Spring is here! With the equinox on 20th March, daylight begins to overtake night. This seasonal changeover point usually brings us an increase in energy, motivation and activity, so here’s why and how to make the most of it!
META-Health and the Spring Equinox
The vernal equinox on or around March 20th each year heralds the beginning of spring in the northern hemisphere. As the days become longer and warmer, we see nature unfurl from its winter contraction and build momentum as we move towards summer. The Spring Equinox initiates a change-over within us too – we move out of the down phase of winter and our energy starts to increase.
The positive stress phase
In META-Health, we describe two phases of health and dis-ease: sympathetic stress followed by parasympathetic regeneration. When we apply this model to health issues, we call the first phase the ‘stress phase’. In its extreme form, Phase 1 is correlated with the fight-or-flight response and uncomfortable symptoms such as mental over-extension, sleeplessness, anxiety and tension.
Yet Phase 1 is also a necessary part of our normal, natural rhythm. On a daily basis, we switch between sympathetic activity during daylight hours, and parasympathetic regeneration at night. This enables us to maintain an energetic balance between ‘doing’ and ‘being’.
If we map this pattern to the seasonal cycle, we see that Phase 1 begins in spring and continues throughout the summer, while Phase 2 predominates during autumn and winter. This means that we’re now entering into the stress phase – but this isn’t a bad thing! We can see it as an increase in eustress (positive stress). In nature, the beginning of this phase ignites growth. For us, this change in tempo can bring greater energy, motivation, focus, inspiration and activity.
Awakening from winter regeneration
We respond naturally to the seasonal changes around us. During the months of winter regeneration, we tend to reduce our energy expenditure, eating and sleeping more to build up our reserves. Until the advent of industrialisation, our lifestyles were adapted to this natural rhythm – after the harvest, there would be little work to do until spring.
When spring returns and the sun starts to shine again, our energy levels rise, enabling us to get busy taking the actions necessary for surviving and thriving in the world.
As spring progresses, you’re likely to notice:
- A general increase in energy levels
- More mental activity and clarity
- Greater focus on moving forwards, goal-setting and problem-solving
- Increased motivation, enthusiasm and inspiration
- Less desire for rest and sleep
- More desire for movement, activity and getting outdoors
So why can we feel worse?
Of course, seasonal changes also mean readjustment and clearing out the old, so it can be a time for temporary cold-like, hayfever-like symptoms too! These are part of the body-mind’s process of letting go, renewing and rebalancing.
If you continue to feel sluggish despite the time of year, it can be a sign of more deeply-embedded stress at mental, emotional and physical levels.
How to support the transition
To ease the shift into this next phase during the next few weeks, you can support the body-mind in five simple ways:
On a physical level, the body naturally wants to detoxify and let go of the reserves built up over the winter months. Where it’s suitable, naturopaths often suggest this is a good time for consciously detoxing. This can be achieved through formal detox programmes or simply by reducing processed foods and moving over to lighter, healthier diets. Green juices and seasonal food choices can help many people to release toxins and lighten the load.
Forget the New Year’s gym resolutions! Now’s the time to shake off the winter blues and get active. We are more naturally inclined to increase our physical movement at this time of year. Even if we don’t feel like it at first, once we start to move, energy starts to rise and momentum builds.
Movement and ‘exercise’ don’t have to be routine and boring! Walking, stretching, gardening, cycling, swimming, yoga, tai chi and dancing are just some of the options. I like rebounding on a mini trampoline, which only takes a few minutes each day. The body is not designed to sit at a desk all day but to move, so do this in whatever way takes your fancy!
Now that the sun is shining and the days are getting longer, there’s no excuse for not getting our fix of natural daylight! An hour a day is optimal, but even 20-30 minutes provides benefits and enables us to connect with nature and the sights and sounds of spring – the awakening earth, blossoming trees, budding plants and singing birds. You can merge this with tip 2, as getting outdoors can make movement feel more invigorating and enjoyable as well!
With this extra energy, it’s logical that spring is a popular time for decluttering our outer environment (our home, desk, office or garage etc). This leads to a fresher environment, which in turn contributes to a sense of wellbeing and supports us to make other changes.
If this sounds useful but feels like a daunting task, I like the advice from Zen Habits: as part of your daily success routine, take 15 minutes a day to clear and declutter. It’s manageable, relatively stress-free and keeps a clearing- frenzy tendency in check!
But of course ‘spring cleaning’ is not limited to clearing the clutter from your cupboards or cleansing the body! We know from META-Health that integral wellbeing starts with mental and emotional balance, and this means decluttering our inner emotional environment too.
After the inner reflection of winter, this shift into expansion and moving out into the world is also the perfect time for new beginnings: setting goals and starting new projects.
You may already have an idea or project in mind:
What have you been meaning to do for ages, but haven’t got around to doing yet? It could be in any life area – work, home, personal development, health, community, family or social life… If it’s a good time to start, what first steps could you take? Are there any barriers, and if so, how could you overcome them?
If you don’t have a goal, ask yourself: ‘What would I love to do with the new creative ‘working energy’ of spring?’
How about choosing a simple goal to increase your energy levels and vitality, such as getting out into nature once a day, exploring meditation, experimenting with a new form of movement, taking up a creative pursuit or learning a new skill…?
We choose to begin our annual META-Health Practitioner Training in April, as it’s the opportune time for participants to embark on this new journey of learning, exploration and personal development.
Be in balance! With all the activity and vitality of spring, it’s still important to maintain a healthy sympathetic-parasympathetic equilibrium. This means taking plenty of time for rest and recuperation. Slow down, breathe, wind down, let go of worry and enjoy being in the present moment – not just occasionally but every day!
Do you have tips for boosting wellness and making the most of spring? Post your comments below or share with our Facebook community here. Plus, see our five spring activities for getting inspired here