As a Chinese Medicine practitioner, I cannot help but think about how the external environment and seasons effect us, and how we can utilize the dynamic of the season to better our health. Tuning in to what our body needs this season can help you better nourish and take care of your body, mind and soul.
Winter wellness…. well, it can be a challenge. Colds and flus are EVERYWHERE, and most people experience bouts of low energy, feeling run down, flat and even a little depressed. It is very easy to fall into the pit of only feeling enthusiasm for the couch, a book, a TV series on the laptop, while eating endless slices of toast and pieces of chocolate. That is OK…but it could be better… There are other ways to experience winter, so you feel like life doesn’t stop or stagnate but instead it just changes directions, moving inwards and slowing down. Winter in my opinion, is best experienced as a slow season of inwardness, tranquility and strength. However in the west we can often feel uncomfortable with this slower, more introverted season and as a reaction to our discomfort we push through, running our energy and immune system into the ground or instead withdraw, leaving us feeling flat and depressed. However I advocate a middle road approach.
Winter is the season that offers an opportunity to prepare for the rest of the year and if not taken a great opportunity is missed. Here are few tips to help you help you get the best out of winter and stay balanced, relaxed, nourished and happy.
1. Let there be sleep! Getting a few extra ZZZ in winter is what nature intended with those big long nights, so let nature take you and your body on the seasonal journey of rest! Go to bed at 8pm if you feel like it. No guilt. What I would warn, however is about is sleeping in too much as this can make us feel sluggish. Try to get up before 7.30am in winter and allow yourself to go to bed AS EARLY AS YOU LIKE!
2. Soups are the source. Soup is the dish of the season, so get into it!! In winter the energy in our bodies and in the external environment has the lowest amount of energy for the year, so getting more energy from food is required. Naturally we get into the slow cooked, stodgy, meaty and carby foods. Soup is easily digestible and thus is an easily accessible energy source to keep your body vital.
3. Tea. Well I find it hard to write a blog without putting tea in as a cure for all – because it is! Tea in winter can warm, hydrate and keep you feeling well. It gently invigorates and cleanses the body and mind, unlike the more rich and sweet hot beverages such as milky coffees, hot chocolate and chai that can cause damp and sluggishness in the system. Herbal tea with ginger and cinnamon can help warm up, other herbal tea can be great way to subtly keep cleansing the body at a time when there is a tendency for a build up and blockages in the body’s energies.
4. Tonifying exercise. As I said above, it is a time to keep things moving in order not to get too stuck physically and mentally. Sometimes this means avoiding being too ambitious, as you don’t have as much energy to burn in winter, but it is better do something than nothing. While it might be appropriate to run daily or get out and about and exercise like a fanatic over summer, in winter a more gentle approach is appropriate. If you can manage to still get blood pumping it certainly does help with your energy levels. Yoga especially in a warm room, walking, swimming in a heated pool, gym classes and shorter runs are all great. Aim for few times per week and this will help to keep you in good health, and prevent energy becoming too stuck. The ten minute trick is the best if you are feeling unmotivated and have a case of the “just can’t be bothered”. Say to your self, “I am just going to go for a walk/jog/ to do yoga/ swim/gym/ cycle just for ten minutes. 9/10 times you will enjoy it so much once you’re out and about you will end up doing more! However do start with shorter and smaller expectations, and do less than you would normally do. It is winter. That is natural.
5. Yoga & Meditation. Winter is the time when if you practice yoga or meditate, you might not feel like you are achieving much, but you are deeply and profoundly shifting very deep energy. It is a time when we are naturally the most yin, introverted and still, so we can harness this inwards focus to really build steady base, before spring comes along and knocks that Zen feeling to the side with the busy energy circulating in spring “spring fever”. It would be great if everyone had a week off in winter to relax and recharge, do yoga and meditate! Commit and book in to your local class for a course/ or month, or download a program app on your phone, sign up to an internet yoga provider. Aim for a month-long course to keep you motivated. You will be amazed how easy a home DIY retreat can be .Yoga and meditation in winter will give you a rock solid practice foundation for the rest of the year (which usually is a lot more dynamic).
6. Family & Good Friends. Winter doesn’t usually feel like a super social time. It is however a great time to spend with folks, friends and family close to you and nourish these relationships. While spring and summer are usually times of social exuberance, winter is the time to nourish deepest and dearest friends and family members, and not be as “out there” as summer. Snuggle up to your loved ones and stay connected, but don’t push social agendas too hard. The right amount of solitude for you can also be deeply satisfying and nourishing.
7. Be your Best. It is a time to look inside, a time to reflect, reassess, sit with where you are at and ponder what is next. It might not be a time you feel like taking much action, and that is ok. It is time to put energy into thinking, pondering and wondering. Winter is simply time to go inside and have a deep think about what is next, before more dynamic seasons come along and take you there.
If winter has got you feeling flat, or you have low immunity, fatigue or a cough or cold, acupuncture can help. Acupuncture is a great way to recharge over the winter months, and Darling Street Health has got you covered! Our acupuncturist Amy Forth is available Wednesdays 11-8pm and Fridays 2-8pm, so book in your winter wellness program today.