How To Sync Your Self-Care Practice With The Moon Cycle, From A Psychologist
As a clinical psychologist, much of my work centers around helping people feel in control of their time and energy—and regular, periodic rest is a huge part of that. Taking time out is what allows us to avoid burnout, impulsiveness, and getting lost in anxiousness. Just as nature has its cycles of blooming and hibernation, downtime is important for humans.
But it's easy to forget to rest. Fortunately, nature has it mapped out for us. The moon, in her 28-day cycles, can become your natural rhythm, helping you to remember to periodically take that necessary breather.
Why follow the moon?
In his book Lunar Tao, Taoist philosopher Deng Ming-Dao explains that "the lunar calendar fits a deep-seated need in us. It keeps us in tune with the seasons and the rhythms of the sun, moon, and tides. It ties us back to simple childhood observations of the moon crossing the night sky."
Just as the NongLi agricultural calendar has been used in Chinese history since 500 BCE, the Jewish, Hindu, and Islam calendar also observes the moon. Easter falls on the first Sunday after or on the first full moon following the spring equinox in the northern hemisphere.
"Taoism patterns itself after nature," Deng writes, and "asks us to look in the world around us for the answers to our spiritual questions." By meditating with the moon, we follow nature's cycles and wisdom.
The science of lunar influence.
The connection between the full moon and madness has been anecdotally documented, and there is some scientific evidence that we may have poorer sleep during the full moon, even if lunar rhythms are not as easy to study and document as circadian rhythms.
This is an "echo of our evolutionary past," Cambridge researcher Michael Hastings tells Scientific American. "If you were a hunter-gatherer on the African savanna, you may want to be out hunting at the full moon." But lunar phases definitely affect animal behavior, from lion prey to dung beetle navigation to birdsong.
How to sync with the moon.
Whether or not you subscribe to astrology, the moon is always in the sky, and attuning yourself to the moon's cycle can guide self-care.
- New moon: At the beginning of the lunar month, the moon is a new moon. Metaphorically, it's a time to plant the new seeds of goals, intentions, and actions.
- Waxing phase: Her growth from new moon to full moon is the waxing phase. I call this the Warrior Phase—where we gain momentum in our actions.
- Waning phase: As she wanes from full, I call this the Sage Phase—where we gradually power down, restore ourselves, and integrate lessons learned.
- Dark moon: The last few days before the new moon is called the dark moon. Here's when we retreat to our proverbial caves to rest and reflect, preparing for a new cycle ahead.
(You may find it easy to use a lunar calendar, such as this one on Google.)
Here's what aligning with the moon cycle might look like across different areas of your life:
Personal and professional development
The new moon might be a time for beginning new projects, with the waxing phase where you'll dive in and attack a large portion of the work. For example, I like to use the new moon and waxing phase for intensive coaching.
Conversely, moving toward the dark moon, you might wish to wind down your sprint and begin reflecting on what's worked and what hasn't. I reflect and journal on lessons and refine my game plan for the month ahead during the dark moon.
House and office decor
The new moon is a great time for beautifying and powering up your interiors, whether via a new scent or feng shui. I use the dark moon to declutter, deep clean, and replace linens. This is also a useful time to cleanse your space of negative energy, or you can take it as a metaphorical cleanse where you visualize boundaries between then and now.
During the waxing phase, you might engage in more intensive workouts or run longer distances. Meanwhile, resting my liver, scheduling in massages and facials, and doing longer stretches feature in my waning phase. Massages are especially healing if you store tension in your body.
The moon cycle really supports introverts like me, who need considerable time to power down, by making sure I'm spending enough time both nurturing my relationships and nurturing myself.
I love forming new connections and being more of a social butterfly during the waxing moon. But during the nourishing waning phase, I am more selective about who I give my energy to. I also use this time to audit my social sphere, for instance, honestly considering whom I'd like to keep in my life and culling my phone book.
As a psychologist, dark moon sessions are my favorite times for therapy, trauma release, and anything that allows me to get to the root of the matter.
"Being aware of heightened emotions on the full moon [can help] us align with our own natural rhythms," astrologer Mystic Medusa also tells me. "Not doing so is like being a sailor and not paying attention to the tides and currents. Life is so much easier when we go with the flow, not against it. The moon maps this natural course for us."
To me, the moon is the easiest way to master our time, cycling between the yin-yang of rejuvenation and acceleration. We cannot have one without the other.
Perpetua Neo, DClinPsy, is a psychologist and executive coach currently living in Singapore. She received her doctorate in clinical psychology from University College London and her master's in philosophy from University of Cambridge. Her first book This Is What Matters was published by Simon & Schuster in May 2022, which guides you to transform crisis to strength, or design an #EverydayAmazing life.
She has been featured in Elle, Forbes, and Business Insider and has previously worked with Olympians, business professionals, and individuals seeking to master their psychological capital. She works globally in English and Mandarin-Chinese via Skype and Facetime, blending cutting-edge neuroscience, psychology, and ancient wisdom.