We celebrate the New Year in January, but Spring is Nature's New Year.
When we celebrate a New Year, we often feel compelled to make a change. The New Year brings new energy which inspires us to make resolutions to live healthier, smarter, and happier.
Spring has that same 'New Year' energy because it is the season of birth and renewal. In Ayurveda (and many other wellness and cultural systems) this energy leads us to cleanse in some way. This may be Spring cleaning our homes, changing up our schedules, or cleansing our bodies.
Where I live, Winter is usually cold and snowy. It’s dormant. The trees are leafless, the plants are sleeping under the snow and animals are snug in their dens, only venturing out to find some food or water before they snuggle back in. Due to the cold weather and the short days, we humans also tend to be less active in the winter. And, between the weather and the timing of many major holidays, humans also tend to eat heavier, fattier, richer foods in the winter.
But in the Spring, everything changes. The world comes alive again as the sun melts the snow, the plants begin to come back to life and the animals come out to romp and play.
The Gunas of Spring
If you are familiar with the concepts of Ayurveda, you may have heard the term guna, which means quality. I wrote about Gunas HERE. For each quality, there is an opposite quality that brings balance (e.g. soft/hard, cold/hot). Some of the qualities of Spring are heavy, moist, sticky, soft, oily, slow…think 'mud'.
We also may be feeling a little heavy and sluggish from our winter ‘hibernation’, which leaves us wanting to feel lighter and more energetic. Considering that we have been eating heavy, fatty, rich (sticky) foods already, we tend to naturally start craving light, crisp, astringent foods to bring balance.
People often feel a natural pull to lighten up their diet and move more when Spring hits. For some people, this means following a strict cleansing program, some do nothing but add a few lighter foods into their diet, and others, like me, prefer a middle ground.
Whether you call it a detox, a cleanse, or a simple reset, most of us find that in both the Spring and Fall we naturally desire to take steps to counterbalance the strong gunas we have been experiencing.
Over the years I have taught workshops on this subject, I have led my wellness groups through the process, and I have provided clients with direction on how to perform their own Spring Reset.
While there are many versions of a spring cleanse out there, for most people I suggest only a gentle reset. Our bodies naturally detoxify 24/7, so going too far (too much juicing, fasting, enemas, laxatives, oleation, etc) can cause unnecessary stress to the body. If you tune in, you will likely know what would feel nourishing and what would not. Your body knows how to detoxify. The idea of a Spring reset is to simply get out of its way and stop heaping things on while it lets go of heaviness and makes the switch to the energy of Spring. A Spring reset is more about changing our energy than it is about actual detoxification.
The Spring Reset (Typically 5-14 days)
For most people, taking a week or two to purge our diets of the sweetly rich, heavy, fatty foods of winter, while also focusing on some other aspects of self-care are just what we need to bring about balance. You choose the amount of time; even 3 days is better than nothing. Look at your calendar and mark it down. Do your best to avoid big occasions that will interfere with your plans (e.g. doing a reset while attending your best friend’s dirty-thirty birthday party is a recipe for failure)
What And What Not to Eat
Avoid alcohol, sugar, and processed foods. Limit caffeine (have a cup of green or black tea if needed to avoid headaches), dairy (you can have some yogurt or kefir), and fatty animal protein. If you have any food sensitivities, avoid those foods too.
Include lots of plant foods, especially what is in season. The light, astringent, and crisp veggies of Spring make great salads, but if you have trouble digesting raw foods, make some delicious veggie soups!
Feel free to experiment with juices and smoothies. However, one note regarding smoothies: it is very easy to overdo the calories if you include too much sweet fruit, dairy, or protein powders. I also suggest using them only as an occasional meal replacement, not as your complete diet.
Enjoy some whole grains, seeds, and nuts – quinoa is a tasty grain that is also high in protein. Oatmeal is another of my favorites. Seeds and nuts make a great snack and add a nice texture to your salads. Stock up on almonds, walnuts, and sunflower seeds.
A small amount of fermented dairy (yogurt/kefir) and lean proteins like fish and eggs can keep you feeling satiated.
Don't go too heavy on fats, but do include some healthy fats like olive oil, coconut oil, and avocados.
When to Eat
Proper meal spacing is always important. You must allow enough time between meals so that you feel true hunger. If you have never tried intermittent fasting, this might be the time to do that. For most people, I don’t recommend fasting beyond that. Unless you have had previous experience with a 24-hour water fast or juice fast, don’t do it now. A fast can be stressful to the body which can outweigh the benefits or lead you to ditch the whole program out of frustration. If you want to experiment with a 24-hour water or juice cleanse, I suggest doing it in the middle of winter or summer, when your energy is more stable. (note - I'm not saying you should fast)
Learn more about Meal Spacing and Intermittent Fasting HERE.
Hydrate – Inside and Out
Good hydration is needed to support every system of your body from the circulatory and lymph symptoms to your immune system and digestion. Drink lots of warm/hot water to support deep hydration. Feel free to add lemon, mint, or cinnamon to your hot water, or make herbal teas such as chamomile, ginger, or CCF (cumin, coriander, fennel) tea.
Our skin needs some love too. Before showering, dry brush your skin, then apply a natural oil (sesame, coconut, almond, etc) to your skin and gently massage it in. Allow the oil to soak into the skin, then shower as normal.
(Note – be sure to clean your tub well after so that it doesn’t become slippery)
Be sure to schedule some downtime to read, journal, meditate, or be creative. Turn off your phone and let yourself simply enjoy some quiet and solitude, call your best buddy to chat, or, crank the music to sing and dance. Do what feels right to you.
Move Your Body
During your Spring Reset, you want to do some movement to encourage energy and lightness. Do some light cardio (a short walk or a few jumping jacks) and gentle yoga stretches every morning. Just a few minutes is all you need.
If you have the time and the interest, do more exercise later in the day. Take a walk at lunch or after dinner, maybe take a yoga class.
Give yourself an early bedtime and stick with it. Carry this habit on long after your Spring Reset. Take sleep seriously; it’s important! We so often stay up too late because we feel like we deserve the time for ourselves, but then we spend that time doing things that are unfulfilling and even bad for us (e.g. social media and tv shows we could watch anytime). Do yourself a favor and just go to sleep.
Plan and Prepare
If you want to be successful, plan it out. Come up with a meal plan and shopping list. Grocery shop and do some food prep (clean the veggies, make a soup, prep a salad). Schedule time for exercise, meditation, etc. Set timers if needed.
Example Spring Reset Meal Plans
B (9am): Overnight Oats & Chia with berries, 1/2 a grapefruit or serving of grapefruit juice
L (noon): Big salad with baby greens, mushrooms, asparagus, boiled egg, and shrimp. Dressed with fire cider vinaigrette. 1 slice of whole-grain toast
S (3pm): raw veggies (cauliflower, peas, radishes, asparagus) and lemon hummus
D (6pm): Portobello mushrooms stuffed with hummus, garlicky greens, and tomato, a piece of cornbread
B (9am): 2 egg Veggie Omelet with salsa and avocado toast, 1/2 grapefruit or grapefruit juice
L (noon): Brothy vegetable soup (all your favorite soup veggies cooked in veggie broth)
S (3pm): fruit bowl - sliced banana, raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries
D (6pm): Big salad with baby greens, mushrooms, asparagus, and boiled egg dressed with fire cider vinaigrette served with baked Cod and quinoa.
Repeat foods to keep you menu planning and preparation simple.
I encourage you to give yourself this gift of a seasonal reset. Ditch the heaviness and embrace the lightness. Happy Spring.