According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, our health is greatly impacted by the earth’s cycle and so it is important that we live in harmony with our environment. As the months get colder, it is vital that we stay warm, look inward and provide nourishment to our mind and body. Tending to our inner garden in the winter allows us to prepare for spring’s rapid growth in a few months’ time.
Meditation is a powerful tool to align ourselves with our environment get in touch with our inner self. It is when we take time to slow down and be quiet that we sometimes realize how busy our minds have been. In this dark season, it is easy to get in a routine of looking for light through electronic devices. Our minds are racing and processing quickly without purpose or satiation. Have you ever been watching a television program and reached for your phone or tablet during a commercial break – or even during the program? A recent NPR story covered the phenomenon of how inspiration and creativity frequently occurs during states of relative boredom and the impact of our tendencies to use electronic devices when feeling bored. (Click here for the full article.) While we would not necessarily call meditation and journaling boring, it is worth noting that without a quiet mind, our capacity for creativity is limited.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the winter season is associated with the element of water and influences the health of the kidneys, bladder, adrenal glands, bones (including bone marrow), hair and teeth. The kidneys are said to be the source of energy and the essence of our body (Qi). When our bodies are experiencing change or under stress, we rely on the kidney’s reserve of energy to help us heal, prevent illness and age gracefully. Our energy can be easily depleted in the winter, when we have less access to sunlight and fresh air as well as eating rich and unhealthy foods and possibly experiencing additional feelings of stress, anxiety or depression due to the holidays. To keep our bodies healthy this season, we must nurture and nourish our kidneys.
What We Can Do:
Dr. Isaac Eliaz provides some great options to help support our health with our Qi in mind (summarized below):
- Supplement with Vitamin D-3.
- Open your curtains during the day to allow any sunlight to come in.
- Take brisk walks (in the sunshine if possible) to improve circulation and blood flow.
- Avoid too many raw foods during winter because they tend to cool the body and can deplete our digestive “fire” which is the ability to assimilate food efficiently. I recommend eating warming foods, while cooking them longer and at lower temperatures with less water. Emphasize soups and stews, root vegetables, plenty of dark leafy greens, kidney and black beans, walnuts, black sesame seeds, whole grains, and seaweeds. These specific foods help to fortify the kidneys, uplift the emotions, nourish the body, keep you warm and help you to conserve energy.