Winter is about self-reflection. It is time to gather and restore energy. Staying healthy in Winter (even Southern California winters) requires changes in behavior and is informed by Chinese Medicine practices in place for centuries. As I grew up in Taiwan which is deeply rooted in Traditional Chinese culture, there were always different seasonal rituals followed by my family. I would like to briefly share 5 key ones for the Winter season:
1. Go to bed earlier, wake up later
My grandparents always told me to “follow the nature, and you will be healthy”. In winter, the sunset is earlier and sunrise is later, so we should reflect that in our sleeping patterns. The Winter energy is inward, quiet, resting, restorative and calming. We should also let our mind, body, and spirit be in tune in with it.
2. Keep warm
It is very important to keep warm in Winter time. There are 3 areas when you cover them up, the whole body will warm up quickly. The 1st one is the lower belly (lower Dan tian 下丹田), the 2nd is feet, there’s a Chinese slang saying “cold comes from underneath the feet”. The 3rd is the neck area, especially the back of the neck which is easy to get wind exposure to catch a cold.
3. Winter Nutrition to boost immunity
Making Chinese Herbal bone soup and nourishing warm foods is a common ritual in Chinese culture to boost immunity and prevent getting colds. Even if you catch a cold, you will recover faster. Eating foods which tune in with Kidney energy are particularly helpful, such as walnuts, black sesame, black beans, black Mu Er, yams, good quality protein, and healthy fats. Dr. Lin has a special Immunity Chinese Herbal pack for you to cook with your soup.
4. Energy movements and exercise
Find the exercise and activity you like, and be mindful of what you are doing. Avoid extreme sweating as we want to keep the yang energy inward for the Spring. Moderate exercise including Qi Gong, Tai Chi, Yoga, hiking, and walking are all great choices for Winter.
5. Sun exposure
One of the Chinese sayings is “Sunbathing in Winter is even better than taking Ginseng.” Find 15-20 minutes to expose your back to the sun at least once a day to replenish your bones strength, vitamin D, yang energy, and immunity.
Finally, it is very important to continue to get acupuncture treatments for overall health and wellness during the winter period. It is a busy time with all the holidays. However, the increased stress and exposure to illness makes the regular treatments even more important.