In Chinese Five Element theory Winter, governed by the element water, describes a time of hibernation; of stillness, turning the focus inward and deep restoration.
While shopping centres shriek with florescent lights, synthetic perfumes and forced cheer, our bodies and souls cry out for gently flickering candles, the evocative aromas of home cooking and for spending time playing lengthy board games or creating space to quietly contemplate life. And indeed, what better time to revel in these hygge pursuits than when dark nights draw in fast and the temperature dips to freezing?
As Winter is governed by the element Water, the bodily systems of the kidneys and bladder need to be considered at this time of year. Together with the reproductive organs these are considered to house what is referred to as Vital Essence, or what you could refer to as mojo! Mojo requires a balance of activity and rest: a brisk walk in the snow before coming home to a bowl of steaming broth; a spa treatment before lunch with dear friends; chopping logs before curling up in front of the fire.
Winter is a time for nurturing yourself and treating yourself particularly gently. This is not the season to burn fast and bright but instead to allow your inner fire to gently smoulder and fuel you right through until spring.
- Finding the time for a midday nap under a blanket will support your energy better than snacking on junk food.
- Early nights with bed-socks, hot water bottles and candles are a necessity rather than a luxury.
- Try and find at least one afternoon a week to quietly potter in the kitchen, or to curl up with a good book and a warm mug of Helen Carmichael’s Warming Tonic Tea, specifically designed for the Winter.
While the warmer months of the year are for doing, winter encourages thinking. With fewer opportunities to take day trips, tend to the garden and attend outdoor social gatherings this is a great time for honouring your body’s natural inclination to conserve energy when it’s cold and dark.
To help bid farewell to the seasonal year and get ready for welcoming in the start of spring it’s a good practice to devote time to delving deep and reminding yourself who you really are.
- This might take the form of a stroll through woods to clear your mind from stuck patterns of thinking so that you can start afresh and decide what’s important to you.
- It could mean sitting down with a pot of tea and a mood board, a stack of pictures and a couple of quiet hours to yourself.
- You might prefer to go all out, burn incense, light some candles and meditate before journaling.
- Maybe writing a reflexive blog post is more your style. For some creative writing ideas have a look at “Do Story: how to tell your story so the world listens” by Bobette Buster.
- If you have children, encourage them to spend an hour or so with you looking at old photograph albums or telling them stories about your own childhood.
While sending out piles of seasonal cards and attending busy parties can often feel like an inevitable chore during the festivities, reconnection with your loved ones can be as simple as gathering a few of your favourite people around a table to share a potful of homecooked stew. Light candles, set out a pile of napkins, scatter pine cones and sprigs of greenery around for decorations; and don’t stress about a providing a dessert.
Creating this atmosphere at home for your friends or family does away with small talk and allows for a more meaningful exchange of ideas, memories and hopes than most other social gatherings. Less prep, less washing up and far more rewarding!
Don’t be afraid to cancel the occasional regular appointment such as after school clubs or voluntary work if you feel that you and your immediate family need some time to reconnect. Stay in, bake cookies, watch old movies and do jigsaws together. These times can be so precious.
During the winter, seeds that have fallen in autumn lie dormant until light levels and warmer soil signal germination for those seeds that survived the chill. Being ready to utilise strong Spring energy requires deep nourishment throughout the winter. If you find yourself exhausted by responsibilities and festivities you will need to take care to replenish your energy stores once you are back in the snug security of your own home.
- Appreciate that you will need more sleep than usual. A full nine hours is a requirement for many during winter. If you have trouble getting to sleep follow my sleep tips.
- Keep your kidneys and your feet warm with base layers and thick socks. This is considered to help conserve Kidney energy.
- Make use of a slow cooker and take flasks of hearty soups and stews for lunch. Add root vegetables, warming spices and lively herbs.
- Don’t forget to keep your sunlight levels topped up. Get outside in the middle of the day as often as you are able and allow your eyes and face to be bathed in sunlight.
The adrenal glands sit on top of the kidneys, and these produce adrenaline and cortisol – two of the primary stress hormones. Cortisol has a natural 24 hour cycle which can be disrupted by stress and anxiety. Here are Ten Ways You Can Support Your Cortisol Cycle.
Epsom Salt Baths are both detoxifying and relaxing. Try adding 500g of salts to a warm evening bath to improve sleep. You can also try adding a handful of sea salt or Dead Sea salts, and a few drops of essential oils (try a couple of drops each of both lavender and rosemary) for even deeper therapeutic benefits.
Keep your kidneys warm during the winter. Some people use special torso wraps but you may find that wearing a soft, organic base layer (bamboo is a great material for base layers) under your usual clothes does the job for you. Also, take care not to let your feet get too cold – invest in some thick socks in a natural, breathable fibre to wear around the house (rather than slippers which constrict the foot’s natural movement.)
Seasonal Eating and Drinking
You might think that to support our Kidney energy we would just need to drink plenty of water every day, but this is only part of the story. Firstly, too much water (and particularly too much cold water) acts like an internal flood, washing away valuable minerals. Secondly, we need salt to maintain optimum hydration.
I recommend that mugs of warm water or herbal teas replace glasses of cold water during the colder months and I also suggest that people look to increase their levels of sea or rock salt (never table salt.)
Kidney energy is supported with foods from the water element such as fish and seaweed; and naturally salty foods such as miso, soy sauce, tamari and salted preserves so this is a great time of year to look at traditionally prepared East Asian foods and recipes.
Slow cooked foods
Thick soups and stews simmered for several hours. Vegetables gently roasted in the oven until the edges are lightly caramelised. Meats cooked until they fall off the bone. Grains soaked overnight and warmed into thick porridges in the morning. These dishes are winter fare at its best!
If you are a fan of porridge in the morning you’ll want to soak your oats so they become easier for the body to digest. Try soaking oats in water overnight (at a 2:1 ratio.) In the morning gently heat and stir in some butter, a pinch each of salt and cinnamon; and any natural sweeteners you like such as honey or molasses. Top with cream and/or toasted nuts.
Bone broth can be made on a weekly basis and stored in the fridge ready to warm and drink piping hot from a mug or added to soups, stews, sauces or noodles. Don’t forget to salt generously! You can ring the changes by adding the following flavour combinations:
- Garlic, ginger, chilli and tamari (add a pinch of seaweed as well if you have some.)
- Rosemary, sage, thyme
- Turmeric & black pepper
Surviving the Festive Season
Considering that Winter is a time of such deep, restorative and introvert energy, many people find the increased pressure to socialise, break routines, travel and indulge in foods that do not support our nutritive needs highly stressful. Clients are also often worried how their current health and diet prescription fits into this whirlwind of yang energy. Here is a simplified ten-point survival plan for ensuring that you are not unnecessarily overwhelmed by the party season.
As ever, if you are unsure of anything please email me and I will endeavour to get back to you within 24 hours.