Ahhh … Winter. We have come to fear winter as if it’s a bitter enemy and we are helpless against its onslaught. Short days, long nights, head colds, flu, polar vortex and winter storm warnings, SAD (seasonal affected disorder), holiday and family stress, etc. etc. Unless you’re an avid skier or go to Florida until the spring it seems inevitable that winter will feel burdensome. There's a difference between winter feeling burdensome and actually being burdensome!
We do ourselves a disfavor to curse or ignore the natural onset and experience of the seasons and climate. In order to be well and live a life of full vitality it behooves us to discover a way to embrace and appreciate all four of our seasons. Yes it is cold. Yes it is snowy. Yes it can be downright impossible or dangerous to be out and about. Winter offers us opportunities to be homebodies, to slow down and reflect, plan, and dream.
Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) therapies have unique and powerful insights and strategies so we can attune to and harmonize with this important and necessary time of year. Acupuncture treatments can strengthen the immune system, promote healthy rest and sleep (yes, you may need to sleep and rest more during the winter months), improve digestion, help control appetite and weight, and stimulate energy and libido (a great way to make a virtue out of the necessity of staying indoors). This is so because acupuncture, particularly with moxibustion and the use of warming and tonifying herbs such as ginseng, evodia, lycii, cinnamon and ginger invigorates the Qi, Blood and Yang to promote vitality, strength to our immune system, digestion, reproductive function and overall energy.
Eastern dietary recommendations, also an integral part of Acupuncture and TCM practice, strongly encourages the consumption of nourishing warming foods such as:
hot beverages, sauteed and roasted vegetables, stews, cooked grains and beans, and organic and humanely raised animal products
to strengthen and protect our core. It also recommends avoiding fried, processed and highly refined foods, chilled and iced drinks, raw salads and cold from the refrigerator fruits.
Ancient Eastern wisdom emphasizes the necessity for rest, quiet, and slowing down during the winter months. It speaks of how the element of Water (winter) creates the impetus for growth and creativity of Wood (spring). This is precisely what goes on biologically within our bodies and psychologically and emotionally within our spirit. Acupuncture is a very powerful tool to open and harmonize the energy flow in ways that make Winter much easier and more pleasant to experience.
Depression, anxiety, low energy and listlessness respond well to Acupuncture and TCM, supporting enjoyment of the winter months and the ability to take advantage of the beauty and peacefulness of this time of year.
In over thirty years of Acupuncture practice I have discovered that the most common causes of patient illness and depression in winter are not bacteria and viruses or snow or darkness but negative attitudes and anxieties. These attitudes are unconsciously shaped by the media and prevalent misunderstandings of winter as blatantly bad, dangerous, undesirable, inconvenient, etc. I recommend that my patients get outside for an hour every day, dressed to enjoy the winter sun, the freshness of the air, the briskness of the cold, and to marvel at the ice and snow.
Build a snowman, go sledding or ice skating, watch the snowfall and gather in drifts, or relax indoors with friends and loved ones in front of a roaring fire. Read, create, daydream! Take advantage of Acupuncture and TCM to embrace the beauty of our natural world at this unique and nurturing time of year!