A Time For Renewal
For those of us living in the Northern Hemisphere, we recently welcomed the Vernal or Spring Equinox. Conversely, if you happen to reside in the Southern Hemisphere you are experiencing the onset of the Autumnal or Fall Equinox!
The word Equinox is derived from the Latin words aequus, meaning equal, and nox, meaning night. At each equinox the sun crosses the earth’s equator and is directly overhead at noon, thus there is a short period of time during which night and day are of approximately equal length all over the earth. These are the days that mark the onset of the spring and fall seasons, the midpoints between the darker days of winter and the golden days of summer.
Regardless of where you are, both the spring and autumn equinox trigger change.
Traditionally, the vernal equinox is associated with warmth, light, birth, and rebirth, whereas the autumnal equinox corresponds to cooler crisper air, less daylight and harvesting, in all senses of the word. During the vernal equinox, we tend to be energetic, spirited and jubilant, as opposed to the autumnal equinox when we are more likely to feel a bit somber as we wind down and prepare for the darker months. In either case, there is a focus on transition and its effect on nature and us as human beings.
Phenology is the study of the influence of climate on natural events such as the recurring life cycles of plants and animals that we witness every year. Have you ever wondered how it is that the birds know when it is time to migrate back and forth between their summer nesting locations and wintering areas? How bears, groundhogs, and bats know when to begin preparing for hibernation during the winter months? How do plants and flowers know when to go dormant and then when to bloom?
Science has shown us how plants and animals are stimulated by environmental factors such as temperature, duration of sunlight and precipitation.
These predictable changes that consistently occur in nature determine the onset of events such as breeding or blossoming. And just as we see renewal and rebirth in nature during the spring months, the promise of warmth and extended periods of daylight tend to awaken something within all of us as well, and we begin to feel energized and inspired.
As we begin to see nature come alive in all of its glorious colors and sweet aromas, and experience the days of approximately equal light and dark, it becomes apparent that spring is the perfect opportunity to think about renewal or new beginnings, and personal changes that may need to be made in order to regain a sense of personal balance.
Many cultures around the world celebrate the March equinox with traditions that include feasts and celebrations of various sorts.
For example, in Japan, the Vernal Equinox is a public holiday and is considered a day to “appreciate nature and living creatures.” For Japanese Buddhist families, it is a day to worship ancestors. There is an ancient Chinese tradition calling for people to balance eggs on the day of the Vernal equinox for good luck and prosperity in the coming year. Iranians celebrate Nowruz, or the Persian New Year, on the first day of spring by cleaning their homes and discarding any unnecessary clutter so as to start the year feeling refreshed.
Many of us, regardless of our ancestral background, feel compelled to spend the first few days of spring cleaning, organizing and purging the clutter that has accumulated over the last twelve months. And this is a good thing not just from the standpoint of enjoying your straightened out spic-and-span clean digs, but it also has a positive impact on your health!
So how does spring cleaning relate to your health? Well, there are many studies showing a correlation between a clean and organized environment and lowered stress levels and increased health and productivity! An article published in April 2015 in Psychology Today reports that:
“Most Americans believe that home organization and cleanliness are among their top five stressors. Women specifically have shown to have chronic levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, if they perceive their homes as cluttered.
Beyond negative emotional effects, a disorganized space is also associated with less physical activity. On the contrary, organization and order have been associated with choosing to eat more healthily, being more generous, and conventionality.”
And spring cleaning should not only be an exercise involving tossing items from drawers and closets, running a vacuum, cleaning windows and filling up trash and recycling bins. This is also a great time of year for “spring cleaning” your body and mind! Here are a few ideas to help you get started:
- Get outside! Take a walk or play in the sunshine and get a natural dose of Vitamin D. Did you know that a Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to adverse health conditions including depression, anxiety, and pain syndromes?
- Slow down. Allow yourself a few minutes a day to reflect and/or meditate. Embrace the positive thoughts and emotions and release the negative ones. By doing so you are better equipped to handle whatever the day may hold for you.
- Detoxify your body. Flush the toxins from your body by eating more fresh organic fruits and vegetables of varying color, eliminating fast and processed foods and drinking more filtered water. Perhaps indulge in a detoxifying bath.
- Get physical! Maybe your New Year’s resolution to spend more time at the gym lasted only a few weeks but now that the days are longer and warmer there is no excuse not to get out for a walk, run or play with the kids for an hour before dinner.
Where equinoxes mark the beginning of spring and autumn, solstices mark the onset of summer and winter. During the solstices the sun is at its greatest distance from the equator, southernmost in winter making for the shortest day of the year, and northernmost in summer making for the longest day. Equinoxes separate the solstices and all are connected to the changing seasons and all that each has to offer.
Just as seasons change during the course of a year so do the various areas of our lives. Sometimes these are welcomed changes and other times they may lead to feelings of disorder and imbalance. But as evidenced by our natural environment, there is a purpose to the changing seasons and during times of personal unrest that may be brought on by the ebb and flow of the seasons, it is important that we look for purpose, adapt accordingly and allow ourselves to move forward and grow as nature intended.