In Chinese medicine the quality of your overall energy determines the strength of your immune system. For many reasons winter becomes a time when people feel their energy is particularly low. For some the cold and damp weather affects their joints or they catch colds easily. For others the darkness of winter can affect their mood.
According to Chinese medical principles true health arises when we live in harmony with our environment and the seasons. Winter is a time when nature slows and quietens down. The days become cooler and darker. This is in contrast to the warming, lighter and active energy of summer. Nature of course responds accordingly, plants stop growing, animals hibernate etc. Winter creates the opportunity for us to be calmer and quieter too, but most people don’t have the opportunity to slow down and for many this becomes an even busier time of year. Our bodies natural response to the cold, darker environment is interrupted by the demands of modern life. This takes its toll on our bodies energy and so we become more susceptible to the colds and flus.
So what can we do to help our bodies and mind adjust to this season? We have to make sure we are getting enough nourishment from the food that we eat, that we are getting fresh air and good sleep. The immune system is our defence system and like any good soldier it needs rest, food and exercise in order to function at its best.
To combat the cold of winter our food should be cooked and served warm. This is not the time for cold cereal in the morning or salad for lunch. Start the day with a warm cooked grain, have soups and stews instead of cold meals. Avoid icy drinks. Use warming herbs and spices to enhance the warming effect of your meals. For example, put cinnamon on your porridge, ginger in a soup. Get plenty of fresh air by taking walks in nature when possible. Other exercises such as Yoga and Qi Gong are also very beneficial as they combine slow movement with deep breathing. Make time for quieter evenings. At a time when life is so busy mentally as much as physically, it is extremely important to have a restful night sleep. This means turning off phones and TVs earlier at night in order to be calmer going to bed. And try go to bed earlier!
Nature is telling us to slow down. For many this seems like not only an impossible task but even a stressful task as there is always more to be done. However, it would be extremely beneficial to your health both physically and mentally if you take some time out, just 5 minutes, to sit and breathe softly. A quiet mind nourishes the body in ways that food cannot. If you can do this regularly you will feel the benefits.
So take a moment to consider how you could improve your energy according to Chinese medical principles so that you may have a better resistance to the winter bugs and the winter blues.
Anne-Marie McClorey Licentiate Traditional Chinese Medicine, Dip Chin Herb Med, Dip CHM (OB/GYN), Dip Med Qi Gong