Feeling unmotivated, heavy, or like you need extra sleep? It's important to make a distinction between a physiological issue, & the natural slow-down & hibernation period associated with Winter - the season we're currently in. As a Chinese Medical Practitioner, observing the external & natural world is an important thermostat for gauging what our own bodies are doing & how we should accordingly respond. Our body's energy wisely goes deeper & more internal during the Winter -- versus being more superficial during the Summer. It's a survival instinct to slow down & conserve our energy, as a mechanism for keeping the body warm & alive.
One of the precepts of Chinese Medicine is the idea of "wu wei" 无为. Very roughly translated, this is the concept of non-action or non-doing. One of my favorite illustrations of wu wei is the flow of water; water generally doesn't force itself & it inherently finds the path of least resistance. How do we translate this into our lives? It's not about being lazy or giving up completely. Instead, it's about doing things with grace & non-forcing, especially those things that come easily to us, or that feel right in the moment. Also recognizing that when it's cold outside, what does water do? It slows down or freezes. I don't generally recommend freezing completely -- and that's not exactly realistic -- but this is an excellent time of year to S L O W down. And following the current phase of nature means non-forcing. What does that look like during Winter?
*Sleep more. Especially if you are tired. There are more hours of darkness, so embrace the darkness by sleeping more, meditating, writing, reading, or having quiet conversations in the dark.
*Eat warm & nourishing foods. This includes things like soups, stews, stock, well-cooked veggies, stir-fries, & warm herbal teas. Avoid cold temperature vegetables, salads, iced beverages, & raw foods. Eating foods naturally high in Vitamin D & "healthy" fats, will also help keep the Winter blues away. Consider getting Vitamin D levels checked too.
*Get some exercise, especially something like moderate walking, during daylight hours. This helps with circadian rhythms (sleep & wake cycles) & it keeps your blood circulating. If you go outside in the cold, cover up your neck & knees especially -- don't go out in shorts! This helps keep you from catching colds & flus according to Chinese Medicine. You may laugh & think it's an old wives tale, but I can't tell you how many people I've seen get sick doing this in the Winter!
*Engage in reflective activities such as journaling, writing, talking, eating with friends & family, or planning things for the rest of the year -- especially Spring, when it's an appropriate time to begin new things.
*Cutting yourself some slack. Being kind & compassionate to yourself -- this also means with regards to your self-talk. Do you beat yourself up with all the things you "should" have done today? Or that you naturally feel inclined to slow down this time of year -- but you're not comfortable taking your foot off the gas pedal? This is the best time of year to reflect on why you do that to yourself & to create a new habit of allowing yourself to observe the natural rhythms & cycles of our bodies & the planet. Living in harmony with nature & our environment creates internal health, rather than dis-ease (going against the flow by forcing).
*Keep your feet covered -- especially when you're inside & have bare or hardwood floors. What gives? You have a major Kidney point located near the ball of your foot. As such, walking regularly on cold surfaces allows cold to penetrate right up into your Kidney meridian, which only makes it harder for your body to stay warm. The Kidneys, according to Chinese Medicine, create the fire in the entire body. Keep a pair of socks on your tootsies!
*Get some acupuncture! If you feel moody, blah, in the dumps, worn out -- come in for a treatment or two. Acupuncture balances your neurological/endocrine systems & will give you a natural energy boost, without any sort of artificial stimulation or "forcing" of your body. And if something truly feels off despite the season, we can work on that too! Here's to your health! - Holly Christiansen, Licensed Acupuncturist at Bluegrass Acupuncture & Herbal Medicine in Lexington, Kentucky.
About the Author:
Holly Christiansen, Licensed Acupuncturist, currently practicing in the gorgeous, horse capital of the world: Lexington, Kentucky.