Seasonal Living: Winter
Welcome to Winter! Brrrrrrrr….things are getting chilly! Can you feel that cold? Winter is definitely here, and with it the most Yin season of the year. Winter is the most YIN of all the seasons - Yin being earthy, dark, cold and inactive. In keeping with living with the seasons we should try to reflect the energetic nature of Winter and reflect the Yin in our lives. This is done by allowing ourselves some time to slow down, rest, prepare projects, brainstorm ideas to be launched in the warmer months. Eat more cooked and warm foods and make sure you add an extra layer of clothing to protect yourself from the cooler weather.
In Chinese Medicine we think of the body as a small version of the universe around us. As the seasons change, so should we. Humans should be adaptable; to flow with the seasons is to live in harmony. By doing this, we should avoid illness.
What happens to our Qi in Winter?
During this time our Qi should start to SLOW DOWN and move DOWNWARDS. Winter is the WATER time of year and the time of deepest Yin - a cold, dark and still time. These months relate to the KIDNEY and BLADDER organs, the colour is BLACK and the flavour is SALTY. This is a time of STORAGE and REST - making it the perfect time to work through your FEARS and achieve a sense of CALM for the coming Yang months.
The Water Organ – The Kidney
The KIDNEY is one of the strongest and most fundamental organs in Chinese Medicine. They store our JING (our essence that is meant to last our entire life) as well as our PRENTAL Qi (our constitution which we inherit from our parents). In a nutshell, our Kidneys are the source of our endurance and energy reserves that we use for our whole life. If we wear them out too quickly – through excess work, stress or even too much sex – we will deplete these essential reserves and wear ourselves down. That sounds a bit serious, right? So the message is to make sure you look after your Kidneys! If you love them then they’ll love you back and make sure that you have a long life with plenty of growth and graceful aging free from illness. The Kidneys also connect us to our ZHI or sense of WILL. This is our internal drive that gets us up in the morning and inspires us to work, live and enjoy life.
What does this mean for you? If your Kidneys are strong then you have plentiful energy and endurance, a strong lower back and knees, your hearing will be strong and your will power will get you through any task. However if your Kidneys become weaker due to excess work or stress you may begin to ache in your back and knees, you may experience excessive fear or insecurity, you will tire easily and your concentration will suffer.
The Winter months are a time of darkness, stillness and solitude, so if you’ve been overdoing things throughout the year this is a time to turn inwards and rejuvenate yourself!
Mental Health in Winter
In Winter, the Qi of the world becomes heavy and begins to move inwards to hibernate. By following this movement – by withdrawing, resting and becoming introspective – we can begin to conserve and renew our energies. This makes the Winter months all about:
REJUVENTATION INNER STRENGTH FEAR
Often so many of us are working at least one job (if not more), studying and often have dependents. These things are all important to continue but leave us little time for retreat. One of the best things about this period of downtime and stillness is that it allows us to REFLECT about what we feel and care strongly about. This reflection time is what allows us to feel rejuvenated and later ‘spring’ into action and kick start our goals and dreams once the warmer months begin.
As our Kidneys control our Zhi or Will, Winter is the time to do some inner searching to find out what scares us and what we FEAR. By beginning to understand some of our old fear patterns we can develop our own INNER STRENGTH. That way, by the time Spring comes around we have enough inner determination and are rejuvenated enough to charge after the things that we want from life.
Winter Health Tips
The Kidneys represent our vitality and longevity and the Winter months are a time to rejuvenate our energy stores and our immune systems.
SLEEP – good quality sleep is one of the best things to do for your Kidneys during Winter to replenish your energy stores. As the sun is rising later and going down earlier perhaps try to do the same? If you can aim for bedtime to be around 10pm and wake up time to be 6.30-7am you can get at least 8 solid hours of sleep every night.
EXERCISE – It’s super important to slow down your movement patterns during the cooler months. That doesn’t mean stopping exercise entirely, but perhaps swap high-intensity cardio activities for more gentle activities such as walking and yoga. This allows your adrenals to recover from the high amounts of activity that they’ve been stressed by over the warmer months.
REST – it’s important to let your Kidneys and adrenals rest during the Winter months so make sure to schedule in ‘unstructured rest time’ on days off as well as take regular pauses during your work days.
EAT WARM & SOUPY – As the external temperature is so cool we should begin to eat more warming and nourishing foods to literally warm us up from the inside’. Well-cooked and soup-based foods are also much easier on our digestive organs and help to give our tummies a break when our bodies are busy repairing the damage of the previous year.
ACUPUNCTURE - Acupuncture is an amazing and gentle way to even out any ‘stuck bits’ in the body – be it physical, emotional or energetic. If you’re feeling sick, stuck, sad or just plain confused, see your local acupuncturist for a seasonal tune-up. You might find that while you’re doing all the above things in the right way a good Acupuncture session or two can really help to turn things around. There are also some fantastic herbal formulas that might be up your ally too.
EAT WHOLE FOODS – this is the time of the year to eat a wide range of foods – whole grains, legumes, meats, root veggies, greens, nut and fruits. This is when we replenish our depleted stores and so eating a range of foods from different groups will help to supplement any internal deficits.
EAT SOUPY – begin to make well-cooked porridges, soups and stews the majority of your diet. These warming, nourishing foods are easy to digest and provide your body with long-release energy throughout day. If you can cook these soups at a lower temperature for a longer time (or just use a slow-cooker) even better!
DRINK BROTH – drink a cup of warm water, soup, tea or broth with each meal. Perhaps try a small cup of Miso soup with lunch and dinner? The salty taste is particularly beneficial for the Kidneys and the fermented nature of it is fantastic for your gut health.
AVOID – stimulating foods and drinks such as chili, chocolate, caffeine and alcohol. Also try to steer clear of anything raw or lightly cooked as well as anything cold. This is the time to make digestion as easy as possible for your belly!
WELCOME TO WINTER!
There you go – I hope all of that has been super helpful for you! If you would like to learn more, or would like to book in for a consultation please get in touch via phone (0408 402 512), email or book online.
PLEASE NOTE: In saying all of this, its super important to listen to your body. What does it want? What is it telling you? Is it saying that you need something in particular? It’s really important to gather information to make the choices that are important for you and your body. This information isn’t personal medical advice – rather it’s a guideline on ways that could help you to live a healthier, happier lifestyle. It is always wise to consult with a qualified health practitioner before starting any new herbs, supplements or dietary and lifestyle programs.