This blog post looks at how we can stay healthy during winter with acupuncture and Chinese medical theory.
Chinese Medical theory talks a lot about living in harmony with nature and the seasons. It is believed that living in this way creates balance between our bodies and the external environment, and will help our health tremendously. Also, modern science now recognises how we adapt our biological rhythm so that it is synchronised with the Earth’s revolutions.
“Heaven and Earth have the same roots as me, all things share the same body as me.” – Daoist poem
The ancient Chinese lived in harmony with the seasons; for example, rising with the sun and eating fresh, seasonal produce that they had grown. They responded to the ebb and flow of the world around them.
Now, jump forward to modern day. We have artificial lighting and various devices which enables us to stay up late to cram in all manner of things we have to do. We are constantly available; constantly in demand. Many people eat on the go or in front of the TV, with mobile phones ever present. Our meals are often not as nutritionally rich as is needed. Many people are living excessive lifestyles, both physically and mentally, and this is impacting health and well-being.
In winter, it is even more important to slow down and match the energy of the season. Just as animals go into hibernation to conserve their energy ready for the spring, and as plants lay dormant building energy to emerge in the spring, it is also the time for us to conserve our own energy. This means slowing down, being well rested, keeping warm and nourishing ourselves. Conserving our energy and building our reserves enables us to have the required resources that we need in the spring. It is a time to reflect on health, replenish our energy and conserve our strength. As nature goes through its natural process of change, we, as part of nature, need to so too.
We can look at our energy like a bank account. If we overspend, we will be relying on our reserves; if we continually rely on our reserves we will be running on empty. Poor health is sure to follow! But the more conserve, the more we have available to draw upon when needed.
If we listen, we still have an innate connection to nature. Many of us naturally want to slow down in winter, cosy up under warm blankets and go to bed earlier, but many of us ignore this inherent knowing and push forwards anyway, fighting against these natural urges.
“Winter is the season of stillness.”
What can you do to help yourself stay well in winter?
Quite time and reflection
As winter is still and quiet, we should replicate this. Incorporate practices such as mediation, mindfulness or journaling; looking inward and reflecting on the past year. Practices such as Qi Gong cultivate energy. Other suggestions include listening to music, watching the stars, taking time to sit and enjoy a hot drink, or perhaps taking part in a gong bath.
Get some sunlight
The lack of light at this time of year may lead to varying degrees of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). There might also be a lack of Vitamin D which, we our bodies produce from sunlight. I encourage you to take a walk during daylight, as this will also lead to improved circulation and blood flow and release endorphins, which are naturally produced chemicals that make us feel good.
Eat warm nourishing foods
Chinese medicine teaches us that in the winter we need warming, seasonal foods. It is recommended to cook foods slowly and for longer. Meals such as soups and stews are ideal. They offer warmth and nourishment to the body. We should avoid cold and raw foods at this time of year, as these will expend more energy on digestion. Eat with regularity, sit down and chew well. Stay hydrated.
It is so important to stay warm. Dress according to the weather. Acupuncturists always recommend wearing a scarf. There is an acupuncture point on the back of the neck known as the ‘wind gate’ which is particularly susceptible to the wind and cold. Exposure of this point can lead to colds and flu.
What I can do to help you with acupuncture
Winter is the time of the Water element in Chinese medical theory, and the water element is associated with the kidneys and bladder. The kidneys are considered to be the source of our energy, or qi. They are the storehouse of the very essences of life. Current excessive lifestyles, especially at this time of year, use up this energy, potentially leaving the kidney qi weakened. Acupuncture aims to boost, nurture and nourish kidney qi and in doing so help to aid our own healing and increase our vitality.
Through an individual treatment plan and lifestyle recommendations, I can look to address underlying patterns which have led to, or may lead to, further health problems. This brings balance to the body as a whole and enables the body to heal itself, to work as best as it can. Your body will work more efficiently with an improved immune system, more energy, better sleep, better digestion and a greater sense of well-being.
Being run down, exhausted and stressed lowers our immunity and we are then more susceptible to illness. By following the lifestyle advice above, and having acupuncture treatments that allow the body work as efficiently as it can, you will pass gently through the winter, ready to spring forth with renewed vigour in the warmer months ahead.
Please contact me if you would like any further information about how acupuncture can help you or if you would like to book an appointment.