According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), each season is intricately related to a specific element, color, stage, emotion, climate, taste and organ system. This not only helps to explain our physical and emotional states in any given season as we experience our inter-connectedness to the earth and to one another, but also offers specific guidance to help us achieve our optimal health at any time of the year.
As we move away from the abundant harvest of autumn, we move into the winter season, with the concept of storage at its core. We conserve nutrients and energy in the winter, which not only effects our well-being during this season, but then sets us up for growth and vitality in the spring.
Here are five tips to help you live your best winter season:
1. Slow Down
Have you ever felt self-indulgent for wanting to rest more (dare I say “hibernate?”) during the winter? If so, I have some great news for you! TCM guides us to do just that, focusing on the high quality, deep sleep our bodies need. Of course we still need to move our bodies during the winter season, but we should avoid strenuous exercise and focus on practices with gentle, fluid forms, such as yoga, dance, tai chi or qigong. Walking is also great, especially if it is near a body of water, as that is the element of winter. If you love the mountains, snow sports can take you close to this water element (in frozen form), but be well prepared to stay protected from the cold and wind. Winter is the season to slow down and conserve your energy, making moments of stillness a priority.
2. Eat Warm, Cooked Foods
Similar to autumn, this is the perfect time for nourishing soups and stews. It is important to greatly limit the intake of cold and raw food and drinks, as they decrease the body’s ability to ward off cold, leaving you more vulnerable to illness. As the Kidney organ system is more sensitive at this time of year, it is important to incorporate foods that nourish both the Yin and Yang of the Kidney, such as: – lamb, beef, pork, shellfish and bone broth (for those who eat meat) – brown rice, barley and millet – nuts and seeds, including black sesame seeds – beets, sweet potatoes, parsnip and carrots – black, kidney and adzuki beans – ginger, onions, garlic and leeks – cinnamon and cloves – black colored foods, such as dates, eggplant, mushrooms and seaweed
3. Turn Your Attention Inward
We can harness the internal focus of the season by creating time and space in our lives for meditation, journaling, creating art, or other contemplative activities. But spending more introverted time at home does not mean you have to live the life of a hermit. Winter can be a wonderful time for intimate get-togethers and to engage in heart-warming conversations. Just make sure everyone is healthy before gathering together indoors!
4. Stay Warm
While this may seem obvious, but many people let vulnerable body parts be exposed to the cold in the winter season. Staying warm helps to keep our Defensive Qi strong and healthy (think immune system). Take particular care to keep your neck, shoulders, low back and feet warm. Foot soaks can be a really nice way to relax the mind and warm up the body during the coldest months of the year. Soaking feet can be a fun and relaxing family activity!
5. Boost Your Qi and get a Seasonal Tune-up!
As we tend to be more susceptible to illness during the cold winter months, it is especially important that we take measures to build up our resilience. Following the above tips will help ensure that you’re getting enough down-time and sleep, eating the most beneficial foods for the season, and getting the most appropriate forms of exercise. Schedule an acupuncture treatment for any symptoms you may be having, or come in for your winter seasonal tune-up. Tune-ups help to keep you and your family healthy!