As a Chinese Medicine practitioner, I can’t help but to think about how the external environment and seasons affect us . Each season we can use the dynamics of the season to better our health and wellbeing. Tune in to what your body needs this winter, to nourish your body, mind and soul.
So, winter wellness…it can be a challenge. Cold and flus are everywhere, and most people have bouts of low energy, feeling run down, sick, flat and even a little depressed. It’s very easy to fall in the pit of only feeling enthusiasm for the couch, a book, or 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 best experienced as slow season of moving inward, tranquillity and strength. However, in the West we can often feel uncomfortable with this slower, more introverted season, and react to our discomfort by pushing through, running our energy and immunity into the ground…or instead withdrawing, leaving us feeling flat, if not depressed. However, I advocate a middle road approach.
Winter is the season that offers an opportunity to prepare for the rest of the year, however, if not taken a great opportunity to restore is missed. Here are few tips to help you be with the winter season and stay balanced, relaxed, nourished and happy. This will help you get the best out of it.
1. Let there be sleep!
Getting a few extra in zzz’s in winter is what nature intended with those long nights, so let nature take you on the seasonal journey of rest! Go to bed at 8pm if you feel like it, no guilt…as early as you like! What I would warn, however, is about is sleeping in too much. This can sometimes make us feel too sluggish. Don’t sleep in too much. Try to get up before 7.30am, otherwise the sluggishness might get you.
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 are at their lowest for the year, so getting more energy from food is required. Naturally we get into the slow cooked, stodgy, meaty and carby foods…however some of these can be a little hard for the body to digest. Soup is an easily digestible, and thus an, easily accessible, energy source.
I find it hard to write a blog with out putting tea in as a cure for all…because it is! Tea in winter can warm, hydrate and keep you feeling well, unlike the more rich and sweet beverages like milky coffees and hot chocolate that may increase sluggishness. Herbal tea with ginger and cinnamon can help warm you up and other herbal tea can be great way to subtly keep cleansing the body at a time when there’s a tendency for build-up and blockages in the body’s energies.
4. Tonifying exercise
As said above. it’s a great time to keep things moving and not get too stuck. Sometimes this means not being too ambitious, as you don’t have as much energy to burn in winter, but it’s better do something than nothing as it’ll help get your blood pumping for energy. Take a more gentle approach to exercise – yoga (especially in a warm room), walking, swimming in a heated pool,or shorter runs a few times a week. The 10 minute trick is the best if you feel like you can’t be bothered – tell yourself “I’m just going to go for a walk/jog/swim/etc for 10 minutes. 9/10 times you’ll enjoy it so much once you start that you’ll do more, but start with shorter and smaller expectations, and do less than you would normally do. It is winter. That is natural.
5. Yoga and meditation
Winter is the time when, if you practice yoga or meditate, you might not feel like you’re achieving much, but you are deeply and profoundly shifting very deep energy. It’s a time when we’re naturally the most yin, introverted and still, so we can harness this inwards focus to really build a steady base before spring comes along busy energy circulating in ‘spring fever’. Yoga and meditation in winter will give you a rock solid foundation for the rest of the year (which usually a lot more dynamic). Book in with a local class, use an app on your phone, internet yoga, etc MP3 to keep you motivated. You’ll be amazed how easy a home DIY retreat can be to make you feel!
6. Family and good friends
Winter doesn’t usually feel like a super social time. It is, however, a great time to spend with friends and family close to you. While spring and summer are usually times of social exuberance, winter is time to nourish connections with your deepest and dearest friends and family. 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 be also deeply satisfying and nourishing.
7. Be your best
It’s time to look inside, reflect, reassess, sit with where you are and ponder what is next. It might not be a time you feel like taking much action, and that’s completely fine. It’s time to put energy into thinking, pondering and wondering. Winter is simply time to go inside and have a deep think about what’s next before more dynamic seasons come along.