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Prepare yourself for a healthy autumn

Autumn. The time of year when the hot summer days gradually shorten and the leaves begin to change, bringing us beautiful colours before they fall from the trees in preparation for the coming winter. There is already a chill in the air, signalling that it will soon be time to put away the summer clothes and dig out warmer clothes for the cold season ahead.

It’s also harvest time and we get to enjoy the season’s brightly coloured natural bounty, such as apples, pumpkins and lingonberries, which are lovely to preserve for the winter. It is also the time of year when we move from the relaxed and carefree attitude of summer to the more serious and introspective energies of autumn.

In Chinese medicine, autumn is associated with metal and the lungs. Metal is one of the five elements and its anatomical counterpart is the lungs. This is what drives organisation, setting boundaries and protecting limits.


Element – metal
Elimet – lungs and colon
Emotion – sadness / wistfulness
Stage of development – harvest
Taste – Pungent
Colour – nutty
Sensory Organs – Nose
Tissues – skin
Voice – crying
Shape – round

In autumn we move from the outward radiating, expansive nature of summer to the inward condensing or contracting nature of autumn. It’s a good time to finish projects you started in the spring or summer and enjoy the results of all your hard work. It’s also a good time to start new projects that focus more on the internal – developing your body and mind and doing some self-exploration.

Lung energy wants to “let go”, so autumn is a good time to consciously let go of anything we may be holding on to unnecessarily, to make room for new experiences that will help us learn and grow.

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Grief – a feeling in the lungs

In Chinese medicine, every organ is associated with an emotion, and the emotion of the lungs is sadness and wistfulness. The lungs are associated with clear thinking and communication, openness to new ideas, a positive self-image and the ability to relax, let go and be happy. When the lungs are imbalanced or you are dealing with excessive sadness, you may have difficulty coping with loss and change, feel alienated and experience a long-lasting sense of sadness that will not go away.

The lungs are also linked to attachment, so if you have difficulty letting go of people, objects, experiences or spend a lot of time reliving the past, this may indicate lung failure. If your lung energy (or qi) is weak, you may experience an overwhelming, constant state of sadness that doesn’t relieve. If this lack of energy continues, it can lead to depression and other problems.

In contrast, fully expressed and processed grief is both physically and emotionally strengthening. Don’t avoid grief, because dealing with it in a healthy way is the key to being happy and maintaining balance in all areas of life.

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Take a deep breath

One of the best ways to strengthen your lungs is to breathe deeply. It sounds so simple, but most of us don’t breathe deeply at all, and this affects things like memory, energy levels and the immune system.

When we breathe deeply and deliberately, we fill our cells and brain with the oxygen they crave, which is vital for all body processes. We also get vital qi from the air, which the lungs use for many functions to keep us healthy.

The best thing is to go for a walk in the fresh, clean autumn air and fill your lungs with all the good qi you can get. Below is a simple exercise to help you get started.

Easy breathing exercise – breathe deeply

Breathe in through your nose and think about breathing all the way into your belly. Draw as much air into your lungs as possible.

When your lungs are completely full, hold your breath, counting to five. After counting to five, exhale through your mouth from the bottom of your lungs until they are completely empty.

Do this three times. This exercise should be done three times a day.

Chantal Hellevig

I am an acupuncturist, Chinese medicine expert, and a registered podiatrist. I studied Chinese medicine at the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine and in Traditional Chinese Medicine Academy of Malaysia. I have furthered my knowledge while working in Finland, China, Singapore and Taiwan with experienced doctors.

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