(A wellness column by Kelly Spencer: writer, life coach, yoga & meditation teacher, holistic healer and a mindful life enthusiast!)
The word equinox is derived from two Latin words – aequus (equal) and nox (night). Meaning we get to enjoy equal times of night as well as day light.
Our planet has two yearly equinox events, one in spring and one in fall. The spring equinox or vernal equinox is around March 20th each year.
We can get pretty excited about the spring equinox here in Canada because it is a symbolism of the end of a cold winter and the start of the sunnier, spring season.
The vernal equinox is a time of rebirth for all life. As winter places us in a life of more darkness, we rejoice more sunlight. With all of life dependent upon the sun, you can imagine the energy of celebration this time of year for all living species. Birds sing, flowers bloom, bees dance, and babies of all species are born.
In ancient times, rituals were performed at the spring equiniox and people would cleanse old energy. This is where our tradition of ‘spring cleaning’ came from! We feel more energized and want to plant seeds of vision in our lives or for our gardens. We may feel the urge to open the windows, clean and prepare for a new, warmer and brighter season. We might make plans to get outside more, develop a health plan for ourselves, or set some new goals to birth, both personally and professionally.
There is a seasonal science with the varied affects on our body and mind that we can all be more mindful of when transition from season to season. In fact, it can affect all living creatures.
Season changes including the increase in the amount of light is a signal to animals, plants and, before the light bulb, people, of changing seasons. For some people, changes of the seasons can trigger a change in mood. During the winter transition many develop seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Some experts believe the shorter days, with less sunlight, upset the body’s internal clock causing loss of energy and lack of luster for life.
For instance, as reported by livescience.com, during long winter days, Siberian hamsters’ testes increase to almost 17 times their size during short days. And there is evidence that song birds living near sources of artificial light begin singing to attract mates, as well as laying eggs, earlier in the spring than their counterparts in places that remain dark at night.
How can this or any other seasonal shift affect you?
The holistic human health system is constantly trying to maintain a functional balance especially during adaptive changes that can create shifts and even stress on the body and mind.
Katie Knapp, Manual Rehabilitative Therapist of Osteopathy in Tillsonburg, states, “The more extreme the environmental shift is, the more energy we need to be able to adapt and maintain proper function. When we go from hot to cold, we experience changes in our mucous membranes of our nose and lungs (this can affect our breathing), our blood vessels in the peripheral tissues (hands and feet) constrict, which can contribute to short term increases in blood pressure. Even the basic pH (how acidic or basic our body is) can be increased, all of which can affect and possibly compromise oxygen and nutritional supply to our tissues throughout our bodies. If these conditions are compromised, we see physiological changes in the tissues that can alter whether those tissues can perform their proper function. Pain sensitivity may increase, we may experience shortness of breath, digestive tissues may not absorb as well, immune function may be decreased, etc. Never forget that our brains are as much a part of our physiology as our muscles, bones, and other organs!”
Knapp suggestions for spring include, “though we’re all really excited for spring right now, the temperatures may feel warmer than we are used to but don’t ditch your coats and gloves too fast. If you can, get outside frequently while the weather is gradually warming. Going from -20 degrees to plus-20 degrees is a lot more shocking to the system than if you do it gradually.”
Mindfully checking in with your body and noticing where things have shifted, become challenged or are feeling better can be helpful as you navigate changes through the seasons.
Remember our bodies, minds and hearts are so intelligent and will let us know what is going on within, if we stop and mindfully listen.
Interestingly, the high season for online dating is in the dead of winter. But Mother Nature might point out that in spring, when the birds are singing and the bees are pollinating, that humans are likely to be happier and more receptive to love and joy too.
Rachel Feltman and biological anthropologist Helen Fisher points out in a Washington Post article (2015), “a study found that when it’s sunny out, women are more likely to give men their phone numbers when approached on the street. Another found that Machiavellian personalities got more positive responses from women they approached during cloudy weather – meaning that manipulative people have more luck, romantically, when it’s dark out. And so, maybe sunnier times can make us more clear-eyed and less likely to fall prey to deceptive personalities.”
With the increase in light, as it hits the retina and enters the pineal gland and slows the production of melatonin, we may notice a change in the way we feel and the energy we have. As the melatonin recedes and the light begins to affect the brain, we can get a light “spring” in our step, we become more alert and experience increase feelings of happiness. The fresh air, scents and visual displays of bloom and birth, feel good as we consume them with our senses.
The Equinox reminds us that even though we may perceive light and dark as being separate, they only exist because of each other. When we embrace this idea of holistic oneness, we can mindfully check in with ourselves… body, mind and heart and the constant changing experiences, we have.
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