The days are becoming shorter, the air is crisper and its getting harder and harder to get out of bed on those early mornings (or is that just me?).
It is impossible not to notice the changing seasons around us, and how they affect us on a physical and emotional level.
As we humans are not separate from nature, we too need to look at the changing seasons and incorporate appropriate changes into our lifestyles to reflect this.
- Time to Rest & Reflect
Winter is the most Yin time of the year. Yin is cooling, slow, contracting and its energy moves inwards. In winter animals are hibernating and the trees are empty of leaves. When we look around us we see nature instinctively knows to move energy within and slow down. For us, it means we can take these winter months to turn our attention inwards, slow down and reflect.
This slowness provides the space and time to question what we want out of life, where we are going, if we are happy and ask if we are really living the lives that make us truly the happiest.
Things like journaling and meditation are great ways of reflecting during the winter months.
- Keep Warm
On a physical level we need to be doing what we can to keep ourselves warm! Our bodies are easily damaged by the cold so we need to do what we can to avoid any excess cold getting into our bodies. So this means no more cold raw salads, cold smoothies and cold icy drinks. Raw foods tend to cool the body (especially in winter) and can deplete our digestive “fire”, which is the ability to assimilate food efficiently.
I suggest having lots of warming broths, hearty soups, roasts and warming teas like ginger. Also, choose foods that grow naturally during the winter, e.g. squash, potatoes, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, root vegetables like beets, greens, carrots, mushrooms, apples, pears and cabbage.
And keep your feet warm!
- Support your Kidneys & Meditate
In Chinese medicine, each season has an associated organ that is strongly influenced and affected by each time of the year. For winter this is the Kidneys. Being busy, burning the candle at both ends and not enough down time easily damages and consumes our Kidney energy.
The Kidney energy in Chinese medicine is the foundational energy of our bodies, which sustains us from birth to death. We need to continuously fuel and not be consuming our Kidney energy through overwork. We can almost get away with this (not really but almost) during the warmer months of the year, but this is definitely not the case during wintertime.
Some ways to support and strengthen the Kidneys during the winter months is to REST! Engaging in reflective style practises like Yin yoga, Qi Gong and meditation are a perfect way to move into the Yin time of year.
There are also foods that specifically target and nourish the Kidneys, including kidney beans, beef, goose, duck, black beans, lamb, chicken, dark leafy greens, garlic, ginger, walnuts, quinoa, asparagus, celery, onion, fennel, scallions, cloves, watercress and turnips. Sea salt is also helpful, because salty is the taste associated with the Kidneys.
- Drink Warm Water
The Kidneys are closely associated and ruled by the water element, which is the element associated with winter, so it is important to remember to drink water during wintertime. Drinking room temperature or, ideally, warm water is a vital step to maintaining sufficient Kidney Qi throughout the winter months.
- Get Acupuncture & Moxibustion
Regular Acupuncture and Chinese medicine treatments are a wonderful way to support and strengthen our bodies and especially our Kidneys during the winter months. Moxibustion is a practice where dried mugwort is burned very near the skin to warm and boost the Qi within the body. I can also support and guide you through lifestyle and dietary choices to best suit your body and your health.
- Getting Through The Winter Blues
The cold and gloomy winter weather can make us stay indoors, exercise less, be unsociable and eat unhealthily. So, try and:
- Get outside in the sunlight and open your curtains during the day to allow any sunlight to come in.
Sunlight helps increase our levels of vitamin D. A deficiency in vitamin D can contribute to depression. During winter, Australians require about 30 minutes of sunshine to maintain optimal levels of vitamin D. Also consider supplementing with vitamin D during the winter months.
Exercise is a great way to beat winter blues. Take brisk walks (in the sunshine if possible) to improve circulation and blood flow.
- Connect with others
Many of us are less social in winter. While socialising can seem tough in the winter months, it can help boost your mood.
If a case of the winter blues turns into something more serious, and if you are concerned about your mood or mental health, then please talk to friends, family or health professionals.