Renew Your Energy This Winter

Renew your energy this winter

Renew your energy this winter

By: Dr. Isaac Eliaz

Happy New Year! With the holidays behind us, and winter officially here, it’s a good time to examine what this season offers us energetically, from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

TCM is rooted in the philosophy that people must live in harmony with their environment – so this means slowing down during cold winter months in order to conserve energy. The stillness of winter gives us time to reflect on the past year and build new energy and vitality for the upcoming new year.

The winter season is when Yin energy is at its peak, meaning things are drawn inward and there is less activity and heat. In TCM, winter energetically influences specific organs, emotions, foods, and healing principles, offering guidelines on how to remain healthy during this time.

Organs

Winter is ruled by the element of water, which is associated with the kidneys, bladder and adrenal glands. According to the principles of TCM, the kidneys are the primary source of energy as well as heat, where all the essential reserves are stored. Energy is drawn from this source during times of stress and anxiety or when the body requires healing. During the coldness of winter, it is critical to maintain healthy kidneys and adrenal glands through proper diet and supplementation, good hydration, as well as energetic practices which help keep your core body warm and not overly depleted.

Emotions

According to TCM, since winter is inactive, cold and damp in nature, so certain feelings such as fear and depression tend to exert more influence on people. At a higher level, some may even experience conditions such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is a particular form of depression that occurs during the winter months. Women often experience this condition more than men, and it results in poor mood, lack of energy, irritability, weight gain due to overeating, and fatigue. This depression is primarily linked to reduced exposure to ultraviolet light. In addition to supplementing with Vitamin D-3, I recommend opening your curtains during the day to allow any sunlight to come in and taking brisk walks (in the sunshine if possible) to improve circulation and blood flow. Meditation practices which help to calm the mind and heart are also extremely valuable during this season of stillness and reflection.

Winter foods

During the icy winter months, people tend to exercise less, remain more sedentary, and crave calorie-dense, warm and hearty comfort foods. It important however, to pay close attention to the amount and type of food you eat during this time in order to avoid unhealthy weight gain. While raw foods are generally encouraged throughout the year, it is best to avoid raw foods during winter, as they tend to cool the body and can deplete digestive fire if eaten in large quantities during cold months. I recommend eating warming foods, while cooking them longer and at lower temperatures with less water. Emphasize foods such as soups and stews, root vegetables, dark leafy greens, kidney and black beans, walnuts, black sesame seeds, whole grains, and seaweeds, as these specific foods help to fortify the kidneys, nourish the body, keep you warm, and help you to conserve energy.

Supplements

Botanicals and nutrients which promote immune health during the winter are important adjuncts for surviving cold and flu season. High quality medicinal mushrooms are potent immune modulators, along with vitamin C and vitamin D-3, to help keep you healthy and fight off infection. Herbs emphasized by TCM in the winter often include tonifying root herbs such as ginger root, for their grounding and strengthening properties.

Healing principles

People are often more susceptible to colds and flu during the winter season, as the cold weather diminishes the immune system. The main treatment modalities in TCM are acupuncture and moxabustion (the burning of Moxa herb, mugwort, around specific acupuncture points), Qi Gong (precise exercises to enhance the flow of vital energy), specific dietary recommendations, as well an extensive pharmacopeia of herbal medicine. All of these therapies have great value during the winter, in helping to relieve stagnant energy caused by a lack of activity and the cold weather. Practitioners of TCM also advise resting as much as possible during the winter, which helps replenish the kidneys and restore essential energy. Getting to bed early and rising after the sun has risen will help you preserve your warmth and vitality.

The principles and philosophies of Traditional Chinese Medicine reflect an innate connection to nature and a holistic attitude towards health. Each season presents the opportunity for growth and evolution into lasting vitality and wellness. The winter season is about introspection and preservation, allowing us to slow to a more reflective pace as our seeds and plans hibernate. So stay warm and rested, and try to give yourself the extra time and space to meditate on whatever is meaningful to you during this magical season of stillness.

For more health and wellness information, visit www.dreliaz.org

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