This article explains how we can take simple steps to modify our modern lifestyles, to apply a little “winter wellbeing” and better enable our bodies to cope at this time of year. As the Winter Solstice approaches on 21st December, many of us will be busy, trying to complete work and squeezing in extra social engagements. In Chinese Medicine however, Winter is regarded as a ‘yin’ time: a time for quietness; introspection and reflection. It is when our bodies can recharge to be ready to burst back into action in the Spring. It is an important time for the Kidney and Bladder, which are both Water element organs. These organs are responsible for supporting water metabolism; the sexual organs; fertility; bones; teeth and hair. The Kidney is very important because it provides the ‘spark’ of life to other organs, as well as providing the seeds of fertility to create new life. When Water elements are in balance, we have willpower and ambition to succeed and better focus on making things happen!
Firstly, give your body the best possible fuel so that it isn’t always under undue strain. Eat more warming foods such as oats, quinoa, rice and spelt, root vegetables; parsnip, squash and sweet potato. Consider beans, such as: black beans, aduki beans and kidney beans. Don’t forget nuts; chestnut, coconut and walnuts. Try warming fish such as anchovies, herring and salmon. These are also great sources of protein, as are certain meats, like beef, chicken/turkey and venison.
Spice up your life!
We traditionally use more spices for baking and in drinks, such as cinnamon, clove, ginger and nutmeg, all of which are warming. Cinnamon tea is not just festive but it’s also good for the ‘Jing’, which essentially describes part of the constitution. This is not just about drinking tea, because we need to keep well hydrated with water. From October onwards, central heating goes on , which can suck the moisture out of bodies through the pores. To keep Kidney energy in balance, drink water, but try to stay away from chilled water and ice cubes because they can injure Kidney energy.
This is the time of year when people suffer from sniffles. If you’re traveling on public transport close to strangers, it can be horrible if someone sneezes near you! Keep some lemon; honey and ginger in the cupboard and take some in a drink to help your body sweat out any germs after you’ve finished your travels.
Dressing for Winter
We all love a party, and getting dressed up for special occasions too is part of the seasonal fun. If it’s cold outside, then a thin jacket and little dress, or a shirt won’t give you enough protection against the elements. Whilst you may feel great on your way “out out”, you won’t feel as great the next day when your body is trying to fight off the double whammy of Cold and Damp!
You know the phrase ‘cold to the bone’? In Chinese Medicine, this describes when Cold creeps in to the lower back. It takes a while for the body to reheat itself again. So, keep wrapped up by donning a hat and scarf to protect your head and the ‘wind points’ around your neck. These are vital aides to help your immune system. The lower back, around the Kidney, is a key area to keep protected from Cold, Wind and Damp. If you work outdoors or gardening, and are regularly bending or stretching, the Cold may penetrate your lower back. To protect yourself, consider a kidney warmer – a band of material which stretches from the pubic bone up to the bottom of the ribs. A kidney warmer could be the best present for your lower back this season!
Essential Oils for the winter season
Keep the sinuses clear so that the body can effectively clear out any pathogens trying to sneak in. You can do this through self-massage. With the first two fingers of each hand, make small circular movements starting from nose and working across the cheeks towards the ears. This will loosen up the sinus cavity area, which can become blocked up without you realising. Alternatively, f you feel like you are getting a cold, try diffusing some eucalyptus globulus in an aromatherapy burner.
If you’ve already started getting a sore throat, use Ecalyptus citrdora. You can either diffuse this in a burner, or place a few drops in hot water; dip in a flannel and place it on your chest. This will open the pores and allow the essential oil to go straight into your bloodstream and work its magic.
Even with the best willpower, it’s tricky to avoid all chocolate, mince pies, mulled wine and cider this month. So if you’re going to immerse yourself fully into the festivities, be good with your diet the next day. Start your day with a drop of lemon in hot water to bring your body back into an alkaline state.
Schedule in some relax time
With constant socialising and long working hours you can feel like a moth dancing around a light bulb! To avoid burn out, it’s a good idea to schedule in a massage to boost T-Lymphocites, part of your white blood cells that help with healing and repair. A massage will of course also give you some space and time to relax between all the festivities.
Going to the gym or running in Winter is best left till Spring. Re-connect with the season that you are in, and seek gentle and restorative exercises, such as Yin Yoga, Tai Chi and Qi Gong. These will help to cultivate your energy reserves.
At work, step away from your desk and the artificial office environment and go get some fresh air. Take a walk in the park at lunch to will get your circulation pumping and help top-up your vitamin D levels (although not when it’s raining)! Getting outside will revive your brain and help you concentrate better for your afternoon session.
Recharging your batteries…
Get back in tune with the natural rhythms of nature by getting snuggly in bed early and getting up later too. Winter is when nature and animals look inwards: trees are reduced to the bare skeleton branches their former selves; and animals go into hibernation. As we might burn the candle at both ends during this season, sleep is incredibly important: for mind, body and spirit. If you have a late night one night, make sure the rest of the week you’re in bed by 10:30pm, technology free, so you can wind down and be asleep by 11pm. This is when the Liver and Gall Bladder can start to process emotions, regulate hormones and detoxify the body.
So, in summary, by keeping diet, exercise and sleep in balance, along with setting aside time to nurture ourselves, we can journey into next Spring feeling nourished and uplifted!