How (and Why!) to Hack Your Life With Moon Phases

Lunar activity is a beautiful parallel, a lovely metaphor we can use to track the seasons of life. Learn to harness the power of the moon phases and up-level your life — maybe even society! — in the process.

Amanda Warton Jenkins
Well Woman
Published in
16 min readDec 28, 2019


Image courtesy Shutterstock

Last night was a spectacular full moon.

I was on pick-up duty for my son after his sports practice, and we sat in my parked car in our driveway, admiring the moon as it hung what seemed like inches from the roof of our house.

“Are those craters, Mom?”

“I think so, buddy.”

“How often are there people on the moon?”

“Not that often, bud. Maybe once every fifty years or so.”

“How do people in space start floating, when the rocket blasts off? Does it happen fast, or slow?”

“That’s a good question, dude! I’m going to have to look into that one. But did you know some people think moon’s gravity affects us, here on earth?”

“Wow. Does it make us do bad things?”

Our closest neighbor

Does it make us do bad things? My 9-year-old’s question was a surprise. To this point, we’d never discussed anything about the moon and behavior. I knew there was a collective idea about the moon and lunacy, a correlation with madness and magic. As a language person, I understood the etymology of “luna,” the Latin word for moon and “lunacy.” But I had to know more.

Any police officer, labor and delivery nurse, psychiatric hospital worker, or teacher will tell you a lot coincides with lunar cycles.

But in graduate school, I learned this correlation could be due to the confirmation bias, or people’s tendency to only see the data that reaffirms what they already believe. I‘ve written about the confirmation bias before, on how it impacts environmentalism and climate change.

The confirmation bias as it relates to lunar cycles has to do with the fact that people rarely notice the moon when it’s anything other than full. For that reason, everything strange seems to happen during a full moon.

But what about our health? The people I’ve been reading lately (Liyana Silver, Gabrielle Bernstein, Dr. Jolene Brighten and more) suggest that women’s bodies are particularly connected to the moon, since we both have a 28-day cycle. This tracking with the moon and tides keeps us connected with the earth’s rhythm. Some even call it a divine knowing.

I personally love full moon nights, because it’s bright enough outside to walk my dog on our dark, quiet country road sans flashlight.

I’m noticing the moon more these days because my husband and I just installed large awning windows on the west wall of our bedroom. We’re now literally hit with moonbeams on every clear night where the moon is at least a quarter full.

As our closest planetary neighbor, I keep thinking about our inextricable link to the moon. What if we could somehow harness the moon’s power, use it to our advantage?

Here’s what I learned about that.

The science is iffy

The bad news in my quest to “hack the moon” — there seem to be as many scientific studies proving a link between our bodies and the moon as there are studies disproving it.

The changes in our bodies attributed to the moon seem to be mostly related to the sleeplessness all that bright lunar light can cause.

  • An article out of UCLA in the Journal of Affective Disorders points to the partial sleep deprivation resulting from a full moon to have been sufficient to induce mania and hypomania in susceptible bipolar patients and seizures in patients with seizure disorders — but study was done prior to the advent of artificial illumination.
  • Research from Switzerland published in Current Biology found that people slept less, had poorer-quality sleep, and took longer to fall asleep when the moon was full.

Even the idea that the gravitational pull creates a tidal effect in our bodies, which are 75 percent water, has been debunked by many.

  • “Researchers have calculated that a mother holding her baby exerts 12 million times the tide-raising force on the child than the moon does, simply by virtue of being closer,” according to, a Web site that applies logic and reason to myths and urban legends.

There’s a great summary of the scientific evidence linking the moon and our bodies here. (Spoiler alert: there’s not much.) But perhaps our reasons for paying attention to the moon go beyond what we can statistically prove with reason and logic.

It’s ancient

As true as steel, as plantage to the moon,
As sun to day, as turtle to her mate,
As iron to adamant, as earth to centre.

— William Shakespeare

Photo by Bryan Goff on Unsplash

As one of society’s most ancient timepieces, the moon has immense cultural significance to practically everyone on earth. Long before the first written language, before the earliest cities or organized religions, people used the moon’s nightly changes as a reliable marker of time. Any quest to “hack the moon” should take our ancestral experience into consideration. Paying attention to the moon and its phases is as natural as walking, talking, or gathering around a fire to our species.

Pre-agrarian people traveled far in search of food, to the point where ecosystems changed. So simply noting the change of seasons would not have provided enough detail for them to keep track of time. Seasonal markers like flowers blooming or animals giving birth could vary quite a bit from place to place. The moon and its 29.5-day phase provided more certainty, a better landmark.

