Acupuncture is a form of medicine based on the laws of nature. Lately, I’ve witnessed a growing desire among patients to make healthy choices that are in sync with the environment around us. For people living in Western New York, living in harmony with nature may look different than it would in San Diego, CA. Over the past few months, I’ve had a number of conversations about what balance and wellness look like in Winter versus Summer and how tweaking our lifestyle for the season can support health. And thus this series, Living in Harmony with Nature, was born.
Winter is a time of garnering reserves.
It’s a time to stock up on rest and respite. This time of year, it’s perfectly normal for our bodies to require a bit more rest and for movement activities to decrease. In American culture, often the very opposite is happening. Corporations are releasing new budgets and new projects are going into full swing, demanding more time. In education, a new semester, with new requirements, build up in the peak of Winter. In personal lives, many are challenging themselves with a post-New Year’s/Pre-Spring fitness routine that creates a lot of demand on the body.
Below are three areas where we can make moderate lifestyle changes to support health in Winter:
Patients will sometimes express concern that they need more sleep this time of year. If your need for sleep has increased but you’re still waking rested, this is somewhat normal. Our bodies natural rhythms sync up with the sun’s and thus fewer hours of daylight prompts the need for more sleep. However, if your need for sleep has increased and you’re exhausted all day long, this might be an indication of something else.
Diet and Digestion
I’ve had a few patients tell me they get gassy and bloated after eating “healthy” salads. This is not uncommon this time of year. Though raw food has some great health benefits, it’s also very cooling for the body. A raw food diet might be an excellent choice in regions with a warmer climate, but in Rochester, NY, raw food consumption should be limited to warmer seasons. From a Chinese Medicine perspective, we use the same mechanism to keep the body warm as we do to digest food. Eating raw food in winter is a double whammy on the body. Not only is it cooling, but the additional Qi needed to digest raw food—versus cooked food—takes energy that should be used keeping our body warm in the colder winter months.
Better choices include soups, curries, greens sautéed with healthy fats, clean meats, and baked sweet potatoes. Winter is a great time to experiment with your crockpot. If salad is a must, warm it up with some warming spices like ginger or cracked pepper and always consume salad with some fat. We need the fat to break down the raw greens.
Ideally, active fitness should happen during sunlight hours. This time of year, the sun is low in the sky and daylight hours have decreased. Once the sun is down, it’s better to focus on restorative activities, like a leisurely walk, stretching or restorative yoga.