The 8 Moon Phases & How They Affect Your Body And Mind

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I am the moon and the moon is me… Humans, especially women, have long had a profound connection to the moon. We crave its attention, its guidance, and its mystic properties. We yearn for it, the same way others yearn for the welcoming warmth of daylight. We feel powerful under it — gaining energy and strength from her presence. It's all a matter of learning how to live your life by each moon phase.

In astrology, the moon is considered female, presiding over our fertility, emotions, and monthly cycles. We are affected by her pull — receding and renewing as often as the tides. We find ourselves drawn between bouts of introversion and introspection and moments of extreme passion and energy.

Even history cannot deny the mystical role the moon plays on us. The word "lunatic" is derived from multiple languages in reference to the madness or hysteria. From the Old English "monseoc," "lunatic" literally translates to “moon-sick"; and from the Latin word "lunaticus," which originally referred mainly to epilepsy and madness, as diseases thought to be caused by the moon.

Greek philosopher Aristotle and Roman historian Pliny the Elder believed that because our brain was a “moist” organ, our minds were influenced by the pull of the moon in the same way the tides are.

In his paper, “Effects of Different Phases of the Lunar Month on Humans” Ujjwal Chakraborty states, “a large number of investigations have shown the association of different lunar phases with the mental health or physical health and diseases, physical activity pattern, and reproduction of humans.”

According to Elizabeth Palermo of Life Science, the similarity between the words “moon” and “month” are no coincidence. Each phase of the moon — new, first quarter, full, and last quarter — each occur, on average, once a month. Scientifically speaking, the phases are dictated by the distance between the sun and the moon and the light visible on the moon from Earth.

If it takes the moon 29.5 days to travel across the Earth, it’s during that full rotation that we will see each moon phase. Each phase occurs roughly 7.4 days apart and there are most definitely unique energies and spiritual meanings behind each phase — some of these science can explain and others is where belief, experience, and faith must take over.

Living life in keeping with the lunar phases has a special meaning to women: As we are emotionally and, perhaps, physically, following the same phases. As the moon needs to recede, withdraw, and renew each month, so do we. We travel across different emotional states the same way the moon travels around the Earth.

The more attuned we are to these phases and how they affect us, the better we can harness the different energies, rather than wasting more energy fighting against them.

1. New Moon (Beginning Again)

Scientifically: A new moon is when the sun and the moon are on the same side of the Earth. Because the sun is not facing the moon, from our perspective on Earth, it looks like the dark side of the moon is facing us.

Spiritually: The new moon represents the menses (menstrual cycle) and, historically, women took time away from others during this time. Think of the new moon as not only your fresh start, but your time of retreat — a time when you can regain your strength to begin again. The themes surrounding the new moon are new beginnings, fresh starts, and clean slates.

You should be using this time for an intense reboot. Try to envision yourself filling up — recharging under the energy of this new moon. Mentally throw all unwanted thoughts and excess junk into the trash.

To do this, it’s best to unplug and give yourself much needed alone time. You may find yourself feeling anti-social and introverted for no reason. Pay attention to these feelings and embrace them. As the moon turns its dark side toward us, turn yourself inward and away from the draining energy of others.

Don’t feel bad for canceling plans or not wanting to call, text, or be around anyone. Turning off is the best way to make the most of a new moon.

2. Waxing Crescent (Setting Intentions)

Scientifically: As the sun starts moving closer to the new moon, it starts to become illuminated again. A crescent appears, less than half illuminated, until it waxes or “grows bigger” into a first quarter moon.

Spiritually: The waxing moon represents intention, hopes, and wishes. After recharging under the new moon, your intentions and desires are ready to be planted.

This is when you should be developing your intentions, burying crystals, writing checks to the universe, and laying the mental groundwork for your next project.

3. First Quarter Moon (Action)

Scientifically: The moon reaches the first quarter a week after the new moon. According to Palermo, the first half moon after the new moon is called the first quarter because, at that point, the moon is one-quarter of the way through its monthly cycle of phases.

Spiritually: Because the first quarter moon occurs a week after the new moon, this is when we start to feel some resistance in the form of obstacles. If your intentions were planted during the new moon, your first hurdles at achieving these goals are experienced here. The themes surrounding this moon are challenges, decisions, and action.

