From Shakespeare’s Juliet bemoaning the “inconstant moon” to pop culture references to vampires and werewolves inspired to metamorphose by the changing of the moon, lunar cycles have long been linked to mood and behaviour.
It’s something that Natalie Fox, a yoga and surf instructor, feels strongly about. "I connected with the moon cycles, especially through surfing and tides,” she says. “I love using this monthly cycle as a ritual of reflection and intention setting for the coming month. The new moon always heralds new beginnings – whether it’s big life changes, new relationships or just new mindsets. But whatever it is, it’s these beginnings that give our lives so much more meaning.”
Natalie says she was born with Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser (MRKH) syndrome – "it means I was born without a womb, but I do have one functioning ovary, so the moon cycle is something I work with to help regulate my hormones and energy. As I don't have periods to inform me what stage of cycle I'm at, I tend to go with the moon!"
Study of the moon falls into a branch of science known as chronobiology, a field of biology that examines periodic phenomena in living organisms and their adaptation to solar- and lunar-related rhythms. Interestingly a joint study by researchers from universities around the world found that as well as the known effect on tidal patterns, the moon has documented effects on animal behaviours, too, with breeding eagle owls increasing movement on full moon nights, and coyotes using certain types of howling during the new moon. The researchers noted that study of moonlight chronobiology is increasingly important in a world lit up by artificial lights, and how that man-made change is affecting us.
Humans, too, can be affected by the new moon. A paper by the Eastern Ontario Research Institute of 5,800 children found they generally slept five minutes less during a full moon compared to a new moon – although the scientists themselves involved in the 12-country study were quick to deride their own findings as displaying a “minimal difference”.
Evolutionary researcher Martie Haselton is critical of theories that link the moon to moods. She says in her book, Hormonal, that you won’t feel lustier, for example, just because there’s a full moon in the sky. And a 2008 study by researchers at the University of Oxford and the Ludwig Maximilian University similarly found little evidence that human behaviour was connected to lunar cycles.
And the oft-cited belief that the moon has influence over your period has, while a tempting one, been proven a myth. While it’s often claimed that women who live in close proximity to each other sync their periods, Hastelton says it’s not true. In fact, because we’re on different length cycles, there are times when our periods coincide with other females we live or work with, but are not the same every month.
But those like Natalie, and Merilyn Keskula – founder of Mylky Moon Lab (mylkymoonlab.com) – believe otherwise and, after studying their own cycles, think the lunar phases – such as the new moon or the waning gibbous – are linked to our emotions and behaviour. “I think it is interesting to observe how different phases of the menstrual cycle interact with different phases of the moon. Think about how you feel when bleeding during a new moon or full moon, or ovulating during a new or full moon?” Merilyn says.
For Natalie, she says, “In regards to my body, mind and energy levels, with full and new moons my emotions tend to be heightened, I’m more sensitive and I can feel I am going through hormonal changes, which is very subtle and requires a deep level of listening. I find that I need to rest and restore more through these periods and I really try to prioritise sleep, yoga and healthy eating to tackle the stress that may arise and help keep me balanced.”
Merilyn adds that she also looks to the moon cycle to map out her month, including “clearing and cleaning” during the waning phases of the moon (as the moon is decreasing in size). “It’s the time when you can take care of everything you want to diminish, eliminate or let go of in your life. I find eating less or detoxing is good during the waning moon, but also being more gentle with yourself, turning inwards, being more reflective,” she adds.
Victor Olliver, editor of The Astrological Journal, agrees that we can use lunar cycles to help understand our moods better. He says that like a new calendar year, a new moon (when the moon is not visible) is a good time to start a new project: “Your courage tends to be at its maximum during a new moon, and starting something then is like catching a wave; it will carry you further.” While a balsamic moon (just before the new moon) “is a great time to get things done quickly – and also to get a good deal in negotiations.”
If you use the Moody app, you’ll notice that you get a daily lunar report, along with your personal hormonal fluctuations. So, during a waxing crescent, if your personal menstruation dates align with an increase in oestrogen, it might leave you feeling productive and optimistic. Or if your oestrogen levels are peaking pre ovulation, plus it’s also a full moon, your energy levels and confidence could be soaring and it might be the perfect time to ask for that pay rise or promotion.
As with any cycles – including hormonal – lunar phases are not prescriptions, but patterns to watch for and take note of. As Merilyn says, “Although there are certain universal vibrations, each one of us is different and should create her own connection with the moon phases.”
Words by Jeananne Craig
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