The seasons

Staying Healthy during Winter

Winter is approaching, and our bodies respond to shifts in seasons by adapting. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Ayurveda, both Eastern Medicine faculties, support the flux of adaptations by suggesting lifestyle changes we can make to create ease in the shift.

As the temperature drops, and brings with it feelings of dampness, especially in our moist ocean flowing air, the theory supports our intuitive knowledge to practice ways of internal warmth and grounding. The recognized darkness of SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder, is the shift in mood as the daylight hours decrease, as we fall into more susceptibility towards anxiety, depression, low energy and sleep disturbances.

To balance these emotions, there are habits around eating, movement and mindful self-awareness practices to stay grounded and healthy.

TCM explains that this seasonal shift affects our Qi and blood in our bodies. From this stems all connections for the foundation of health. A good maintenance of Qi is required to prevent illness, to facilitate healing, to adapt to stress and age gracefully. It is especially important to be aware of our Qi levels as it is highly susceptible to depletion. Therefore, the following habits will help to stay well rested and repleted:

Foods for Winter:

  • In winter, internal heating foods are to be focused on:
  • soups and stews
  • root vegetables
  • beans and cooked whole grains (oatmeal, barley, rice)
  • wholesome meats, eggs
  • warming spices: cinnamon, ginger
  • Immune boosting foods: garlic, onion, turmeric

Foods to avoid:

  • raw or cold foods
  • cold drinks, smoothies
  • overly oily/sugar ladden foods
  • frozen foods

Mindfulness Habits:
Winter is a time for reflection, and more stillness. Cozy up by a fireplace with a warm cup of tea, nourish your family and interpersonal relationships and get plenty of sleep. It is easy to drain our resources when they are already low due to the seasonal shift. By being aware, we can avoid falling ill to the cold or flu, headaches, and other forms of dis-ease.

Incorporating a meditation practice is another good way to tune into our body’s needs. As we wane out of the season and warm up, this energy preservation will allow us to approach spring with gusta being fully repleted.

Practices like yoga, counselling, and simple relaxation self-habits like a warm bath might help reduce the likelihood of falling out of touch with your needs (especially when the gift-buying tendencies of Christmas approach, and we busy ourselves thinking of others and forget that we also need to refill our own cups!).

Winter Exercise:
As we shift, it is important to also maintain movement in the body to avoid excessive and mindless weight gain, with keeping in tune the need to replenish. Therefore, staying balanced by practicing outdoor sports, yoga, and going to the gym is a good idea. The focus in this season is more on building muscle strength as opposed to aerobic exercise:

  • skiing/snowboarding
  • weight training
  • yoga
  • moderate outdoor sports (running, XC skiing, moderate biking)

Recover well with good foods, stretching and stillness.

Staying in tune with these practices is a lovely way to ground ourselves, and if we really listen in, we’ll find that we already had this intuition all along. These guides are a great reminder to practice self-care and that we are human after all, and therefore allowed to practice self-care.

We remember that seasonal shifts truly do require us to treat ourselves compassionately – we’re not superhuman! Everyone is affected by the winter shift.

Take good care,

Melanie Sakowski