Have you ever thought about living your life in balance with the seasons?
What does that actually mean?
Well, in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) we are encouraged to live in harmony with the seasons. Each season has many different associations which help us adapt our own habits so we can in turn can create more balance in our bodies and our lives. In ancient times when there was no access to pharmaceuticals, doctors and drugs, people learnt to take care of their bodies in order to be able to stay healthy throughout the year and keep their immune system & organs strong so they could naturally ward off illness & disease.
So what do we do in Winter you may ask? Well, winter represents the most Yin aspect in Chinese Medicine. Yin is dark, slow, contracting, cold and an inward energy pattern. By adapting our diets and exercise regimes during this time we can enrich our life and actually build more energy.
In TCM the organ associated with Winter is the Kidneys which holds the body's most basic fundamental energy. Some refer to it as a bank account. Once it is depleted it can be very difficult to build back up. One of the strongest emotions that is connected to the kidneys is "Fear". You may think that you are not holding onto fear, but a very good question to ask yourself around this is "What happens when I feel like I am not in control or my life feels out of control? There also may be feelings of anxiety or overthinking associated to this. You will always find there is some sort of underlying fear associated with these feeling which are stored in the Kidney's. These may be emotions that have been stuck in the body for years. They may be emotions that you feel are such a normal part of life for you that you think this is the way life is meant to be. This emotion weakens the Kidney's and in Western medicine this strongly corresponds with the aspects of adrenal function and fatigue.
Some people love winter. They feel alert, love going for walks in the crisp air while for others winter can cause them to retreat, stay inside and even feel sad or depressed at times. Which can be due to lack of light and activity.
While winter is a time for your body to rest and rejuvenate, trying to move for 20 minutes in a warmer part of the day will help to boost circulation, warm your extremities, raise your core body temperate, support your digestion, immune & lymphatic systems, as well as releasing endorphins to raise your mood.
Slowing down and taking time to look inward during Winter is extremely important. Reflecting on your lifestyle and being with yourself. Practicing meditation, deep breathing, writing & yoga. All these help us to connect with our inner self and strengthen our kidney energy, which in Traditional Chinese Medicine relates to willpower.
The body parts that are associated with the Kidneys are our bones. So strength training can also be good during this time, as long as is is not being done to the point of exhaustion and depletion. Intense exercise in Winter is not good for the body and can deplete your internal energy stores very quickly.
From a nutritional point of view, stews, bone broths, slow cooked foods, pumpkin, sweet potato, carrots and healthy soups are best for your body during this time. Some other foods that specifically nourish and warm the Kidneys are black beans, lamb, chicken, walnuts, chestnuts, sesame seeds and dark leafy green vegetables. A small amount of salt is also helpful as this is the taste associated with the Kidney organ but not too much.
Winter can be an amazing time of growth simply by giving ourselves permission to slow down and take time to go within ourselves. Paying attention to what is best for our bodies and minds throughout the seasons can have a huge impact on the quality of our health and our lives, and bring us into the next season more balanced.