Today is the day of the Winter Solstice which means that it's officially the first day of winter (although here in Asheville it's felt like winter for a month already!).
This is the time of year where we often find ourselves getting sick between the colder weather and not honoring the stillness of winter.
In Chinese Medicine, winter is associated with the water element, the kidneys and urinary bladder, salty taste, the colors of black and dark blue, and the emotions of fear and paralyzed will.
Each day has the cycle of the sun and our year has the cycle of seasons. Just like high noon is the most yang time of day and the middle of the night is the most yin (the point furthest from the sun shining), the summer is the most yang and the winter is the most yin.
Starting the new year in winter is a bit contradictory. Spring is the season for new beginnings, not Winter! Therefore, we must take extra care of ourselves starting now until spring to honor what winter, the water element, is all about.
Because when you live in balance with the earth and it's amazing energetic cycles, YOU are more balanced, too. And when you are balanced, you're healthier and a more authentic YOU.
Here are 6 ways to support yourself in the winter time that will allow you to build up your energy for the new year and stay healthy throughout the season.
1. Honor Rest
Nature is in it's rest phase of life, so why aren't we? Yes, we all have some sort of full time job and responsibilities. Unfortunately, we all just can't escape into a tiny cabin in the woods surrounded only by our animals- and maybe our 3 favorite people- cozying up with hot chocolate and journaling, reading, and writing all day long... sigh... (as the introvert describes their dream winter vacation).
BUT we can let a piece of this into our lives. Carve out alone time to journal and cozy up with a hot cup of herbal tea. This is the time of year to build up our energy reserves by letting more "yin" into our lives so that come spring, we are nourished to allow growth and to have energy for new beginnings.
Become aware of integrating this nourishing rest into each and every day just a little bit more than you do the rest of the year.
2. Go deeply inward
As you're resting, get lost in your thoughts. Daydream. Free write. Access the deep inner you. How do you want to feel everyday? How do you want to be different this year? What do you want to be different? Just ponder... no action... no planting seeds yet (save that for the spring!).
3. Drink Water, Eat Salt
Okay, don't take a bite of a Himalayan salt rock... put it down. Don't over salt your food either, a little bit goes a long way.
Since the water element is associated with the taste of salt, one of the best ways to get wonderful salty food in you is seaweed. Yup. I know you just thought "yuck!" BUT it's truly delicious! I love adding dulse to my salads and it adds a yummy umami flavor to soups. Kelp and wakame are also great options. Try toasting it in the oven for a salty crunch that's basically a chip.
To add more water to your life (other than obviously drinking water) is in teas and soups. Other foods to support the water element are black, dark blue and deep purple foods. Think blackberries, wild blueberries (they're dark on the inside unlike cultivated blues; find them in the frozen isle), eggplant, black radishes, black olives (bonus because they're salty!).
4. Get More sleep
This goes with getting more rest. We push ourselves to the limits. We demand so much of ourselves everyday. The sun goes to bed early and so should we, whatever "early" means for you. And if you can't hit the hay early just try to sleep longer or allow yourself to nap.
5. Exercise, but Less Intense
Movement is essential for our health. Whether you like to push it or you can't stand it, we all need it. Now is not the time of year to exhaust your energy reserves by running long distances or sprinting out your best. Keep your fitness up if you're a runner and run... just do so with low to moderate intensity and allow your body to build it's energy reserves.
No movement isn't good either. We need movement to keep qi (prounouced "chee"), the vital life energy, flowing throughout our bodies. We need this qi to help build our reserves. Yoga and qigong are the perfect practices for building energy in the winter months.
6. Support the immune system
I'll share with you how I like to support my immune system this time of year. First, I just made a big batch of homemade elderberry syrup (pinterest has many recipes for this).
I also take ionic zinc twice a day because zinc is ESSENTIAL for optimal immune function.
Then, if I feel like I'm coming down with something I'll get more rest, eat raw garlic and raw onions on top of my food, and I'll take antivirals such as cat's claw herbal tea and silver hydrosol.
That's my personal strategy. (Always check with your doctor before choosing to supplement your diet).
Follow these 6 tips to stay healthy in the cold winter months and to build your energy reserves for the rest of the year. You'll have your best year yet!
To your health and healing,
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