Maintaining balanced health through the cold months...
Regulating One’s Daily Life
During the winter months, traditional Chinese medicine advises us to retire early and get up late. Sleeping more nourishes the vital energies of the body and protects one’s longevity. Following this helps regulate and harmonize all body functions.
Working before sunrise is to be avoided and appropriate heating devices should be used to maintain proper room temperature. When room temperatures fall to low, the body is exposed to cold which impairs its functions, leading to common colds. Avoidance of too high of temperatures is also recommended so as not to cause the body’s pores to open and sweat. Sweating in the winter often leads to infection and other diseases.
Adjusting one’s clothing to the severity of cold is also important. Cotton fabrics are often best for undergarments as they are soft, comfortable, and good at retaining heat. Thicker fabrics can then be added. If one’s clothing is too thin, cold with impair and damage the body’s vital energy and one may experience cold or numbness, and or pain of the lower extremities.
However, if the clothing is too thick and heavy, internal energy may be stirred and released thru the sweat. It is also common to wear larger shoes and socks to keep the extremities warm and the circulation free flowing.
The winter season corresponds to the Water Element and the Kidney-Bladder organ systems. In Chinese medicine, the Kidney system controls the storage of one’s essence, or congenital base of life. The emotion associated with this season is fear and fright. Therefore, in order not to impair the Kidney’s function of storage, it is important to stabilize the emotions and cultivate the mind. Remaining quiet, happy, and avoiding excessive emotional activities, especially fear, fright, and dysphoria is essential to preventing pathological change in the Kidney-Bladder systems. Therefore, one’s vital energy is protected and built up throughout the winter months so that one will be healthy and vital for the coming new year beginning with Spring.
Following this season’s principle of storage and revitalization, Chinese medicine suggests one to eat partake in tonic food and drink. Modern research also shows that the body is better able to absorb nutrients than any other time of the year.
Due to this natural tendency, nourishment from food, drink, and tonic herbs can be easily transformed into to energy, blood, and body fluids that can nourish all the major organs, limbs, and bones.
Commonly eaten tonic foods include: mutton, chicken, beef, liver, red & black dates, eel, honey, black sesame, black beans, kidney beans, potato, shitake, clams, mussels, oysters, walnuts, pine nuts, pistachio nuts etc. Herbs such as Codonopis, Angelica sinesis, red dates, white peony root, ginseng, rehmannia, dragon-eye fruit, astragalus, etc. are often prescribed according to one’s Chinese medical pattern, state of health, and constitution.
Although winter is the least active of nature’s seasons, people should still continue regular exercise to strengthen their health. Different exercises should be selected according to age, constitution, and one’s local climatic conditions. Indoor physical training may include a health-strengthening massage, qi cultivation, taiji quan, dance, etc.
Outdoor training may include snowshoeing, skiing, long distance running (in snow-free conditions) ball games etc. Just be careful not to catch cold, dress appropriately, and not subject your self to cold, wind, and drafts, if you’ve been sweating. This is a sure way to catch cold. Make sure you and your clothes are dry before venturing outside.
Cultivating good health for the coming year is the main goal in winter. Remember not to over tax yourself, sleep longer, dress with appropriate layers, maintain a tranquil mind, do some light exercise, and include some tonifying food and drink into your diet. Following the above advice will insure a good start to the coming year.
Live with balance!