Ancient traditions like Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine are well tuned to the fact that our health, behaviour and emotions are linked to changes in the seasons.
Winter is the Yin to summer’s Yang. It’s the water element to contrast the fire of summer. But what does this mean for your body?
Winter’s water element can cause damp-related illnesses (asthma, colds, respiratory and mucous congestion) while the wind can be disturbing to the mind and irritating to the skin. Shorter, darker days slow us down and create a need for introspection and inversion. We don’t go out as much or move as often, and naturally we use less energy. In nature, many animals retreat into hibernation while plants stop flowering and trees drop their leaves, all turning inward for the cooler months.
Unlike plants and animals, humans don’t stop for winter! We continue working, parenting, socialising and so on. This can create conflict in the body and mind as our natural desire to turn inwards and rest is at odds with the demands of modern life. We may feel restless, agitated and irritable. Many people struggle with low energy levels and often end up overworked, run down and prone to illness.
So how can you stay well in winter?
- Essential energy
In Chinese medicine, the kidneys are the body’s source of essential energy. Keep them warm in winter, especially when outdoors. Stimulate kidney activity by rubbing your lower back either side of your spine to keep energy flowing. Flush the kidneys with fluids, but avoid cold or icy drinks. Choose herbal teas and room temperature water instead.
- Warming foods
Winter vegetables are naturally warming and nurturing for the digestive system. Squash, pumpkin, fennel, chestnuts, walnuts, carrot, sweet potato and black beans are great. Use them in stews, curries and soups adding warmth with herbs and spices like ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, garlic, cloves and peppercorns. Limit mucous-creating dairy foods and add healthy oils – avocado, salmon, walnuts to prevent dryness in the body and skin.
- Maintain movement
The body’s effort to warm the core and low movement slows our circulation in winter. You might not feel like running or mountain climbing, but daily exercise will generate heat in your body and help maintain blood, lymph, oxygen and energy flow to nourish cells and organs. Walking, yoga and tai chi are good as they add the mind-quieting we crave in winter.
- Massage, warm oils
Massage is another great way to increase circulation. Using warm oils like jojoba oil makes massage easier and also provides relief for dry skin and dermatitis or irritations of the skin that are common in winter.
- Vitamin D
Finding a ray of light may be tricky, but if you see the sun, use it! It’s important to absorb Vitamin D in winter as it can help improve energy levels and mood, especially for people suffering SAD - Seasonal Affective Disorder – a type of depression linked to changing seasons.
It makes sense that your body responds to its environment. These 5 tips can help you respond in turn, working with nature to maintain health and balance – even on the coldest darkest days!
TIP: An energy boosting supplement like Royal Jelly can be helpful in winter. It's rich B Complex content coupled with natural fatty acids and protein make it stimulating and warming to the body.