Before GPS, before the sextant, before even the compass, those who struck out across oceans and seas found their way using celestial bodies. Offshore for the ancient mariner, landmarks included only the sun, moon, and stars.

Ancient harvest and hunting activities coincided with the full moon since it offered additional light. Some say ancient women planned their pregnancies by tracking the moon.

The tide, weather, and the cycles of life in general were coordinated with lunar activity, which is why moon gods and goddesses abound in prehistoric cultures. Historians say many had legends about the moon controlling people’s fate, so ceremonies like blood-letting and haircuts were planned according to the lunar cycle.

The Celts, for example, understood time was as circular and cyclical. Like the modern Jewish calendar, their days were counted from sunset to sunset, rather than from dawn to midnight. The very idea of a cycle tracks more closely with nature and the moon than our modern, linear understanding of time.

The advent of modern science and artificial illumination probably sped up the demise of much of this ancient folklore and tradition. But for many, paying attention to the moon is like celebrating Christmas. We hold on to it for the sake of tradition, which connects us to our ancestors, and to mysteries we still do not understand.

It connects us

The moon understands what it means to be human. Uncertain. Alone. Cratered by imperfections.

-Tahereh Mafi

Photo by David Clode on Unsplash

Harnessing the power of the moon means not only connecting with our ancestors, but also connecting with each other in the here and now.

Have you ever started a conversation by talking about the weather, or how a favorite local sports team is doing?

I used to see these topics as too cliché and boring, but now I understand why they work so well. I believe that now more than ever we need to find more common ground with others, topics that bridge our differences. The weather, energy, tides, nature, and moon phases are something that surely connects us all here on planet earth.

As our post-industrial cultures and people drift away from each other more than ever, away from nature, away from the values and commonalities that bind us together and connect us to the earth, I believe we desperately need to find connection with people. Starting a non-contentious conversation can be an intimidating prospect. Finding common ground to start from can be an almost heroic move.

When we stovepipe ourselves and can’t understand other people’s point of view, we vilify those whose beliefs are different from our own. We find we have nothing in common. Destructive infighting results.

In 1831 French sociologist and political theorist Alexis de Tocqueville traveled to the United States to study democracy. The result was one of the most groundbreaking books ever, Democracy in America.

His main point? Democracy was doomed unless Americans could find a common thread. Hash out our differences. Understand one another. Americans were uniquely positioned to accomplish this, he believed, through the discourse that resulted from voluntary or free political associations.

In other words, de Tocqueville praised Americans for talking to each other, having conversations that crossed class, party, religious and racial lines — something that wasn’t happening in aristocratic France at the time. It was a fresh new concept that was promising for this new society.

Robert Putnam picked up this same thread in 1995, with his essay Bowling Alone. He warned that involvement in voluntary associations had tapered off in the U.S., as evidenced by lessened participation in things like bowling leagues and churches. Getting involved in more diverse, or bridging, social networks is extremely helpful to making democracy work because it allows us to get to know people whose views differ from our own. We begin to understand the connectedness we all share.

In 2004, journalist Bill Bishop coined the term “the big sort.” By presenting new demographic data, he showed how Americans have been sorting themselves into alarmingly homogeneous communities — communities who think the same, act the same, look the same, earn a similar income, and vote the same, having similar political beliefs.

This is a huge threat to our modern project of democracy and living together in civilized societies.

Unfortunately, in today’s era of social media and “fake news,” stovepiping is rampant. The result is the spread of propaganda and political hysteria. It’s like another form of confirmation bias: groups selectively present only the information that supports the conclusions they want people to make. With lack of context and when it supports their beliefs about in and out-groups, people eat up and spread this propaganda without question.

Small talk is many people’s nemesis, but it is made easier when we focus on the things we can all agree on.

The more plugged in we get, the bigger our houses become, the smaller our yards, the more indoors we live, the more video games we play, the more disconnected from nature, each other, and arguably reality we become.

Study after study documents the psychological and physical benefits of connecting with nature. People who are more connected with nature are happier, feel more vital, and have more meaning in their lives.

Perhaps simply paying attention to the moon, and discussing its phases in small talk or casual conversation will help us become more mindful of how connected we all are.

Some of my fishermen friends on the Chesapeake Bay swear by the moon’s phases, planing their crabbing and fishing trips around them. These guys are incredibly connected to time, tides, and nature.

