Happy 2022, everyone! I hope this email finds you happy and healthy at the start of this new year.
The months of January and February often feel as if they are unusually longer than others: it’s bitterly cold outside, oftentimes bring too much snow, and have little daylight, further heightening the dreaded “Seasonal Affective Disorder.”
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, winter is associated with the water element, encouraging us to care for our kidneys, bladder, and other water-associated organs during these months: hydrating ourselves and nourishing, protecting, and coating our tissues from the caustic dry and wintry conditions.
Following the rhythm of nature, we see that winter is often defined by rest: a time of hibernation for many animals, and also centered around longer nights and shorter days, doubly encouraging us to get extra rest as we endure the cold and trying conditions.
How we care for ourselves—body, mind, spirit, and soul, should adapt and flow as we follow the seasons and natural rhythms of the earth. The earth adapts also, to care for our changing needs. We see this through seasonal herbs, seasonal foods, and even in our own body’s reaction totemperatures, different times of day, and the various seasons.
So how can we best support ourselves during this winter season? Here are 5 ways that you can care for yourself—body, mind, spirit, and soul—during these next few months, by following the natural cycles and rhythms of nature.
1. Eat Seasonally
As mentioned above, winter is coupled with the water element. Water element foods include soups, stews, broths, nuts and seeds, fish and shellfish, legumes and beans (especially dark beans like black beans), dark berries, root vegetables, and whole grains. Oftentimes, many of these foods are exactly what we are craving during the cold and dry winter months! (And what’s in season! Imagine that!) Our bodies usually know what they need…if only we would listen!
Amplify the benefit of your winter dishes by adding a little extra Himalayan or Celtic salt—one of the best nourishing elements for the kidney system and water element.
2. Use Herbal Medicines
Like foods, herbs are seasonal, too. And also just like seasonal foods, the specific herbs in season during the winter months are, it just-so-happens, usually what our bodies need during those months.
Try adding or experimenting with the following herbs during the winter season:
Rosemary: warming; increases circulation, supports immune system and cognitive function. Experiment with adding a drop of rosemary essential oil to your shampoo ir body lotion, or roast your vegetables with a fresh sprig or two.
Damiana: supports the body and replenishes depleted energy. An ideal remedy for harsh winter months!
Dandelion root: one of the most mineral-rich herbs; slightly bitter, excellent for liver health. Beautiful and invigorating as a tea.
Nettles: mineral powerhouse. One of the best and most loved herbal kidney tonics around. Has an affinity for lower body organs and glands and strengthens the connective tissues and muscles, particularly in this region. While the leaves and root are traditionally used, experiment with the seed, whose properties are much more potent than the leaves.
Oats: Oats are a comfort food…and it’s not just because they’re delicious! Avena sativa is one of the best things for the nervous system—soothing inflamed or agitated nerves and restoring parasympathetic tone. Try oat straw tea, or oat tops tincture.
3. Follow the Day and Night
Notice how there’s much less daylight and more dark in the winter months? That’s a cue for us…take note! Long before clocks, artificial lights, and phones/computers, we knew when to go to bed by following the sun’s leading. When the sun slept, we slept. When the sun awoke, so did we. Following this natural rhythm of the earth can enhance the synchronicity we experience in our lives: meaning we have a greater chance of being in the right place at the right time. The closer we follow nature, the closer we are to being one with the earth, and embodying our true essence.
4. Tune In and Tone Down
If you are one of many people who experience or have experienced Seasonal Affective Disorder (“SAD”), you’re not alone. But like everything, even something as unpleasant as SAD can help us pinpoint something deeper within us that needs attention and loving care. When we notice we are feeling blue, extra fatigued, or unmotivated, instead of chalking it up to the weather and reduced daylight and forcing ourselves to “buck up” and push through, take a few moments to tune in to your inner self and quiet your thoughts. Ask your inner wisdom what this feeling may be trying to tell you, and then sit quietly, breathing deeply, and listen for the response.
Meditation, contemplation, and mindfulness practices are important all the time, but can be particularly helpful during the dark and gloomy winter months. By taking just a few moments every day to ask ourselves what we need - whether food, water, connection, rest, exercise, laughter, or all of the above, we can ensure we are both meeting our needs and thriving as best we can during this winter season.
5. Modify Your Movement
It’s not uncommon for our energy levels to be lower in the winter months. Again, don’t fight this: take it as a sign to listen to your body and modify your movement. If you’re a high-intensity exerciser usually, experiment with gentle yoga, tai chi (pictured above), qi gong, and other more restorative forms of movement. The best thing we can do for our body is always be willing to adapt and flow with our changing needs: never fighting what is, but flowing with it and adapting as needed. As temperatures and energy levels change as the seasons change, we can once again be open and willing to flow with and follow the change.
I hope these tips have been helpful for you during this season. As always, feel free to reach out to me if you are interested in more individual, personalized recommendations for your health needs. Drawing from Traditional Chinese Medicine, Clinical Nutrition, Native American Healing Arts, Aromatherapy, Ayurveda, Homeopathy, Functional Medicine, and Herbalism, I create a plan specific to you, your needs, and your goals, and partner with you to help you achieve them and feel great doing so.
Whether you need support making dietary changes or are fighting difficult symptoms that won’t budge, I can help. You don’t have to suffer any longer. Let this year be your year of healing, and let this message be your sign to act NOW.