How to live well this winter
But what about winter and your health? Winter has a bad reputation for ‘catching a cold’ and cops the flack for setting the scene for ‘flu season’.
Let’s think about winter. And here’s a classic to put you in the mood:
If you have time to notice that we have seasons you will have discovered recently that the days are getting shorter and the temperature is cooler. And if you don’t have time, make some.
Winter is all about the Water element (in which we find the Kidneys and Bladder). It is when the Yang (hot, energetic Qi) is hidden by the Yin (cool, peaceful Qi) accumulation. And so we crave:
- Comfort and being cosy
- Embracing the indoors
- Getting more sleep (earlier to bed, later to rise)
- Using the warm quilt and/or flannelette sheets
- Getting crafty (crocheting or knitting? I heard they are the new yoga!)
- Comforting foods – soups, stews, curries, apple cinnamon crumble
Top tips for good health in winter:
- Storing and building our energy for the spring. By reading the ideas above it certainly sounds like this is exactly what winter is for.
- Keep warm. Not so warm you work up a sweat but enough to protect that Yang Qi. Think of it a little as you need to keep your internal furnace firing so that when you are out in the cold you can warm back up quickly again. Most importantly keep your feet and lower back warm. There is no place for a midriff top in winter! And if there is a cold breeze around wrap a scarf around your neck. Also keep your bed comfortably warm.
- Get a dose of sunlight on a clear day. The far infrared rays will warm you on a cool day and boost your mood. Here’s a guide to sunlight exposure for vitamin D in the winter.
- Keep exercising within comfortable limits. Winter may be a time to slow down and get indoors but we still need some moderate activity to keep us healthy and happy.
- Wash your hands regularly. Being inside more often exposes you to more people’s germs in confined spaces. Wash your hands regularly and/or carry around some hand sanitiser to reduce your risk of catching a cold or flu.
- Protect your skin and respiratory system from dryness. Find yourself a good natural moisturiser (no, sorbelene won’t do) to nourish your face and body. Use lip balm. Modify the humidity in your home if necessary. Increase the good oils in your diet.
- Eat warm. Include some nourishing dishes made with seasonal produce in your diet. Make use of some warming foods and spices as described in my quick guide to eating well in winter. Chinese medicine likes to include some dark coloured foods too (eg. black sesame, black soy beans and brown rice). Now is also the time to partake in preserved foods. Salads, juices and smoothies are best left until the weather warms up again. And swap the muesli for porridge or congee.
- A wee nip of alcohol in moderation warms from within. In fact a Ming Dynasty doctor recommended “Alcoholic beverages are bitter and acrid in flavour and hot in thermal nature. When consumed regularly and in the right amount, alcohol regulates blood flow, promotes Qi circulation, stimulates the mind and warms the body.” What is the right amount? Please read these guidelines.
For further information on living with the seasons contact Sarah George. Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (CMRB registered), massage therapy and natural medicine at Acupuncture & Natural Therapies Centre and lectures at the Endeavour College of Natural Health in Chinese Medicine.