables and longer hours of sunlight give us exactly what we need at that moment, which we’ll dive into in this blog post. Another important reason to live seasonally, is that our emotional, mental and social needs drastically shift throughout the year too. Do you feel like heading out to parties and BBQs in the Summer, but would rather curl up with a book and blanket in November? Cravings like this exist because we have evolved to live differently in different months. If we live in a state of ‘chronic Summer’ as Dallas Hartwig puts it in his book The 4 Season Solution, we burn ourselves out before we even reach those hot and sunny months. Summer is a great time to start living more seasonally, so read on for five simple steps to do it! If you want to make seasonal living a bigger part of your life, be guided by books like The Seasonal Soul.
Step 1: Summer Foods
As I mentioned, there’s a reason specific plants are growing all around us. Due to the longer hours of daylight, humans would naturally be spending much of the day engaging in low-to-medium intensity movement for long periods of time, foraging and hunting, or simply traveling and playing. With lots of movement comes the need for foods higher in carbohydrates, which our bodies can typically use more efficiently in Summer. Depending upon where you live in the world, this could mean indulging in mango and papaya, or berries and stone fruits like plums and apricots. The vegetables and plants growing in the UK and Europe at this time of year are all full of nutrients, but what these plant foods have in common is that they’re also high in antioxidants. More movement, more play, and more activity in general leads to more natural ‘oxidative stress’ as muscles and tissue are worked and broken down. Antioxidants help repair the body, renew cells, and essentially aid in slowing the aging process. In the UK, seasonal foods include rhubarb, elderflower, nettle, spinach, raspberries, gooseberries, plums, apricots, strawberries, cherries, fennel, courgette, cucumber, peas, lettuce, chard, fennel, rocket and peppers, and plenty more! This is the season to go plant-based, so indulge in all the colours you can find at your local market! For recipe inspiration, go for the My New Roots cookbook, The Mindful Kitchen or the totally plant-based The Self-Care Cookbook.
Step 2: Summer Herbs
Herbs used in Summer provide a naturally cooling antidote to hot and balmy days. Whilst the wild garlic has been and gone and spicy wild mustard greens are wilting, cooling herbs like fennel, basil, mint, coriander and dill are ready to pick at the height of Summer. In the world of Ayurvedic health, one of the most important principles is ‘like increases like; opposite brings balance’. This means that when the weather outside is hot, we benefit from consuming cooling foods and herbs – using the opposite quality to encourage a sense of balance. A cooling tea like Pukka’s Aqua Herbs in Citrus Zing would be a cool drink alternative to your usual coffee or spicy chai.
You can add cooling herbal aromas to your home too, with organic lavender essential oil or peppermint As for the fresh herbs, try topping salads with parsley, which is very beneficial for liver health. Add coriander to curries for its added ability to aid in detoxing heavy metals, or make a mocktail with cooling mint from the garden!
Step 3: Summer Movement
Spend a day in the heat of the sun, and a HIIT workout is probably not what your body is craving. As I mentioned, Summer is naturally a time of more movement, but low-impact, slower movement done over the course of the day. This could look like long walks, a day at the beach playing frisbee and paddling in the sea, swimming sessions in your local lido or lake, or more time pottering in the garden. If we apply the Ayurvedic principle of ‘opposite brings balance’ here, a Summer-inspired yoga sequence might include slow-flow sequences, cooling pranayama practices like Sitali breath or Chandra Bhedana (left nostril breathing). You might opt for a sunny restorative session of gentle back bends using a bolster and an aromatherapy eye pillow.
Step 4: Summer Socialising
It may be difficult to socialise in the way we’d usually opt for due to restrictions and personal uncertainty, but if you have a group of friends and family you feel comfortable spending time with, this is the season to go for it. Socially distanced events are popping up more and more, and there’s plenty of outdoor dining and yoga classes to make the most of. Summer is the time to say ‘yes’ to opportunities, invitations and life in general, so dig out your brightest colours and get out there! Or feel free to stick to the yoga pants we’ve all been wearing since March 2020… Yogamatters are even making some of their luxurious leggings with pockets, so it’s easier to go from studio-to-street party. Come Autumn and Winter, you’ll have plenty of time to say no to the Christmas party invitations and stay home in hibernation.
Step 5: Summer Sleep
Now, if you’ve been living in a ‘chronic Summer’ mode of over-working, over-exercising, consuming lots of sugar, lots of socialising, and little rest, this is not the time to sleep less! If however, you’ve been living seasonally already and got your fill of sleep in Winter, Summer is indeed the season when we can stay up a little later and get up earlier. The longer hours of daylight mean we would have naturally stayed up for longer with those in our tribe, and the early sunrise would have encouraged us to awaken around dawn to greet the day. Before you change your sleep habits, it’s important to check-in with your energy levels, and ensure you’re getting enough time to relax and recover from those busy Summer days. For those early risers, a morning practice of sun salutations is a great way to feel energised and ready for action.