3 Tips for Staying Happy and Healthy This Winter

How does winter feel to you? For some it brings the anticipation of winter sports and playing in the snow while others look forward to cozy fires and the quiet of a snowy day. At least, that is how it feels to those who have an easy relationship with the energetics of the Water element, the element associated with winter. If the growing darkness and dropping temperatures get you down, the following tips for optimizing your health during the winter season could be helpful.

TIME – As the hours of daylight shorten, so may your inclination to be out and about. If your typical work schedule and activities feel like a burden during this time of protracted light, you might find that altering your schedule in small ways can make a large difference. For example, enjoying more activities at home and having friends over for a hot meal may be more attractive than going to social events in public. Cultivating your energy (or qi) with more time for meditation, prayer or reflection is a good way to cultivate resonance with the quiet and darkness of the winter season. If you have control over your work schedule, you might even shorten your winter hours. (When I was in acupuncture school, I worked for one of my teachers who shortened her work scheduled by one hour every winter and increased it by one hour in the spring, noting that she had much more energy in the spring after she made this commitment to acknowledging the seasonal change).

FOOD – Root vegetables are in season and there are many wonderful ways to enjoy them. Roast, saute, bake and even juice beets, carrots, turnips, beets, parsnips, and sweet potatoes. Add more garlic, onions, and other savory herbs to your cooking. Include more warming spices like cinnamon, cloves to your teas and hot dishes. If you have a warm constitution, you can do just fine with continuing raw green salads through the winter. However, if you are more easily chilled and have any complaints about your digestion, reduce or even eliminate cold and frozen foods in the winter (as well as the rest of the year).

MOVEMENT – Stave off winter colds and flu with cardiovascular exercise. Exercise helps detox the body through sweating and circulating lymph. In acupuncture theory, the wei qi, a layer of qi that circulates just beneath the skin, protects us from the pathogens in our environment and sweating and keep our breathe moving keep our wei qi strong. Deep, vigorous breathing and increasing the circulation of blood not only keep us healthier, but keep us warm in the cold weather, and keep our spirits up when the lack of sunlight effects mood.