Winter is my favorite season as an acupuncturist. It is the number one best time of year to rebuild and strengthen the foundation of our health. This means it is the season to invest in ourselves.
When we take the time to build our reserve of vitality during the winter, it ensures that we have all the umph, vigor, and vitality to run off of for the entire following year. That means we can play hard, work hard, and tackle new endeavors and adventures with physical success in spring, summer, and autumn.
So how do we do this?
The wisdom of Traditional Chinese medicine teaches us to embrace the yin nature of winter. This means it is a time to slow down, to get cozy, eat warm food, and relax our pace of life for the season. Take hints from what we see in the natural world around us.
Acupuncture theory teaches us to switch from intense, sweat drenching workouts like HIIT to doing exercises that tug on our bones and do not cause us to break out in a heavy sweat. The bones are the tissue structure of the Kidneys and Bladder, so exercises like weight training, pilates, yoga, and winter outdoor activities are restorative to these organs. Weight training that is vigorous, high intensity, and causes a heavy sweat is not the goal here. Think slow reps, maybe a higher weight, or more slow, steady repetitions will get you to your winter health goals. For pilates or yoga, it is recommended to avoid the hot versions of these two modalities during the winter to avoid excessive sweating. Why? Excessive sweating in winter causes us to leak our essence during the very season that we are supposed to cultivate and build it.
Activities like snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, downhill skiing and snowboarding, are great as long as we dress appropriately. Try to avoid over dressing that would cause you to get drenched in sweat. A light sheen of sweat is fine. Getting outdoors in the winter will help improve your immunity as well.
Slow down the rest of your daily activities. Try to cultivate a time of rest from screens and the frantic pace of social media. See if you can create time for family board games, cozy nights reading a book while curled up in a blanket. Much like the popular theory of hygge—the Danish theory of creating a cozy, atmosphere in winter, — it improves our health to find joy in our winter lives through connection, coziness, and creating some calm in our busy lives. To learn more, this is a fun article about hygge, What is Hygge?
Finally, make sure to eat warm foods in the winter. This is a big one to improve our digestive health, our immunity, and our foundation of health. It is a key time to avoid eating large amounts of raw foods, and switch to soups, stews, roasting, and simmering our foods. Try to avoid lots of juicing, smoothies, and salads in winter. We have a myth in our culture that raw fruits and veggies are superior to cooked ones. Chinese medicine teaches us that it is important to cook and prepare our food differently with each season of the year. How we cook our food is just as important as what we choose to eat. Winter is the key time for cooked food.