Winter

by Johanna Utter, L.Ac., FABORM

Winter, Johanna Utter, L.Ac., FABORM in Davis, CA
Winter is a time of rest and hibernation. We are moving from a time of harvest to a time of stillness. Days become shorter as nights lengthen. Energy contracts and becomes slower and more dense. People will often comment on just how slow-moving they are, or how they are not accomplishing much, but in my experience, the energy of Winter is exactly that. Trying to move quickly this time of year is like trying to run while underwater or trying to move through cold molasses. It is possible, but it is not easy and wastes much of your energy to try to do so.

Winter in Chinese medicine belongs to the Water element. This is a time of gestation of ideas, of rest and restoration. It is a time to turn inward and listen to your own body’s needs; to engage in practices that will build your reserves so that you can be active without depleting yourself in the warmer months ahead. In our culture, the frenetic busy-ness of holidays in Winter often creates a tension for us. We are pulled between our social expectations, such as parties, gift exchanges, winter concerts, and the Nutcracker, and our body’s desire for rest, simplicity, and time to curl up in front of a warm fire.

It is normal as appetites increase and metabolisms slow down for people to gain a few pounds since the absorbed nutrients from their foods can be stored more easily during this time. It is also a good time to use acupuncture and herbs to boost the natural constitution of the body and treat the underlying roots of chronic conditions.

Foods that are especially good to eat in the Winter are:

  • Deeply nourishing foods (substantial & nutrient-dense)
  • Foods that are higher in fat and protein
  • Soups & Stews
  • Beef, Lamb, Chicken
  • Bone Broth
  • Kohlrabi
  • Chard, Kale, Bok Choy, Lettuce, Cabbage, Sauerkraut
  • Mushrooms
  • Walnuts
  • Lentils & Beans
  • Warming spices such as ginger, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom
  • Pumpkin & Winter Squash
  • Rice & Quinoa
  • Spinach
  • Leeks & Onions
  • Snow peas
  • Broccoli
  • Porridge

Foods to avoid:
Raw, frozen, or fried foods

Exercise:
Because the focus in the winter is to conserve and build energy, it is important not to overexert yourself. Light physical activity is good to keep things moving. It is important not to sweat too much as it is believed that cold can move in through open pores and lodge in the body at this time, causing joint pain and lowering your resistance to colds. Gentle practices such as Qi Gong,Tai Chi, or yoga are especially useful.

Sleep:
It is advised to go to bed early and to get up when the sun rises, which is later in winter.

When you are out of sync with the energy cycles of the natural world, you will be working harder than necessary. When you are aware that the energy of the natural world is cyclical, you can allow yourself to rest or be more active in accordance with it. Living in harmony with the seasons is an easy and effective way to reduce stress on the body, mind, and spirit.