Your week of rest and intention-setting is over, and now you must work harder than before. Be prepared to make decisions on the spot, and do not lose your cool when things come at you out of nowhere. The best way to handle this moon is to be flexible. Keep the intention you set during the last new moon in your mind the entire time, and make decisions that will ultimately bring about the outcome of your previously set intentions.

The best way to start acting on them is to keep a to-do list and a journal. There should be a physical representation of you writing and acting out your intentions. Write yourself a daily to-do list and cross off things as you complete them.

4. Waxing Gibbous (Refine)

Scientifically: A waxing moon is one phase away from becoming a full moon. This moon is easily seen during the day because a large portion of it is illuminated.

Spiritually: The themes surrounding this moon are adjustment, refining, and editing. Things don’t always work out the way we planned them to, and this phase of the moon will help you realize what you need to reevaluate, give up, or change direction on.

If you want to reap the benefits of the full moon, maybe you need to make some sacrifices. Maybe you need to change course. Don’t resist the feeling of change during this moon.

5. Full Moon (Harvest)

Scientifically: A full moon occurs when the sun and the moon are on opposite sides of the Earth. Because the sun is directly across from the moon, the light completely illuminates it, making the moon appear completely full on Earth.

Spiritually: Because the sun and the moon are on opposite sides of the Earth at this point, they are also in opposite zodiac signs. This brings heightened tension as we fight to find balance between two extremes. Emotions can definitely run high during this period, and it’s important not to get overly emotional or attached to anything during this phase.

The Harvest Moon, the name of the first full moon in September, is the time when farmers traditionally harvest their crops. Just as they reap the benefits of their seeds, you should be reaping the benefits of your intentions set during the new moon.

You will see these benefits in the form of new opportunities or even as results from the hard work done the previous week. Make sure you’re prepared and open to receiving these.

6. Waning Gibbous (Grateful)

Scientifically: After a full moon, the moon starts becoming less illuminated again, waning toward the last quarter moon, then finally, another new moon.

Spiritually: The themes surrounding this moon are gratitude, sharing, and enthusiasm.

You should be feeling the benefits of your hard work for the last two weeks. Your metaphorical crops are in abundance and you should be seeing some (albeit small) outcome from your previously set goals and intentions. Now's the time you'll be feeling full of love. You'll want to give back to those around you — maybe you treat your spouse to dinner or buy your best friend a gift because you saw something and thought of them.

This is one of those weeks you may find yourself burning a hole in your wallet — try not to go overboard but don’t feel bad about spending some extra time and money on those you love. Giving back is a big theme during this time.

7. Last Quarter (Release)

Scientifically: The last quarter moon is the reverse process of the first quarter, making its way back to another new moon. After a full moon, the moon wanes — becomes smaller — into another gibbous moon, and then into the last quarter.

Spiritually: The themes surrounding this moon are release, letting go, and forgiveness. Like the moon gradually decreasing in size, you have to be ready to let go of stuff. Throughout the month you’ve been hurt, broken, or angered in many ways. It's under this moon that you will let go of all grudges and release all anger. You must purge yourself to be able to receive the new intentions you will set again during the next new moon.

A great practice during this moon is a cleanse. Clean out your apartment, your closet, your friendships. Look at anything that's no longer serving you and get rid of it. Pay attention to the unnecessary emotional and physical clutter you’ve accumulated during this past cycle and rid yourself of it. To shed this unnecessary emotional weight, try participating in a class or any type of physical activity.

8. Waning Crescent (Surrender)

Scientifically: The fraction of the moon that is illuminated is decreasing on its way to becoming a new moon.

Spiritually: Surrender, rest, recuperate. You may feel empty during this time. You’ve gone through an entire moon cycle and things have come and gone — willingly or not. You are now getting ready to prepare for a new cycle and there is nothing wrong with resetting intentions — however, not during this moon.

Right now just relax and surrender to the universe. Some things will always be out of your control and fate must take its course.

Moonsplaining is a content package dedicated to the power of feminine spirituality. Instead of blaming the universe for your problems, learn how to harness its ebbs and flows for your own good. Here's how to make the universe work for you, not against you.