Bay crabs “slough” or lose their shells monthly. There are two major sheds that happen twice per year; once in May during and right after the full moon, and another in August at the same time.

Throughout the other months of the summer, the crabs will shed their shells at the full moon supposedly because the added tide strength helps them get out of their shells. The fullest crabs will be those that are ready to shed, so must be caught right before the full moon.

The crabs you catch right after the full moon are said to be “light,” less valuable for eating. In my fishing town on the East Coast, it’s those more connected to nature who are clued into these cycles.

The “supermoon”, a Full Moon orbiting close to the earth, is definitely something that makes the news. We’ll have one three times in 2020! Defined as less than 223,694 miles from the center of Earth, supermoon full moons will occur on March 9 (a “Super Worm Moon”), April 7 (a “Super Pink Moon”) and May 7 (a “Super Flower Moon”).

If you’d like to connect to the earth and other people, put these supermoons in your calendar. Bring them up in your next conversation. Encourage folks to watch for it at moonrise or moonset. If you live near the water, pay attention to what’s being caught there, and when. For me, the moon is one more way to connect to nature and other people in an increasingly fragmented, polarized, nature-eschewing world.

It’s a lovely metaphor

The moon does not fight. It attacks no one. It does not worry. It does not try to crush others. It keeps to its course, but by its very nature, it gently influences. What other body could pull an entire ocean from shore to shore?

- Ming-Dao Deng

Image courtesy

I often Google “what is the moon phase today?” when I’ve lost track of our closest planetary neighbor, and need to feel its grounding effects. The symbolic ideas that come from ancient moon traditions and ceremonies are a great way to structure seasons and patterns of life. We can divide up the moon phases into eight obvious ones.

  1. A New Moon marks the first lunar phase. This is when the moon and sun have the same ecliptic longitude (the sun and earth are opposite sides of the moon), and the lunar disk is not visible to the naked eye, except when silhouetted during a solar eclipse. Daylight outshines the earthlight that dimly illuminates the new moon. It reminds us that there is a season to be alone, to gather energy, to embrace solitude. This can be a time for self-care, rest (which will be easy, given the dark night sky), and reflection.
  2. The Waxing Crescent Moon starts as the moon becomes visible again after the new moon. Waxing means that it is growing, while crescent refers to the curved shape. The Waxing Crescent Moon typically rises in the daytime before noon. It becomes more visible around sunset but normally sets before midnight. During the waxing moon phase, the ancients noticed growth among both plants and animals. Accordingly, this was when those hair-cutting ceremonies took place, to encourage new, thicker growth. Similarly, this is the time to set intentions and dream big about what is coming your way.
  3. During the First Quarter Moon, we can see exactly half of the Moon’s surface illuminated. Is it the left or right half? Depends on where you are on earth. At First Quarter in the northern regions of the world, the right half of the Moon is lit up, while the left half is illuminated in the southern regions. Near the equator, the upper part is bright after moonrise, and the lower part is bright before moonset. This moon phase is associated with taking deliberate action, because we often face the first hurdles, challenges, and decisions related to the intentions we have set in previous moon phases. So, during this moon phase, you’ll want to be focused on doing the work necessary to manifest your dreams.
  4. During the Waxing Gibbous moon phase, the moon is getting bigger. Gibbous refers to the shape, which is less than the full circle of a Full Moon, but larger than a semicircle. (I had to look up the word “gibbous” for a definition, because I’ve never seen it other than to describe moon phases. It’s synonyms are convex, swelling or protruding.) The Waxing Gibbous Moon typically rises during the day, after noon. Often we get feedback about bringing our dreams to fruition as we work during the First Quarter Moon. So during the waxing gibbous moon phase, the energy is one of refining, editing, or changing direction as necessary.
  5. We all know what the Full Moon looks like, and perhaps already relate it to the harvest. The Harvest Moon is the name of the first full moon in September, when farmers traditionally did harvest their crops. But you might not relate it to “harvest” in your own life. Just as farmers used the moon’s light to reap the benefits of their hard work, now is the time to gather the results of what you’ve sown. A study published in the Indian Journal of Basic and Applied Medical Research found that when exercising, your heart is at its peak performance during a full and new Moon. It’s almost too much of a coincidence that this occurs during this time of harvest. Make sure you’re open to new opportunities, and the unexpected rewards of what you’ve been working on.
  6. On a Waning Gibbous moon, the moon is once again retreating in size. It’s still “protruding,” but getting smaller. During this time, all growth is said to slow. It’s a time to shed any excess, and the energy is all about gratitude for what has just transpired. During this time, your intention can be to share your enthusiasm for what you’ve just accomplished. You can allow your heart to be full of love. You may feel compelled to give back to those around you.
  7. One week after the Full Moon, we reach the Last or Third Quarter Moon. Once again, one half of the moon is illuminated. The last quarter moon rises at midnight and sets at noon. Traditionally, this is a time of letting go. Let go of grudges. Release anger. Rid yourself and your space of clutter. Let go of what no longer serves you, including people, things, and practices. Working out during the last quarter moon can be a great release. It might also be a great time for a juice or other dietary cleanse.
  8. Finally, we reach the Waning Crescent moon phase. The illuminated part of the moon decreases from the lit up semicircle it was during the Last or Third Quarter moon until it disappears from view entirely at New Moon, and the cycle starts over again. Waning means that it is getting smaller, while crescent refers to its curved shape. Surrender is the theme during the waning crescent moon phase, which invites rest and recovery. You may feel spent physically or emotionally after all the work you did during the previous phases. At this time, you’re beginning preparations for a new cycle, and new intentions. You’ll want to acknowledge that some things will always be out of your control, and release your attachment to outcomes.

