Let's face it. Winter is not everyones favourite season. It's cold, the sun is more scarce and those freezing winter mornings can make it extra hard to get going. We also see a lot of people become more withdrawn, bunkering down at home by the heater and the fire. Some of us can experience significant shifts in our emotional state also just based on this season. In case you haven't heard of it actually has an official name ! (Seasonal Affective Disorder aka SAD) . It's also officially flu season and we find ourselves surrounded by sniffles, sneezes and....all round snotiness. Yep are you picturing that warm beachside location yet?
So how do we go from suffering to actually THRIVING in winter? Some of the secrets can be found from ancient old Chinese wisdom. These ancient Chinese were pretty damn switched on. Not only did they develop their own highly advanced medical system (the most advanced in the world at the time) but their culture also created some of the most famous spiritual and philosophical texts ever to be written eg. The I Ching and The Tao Te Ching.
Deep at the core of their understanding of the world was the understanding that humans were one with nature. That we are no different to our animal friends, plants, rocks, rivers etc. We are all subject to the laws of nature and cannot (no matter how hard we try) be separated from it. Our bodies age and decompose much like anything else and we are significantly affected by the changes of the seasons and the cycles of the sun and the moon. By understanding and harmonizing ourselves with the cycles and laws of nature and its seasons we can find balance and peace within.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine each season is connected to an element and an internal organ. Winter itself is connected to the element of water and the kidney organ. The kidneys themselves are viewed somewhat differently in Chinese Medicine. We can think of the organ as not just a physical product but also an energetic and emotional embodiment. The Kidney's in TCM are often associated with our deep energy reserves. When we are born each individual is blessed with their own unique energetic inheritance. This can be influenced by our parent's health during conception and also environmental factors during our birth amongst other things. This core energy reserve is called our JING or "essence". You can think of this like a candle. Some have a larger candle (no pun intended) and some have less to burn. How we live our lives, particularly in relation to sleep, illness and diet/drug use can draw on this energy reserve. The harder this candle is burned the more our health may be affected as we age. Jing can be somewhat boosted through the use of proper diet, lifestyle, herbal supplementation and exercise but it cannot be completely replaced. Therefore it is important to try and maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle that doesn't deplete our jing completely.
Fear is the core emotion of the kidneys. Being over consumed by fear weakens the kidneys and can manifest as fatigue, a weak bladder and lower back pain. It's particularly important during winter to cultivate an attitude of trust, love and openness to life, its inevitable changes and possibilities. After all the only certainty we have in life is change itself. Learn to better embrace change and its new energy entering into your life. When we think of the element of water we can embrace its nature in regards to change. As Bruce Lee so eloquently described:
We can also support the Kidneys physically by keeping our lower backs warm. Try a hot water bottle at home or even a thermal wrap or pack for your lower back when outside. Whilst our Kidneys are governed by the water element we can also think of them as encompassing fire. The Kidney fire is the flame of the candle, the pilot light to our burner/cauldron that regulates our internal temperature. Many people suffering from a deficiency of kidney qi (energy) can either end up being too cold or too hot (or fluctuating between both).
When we think of foods that support our Kidney energy in winter we think of warming soups, bone broths, stews and broths. Try to stay away from an excess of raw of cold foods and drinks, these are much more suited to Summer. Foods with a particular affinity for the kidneys are (funnily enough) kidney meat, walnuts, kidney beans, black beans, ghee, cinnamon, seaweed and royal jelly. Salty is the flavor associated with the Kidneys and emphasizing this flavor in winter (with healthy salt and salty foods) will help to direct the energy of your food to that area.
Winter is also one of the best times of the year to retreat into ourselves and rest and renew. Try not to be as active and vigorous as the warmer months and prioritize earlier nights and restful moments throughout your days and weeks. The energy of the seasons is at its most inward during this time and can be harnessed for great self reflection, insight and understanding of ourselves if we can allocate the space and time in our lives.
If your struggling with any health problems this winter or would like to give your self some extra support and nourishment to stay happy and healthy Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine can do wonders. Kambo is also a powerful way to strengthen your immune system during the colder months and protect you from illness. All of these services are provided by Dr Jai Watson (BHSc.TCM) in the heart of Preston in Melbourne. So prioritize your health and wellbeing this winter. Book in for any of these treatments online via the booking link or give Jai a call for chat about how he can help you thrive.