Pay attention to this cycle and you’ll be reminded, comforted even, that everything is temporary. It’s all just a phase.

It connects us to spirit

We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature — trees, flowers, grass — grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence … we need silence to be able to touch souls. — Mother Teresa

Photo by Giv Meraj on Unsplash

In Bahá’í scriptures, the equality of the sexes is a cornerstone of God’s plan for human development.

The world of humanity is possessed of two wings: the male and the female. So long as these two wings are not equivalent in strength, the bird will not fly. — ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Promulgation, p. 375.

This bird is a powerful metaphor. Our society is that bird trying to fly with one masculine wing. We’re going in circles, unnecessarily wearing ourselves out from all the flapping.

Our culture connects the moon with the feminine: emotions, the deep, love, the tides, the occult. But I think we sometimes neglect, even despise this part of ourselves.

Don’t get me wrong. I love and respect our masculine wing. These are the strengths we all have within ourselves to execute, to bring our dreams to life. Masculine is associated with reason, logic, reason, judgment, fixing, goals, and work.

But unfortunately, our culture is stuck in a rut as we strive and achieve without regard for the cost to our creativity, love, and planet. Today, a “normal” life means competition, endless consumerism fueled by manipulative advertising, harming the planet that sustains us, poisoning our bodies with pesticide-ridden and genetically-altered foods, obeying rules and following outdated ideas that were forced upon us by authority figures.

This is what happens when we operate from our “how” or our masculine, never stopping to ask “why” or tap into the feminine. As a result, we put our ladders against the wrong buildings. We arrive at goals, but they often feel empty, unfulfilling.

Our masculine wing tries to hide, pick apart, perfect, bypass, surpass. It believes we can fix anything we break. There is a regard for means, but not ends.

Our feminine wing is our impulse to be curious rather than to punish, to embrace rather than to shame, to nurture rather than destroy.

The moon phases encourage me to embrace my own spirit. The cyclical nature of life. My changeable moods, energy levels, and productivity. My intuitive nudges, desires, hungers, creative streaks, longings to connect, to be seen, and to be celebrated.

To answer my son’s question, science has all but proven the full moon doesn’t make us do bad things. But the metaphor of the moon’s phases can be a new paradigm of acceptance for all of us.

Producing is important. But to produce without end is pointless.

The moon’s phases remind us to celebrate, to express gratitude for what we have, because it is often enough.

It reminds us to slow down and rest, to gather energy, for there will be time in the future again to be productive.

For me, hacking and harnessing the moon’s power means simply taking a cue from our closest planetary neighbor, and remembering: there’s a season for everything.

About the Author

Hi there! I’m Amanda Jenkins, Creative Director at MarketIQ, a Multi-Business Owner, Digital Nomad, Yoga Instructor, and Mom. I’m also editor-in-chief of Well Woman, where health, science, and spirit come together to help fuel the high-achiever in all of us. If this article resonated with you, please subscribe to my personal blog. You can also get to know me better on these social platforms: LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.



Amanda Warton Jenkins
Well Woman

Yoga teacher, MPP UChicago "rewilding," living from the neck down, cultivating Albert Einstein's "sacred gift," intuition. My book: