Winter Health – 7 Smart Secrets For Winter
What do you think about when you hear the word Winter? In most cases, you’re thinking about blistering cold weather, hot cocoa, and of course, shoveling the sidewalk. Whatever the case may be, I’m here today to keep you warm and healthy this season! As an acupuncturist, we use traditional Chinese medicine to effectively educate our patients simple ways to maintain balance during the freezing Winter months.
In here, I will use ancient wisdom to explain six smart secrets for this upcoming Winter…
1. Try Acupuncture To Prevent Getting Sick
If you live in Southern California, don’t worry too much about snow or the changing seasons all too much. However, most of us Americans on the northeastern coast need to take precautions and prepare for the bitter-cold months following Autumn. What better way to deal with the Winter than getting regular acupuncture?
The great aspect about acupuncture is that it’s best done as a preventative measure for the common cold and improving the immune system. During the treatment regimen, you will experience a huge boost in the body’s natural ability to fight off the cold and fend off viruses. Another great benefit of acupuncture is improved systemic circulation, which helps YOU stay warm during the Winter and keeps the body functioning at optimal peak levels. With that being said, you can say goodbye to those pesky sniffles this season!
2. Sleep Longer This Winter
Doesn’t this seasonal sleep secret sounds silly? Now, say that five times fast! … Anyway, moving on, according to Chinese Medicine, we need to adapt to each season in order to stay healthy and live in harmony with the natural world around us. Basically, each of the four seasons are constantly changing from yang (Summer) to yin (Winter). If you want to get technical here, the transitional seasons go from yang within yin (Spring) to yin within yang (Autumn). Confusing but interesting, right?
With that being said, sleep is determined depending on which season we are in. For instance, during the Winter (yin within yin), we should go to bed early (soon after the setting of the sun), and wake up late (after the sun rises). This does not mean you wake up at noon! Rather, wake up when you feel rested. This could be anywhere around 6:30-9am.
Further, don’t go to bed at midnight. Try and fall asleep earlier than later. The main reason is because during Winter, the Earth presents itself as a barren landscape of solitude and stillness. Think about it for a moment. By going to bed early and waking up late during the dead of Winter, we can live in balance with the natural cycles of nature and stay healthy. When in doubt, sleep more this Winter!
3. Hot Tea Tip
To start, tea is considered one of the oldest forms of medical practices found in Eastern culture. The principles are essentially found from the five flavors (sweet, bitter, sour, salty, and spicy). Essentially, when you steep tea, we are drinking the essence of the herb. … But, what does all of this have to do with staying healthy this Winter?
Well, tea is hot and a great way to keep you warm from within. Simple. The digestive system runs warm just like the rest of your body. By keeping the digestive fire going, we ensure proper digestion and assimilation of nutrients throughout the body. All too often, I see many Americans sipping on iced drinks during the cold Winter months.
However, in Chinese Medicine, this practice creates internal cold and stagnation which will cause a myriad of symptoms such as loose stools, fatigue, and poor circulation. Over drinking cold beverages will injure your digestive system and put out that digestive fire. Once the fire is out, the body won’t function as efficiently. I promise, this secret will take you far. Before reading on, please put down that iced-coffee latte and pour yourself a nice hot cup of tea!
4. Winter Soup Secret
The ancients view the Stomach as a hot cauldron (a large metal pot used for cooking over an open flame). The Stomach should always remain somewhat warm similar to a simmering of a flame. When the Stomach is of correct temperature, gastric juices and the digestive tract can digest food more efficiently. This is exactly why many Asian cultures drink tea or soup before meals. The hot liquid helps warm-up the digestive tract before the main entrée.
In one example, if you are about to go on a long run, it’s wise to first slowly jog, stretch, and then go running. By doing so, you won’t pull a hamstring. The same holds true with food. Think about it, if you are about to eat a nice cold salad plate full of raw food, once you finish the meal, the Stomach has to work extra hard to break down the food which in turn, creates internal heat. This process, tires out the Stomach and Spleen organs. So, I recommend to eat hot soups during the Winter and especially before large meals. In this way, the digestive system will be primed to work at its best!
5. Simple Scarf Secret
This is one of my favorite secrets of all time! You might be asking, “Well, Duh… Isn’t it common sense to wear a scarf during Winter?” Well, for one thing, it’s definitely more than just a fashion statement. In traditional Chinese medicine, they cleverly observed that being outside in the cold and windy weather may cause a phenomena called wind-cold (known today as the common cold).
For this reason alone, the Chinese suggest wearing a scarf during the colder months in order prevent catching the external wind-cold. If you look around, the back of the neck is always open to the elements of nature and susceptible to the cold weather. Even more so, excessive cold carried by the wind may penetrate deep into the superficial layers of the skin and lodge itself in. Think about in terms of physics; cold constricts and heat expands.
When the cold hits the back of the neck region, the muscles, skin, and pores all tighten up and close from the extreme cold. This may cause symptoms such as achy/tight muscles, fever, headache, runny nose, and a sore throat. Further, many acupuncture channels run along the back and may be affected. So, to protect yourself this season and wear a scarf outside. This secret may sound silly, but it works. By keeping the back of your neck warm all year round with a scarf, you won’t be shrugging up your shoulders and shivering in the colder months. You will not only be fashionable this Winter, but also cold-free!
6. Practice Qi Gong & Tai Chi
By incorporating fluid and repeated motions, the body begins to warm up which allows the Qi (energy) to flow freely throughout the body. The great feature about Qi Gong and Tai Chi is that they are perfect to practice around the colder months of Winter. During Spring and Summer, more strenuous exercises are more common, while during Autumn and Winter, slower and gentler forms of exercises should be done.
With that in mind, some of the many benefits of Qi Gong include improved circulation, stronger immune system, increased balance/memory/strength, healthier nerves, and looser muscles. Further, consistent practice may help manage issues such as Parkinson’s, hypertension, arthritis, anxiety, insomnia, and even low bone density.
Tai Chi is more of a structured and rhythmic dance of motions, while Qi Gong is more stationary and incorporates repeating movements. In essence, both are similar in their method and functional purpose to bring harmony in the body. All in all, both are very low impact exercises that are safe to practice for any age and body type!
7. MEDITATE More In The Winter
Last but not the least! Practicing a form of meditation should be emphasized during the Winter season. Sitting down and quieting down the mind is a great way to improve your overall health when everything outside is cold and desolate. In Chinese medicine, Winter is a time for letting go and inner reflection. Also, the Kidneys are said to rule these three months in Winter. The ancients further believed that meditation strengthens the Kidneys from within.
With all that being said, practice meditation a few minutes everyday. This will help improve concentration, mindfulness, and decrease stress levels. Lastly, practice breathing with the belly (diaphragmatic breathing). When we breath from our chest and neck muscles, we create unwarranted stress and chronic muscle tightness. Over a long period of poor breathing habits, we get all sorts of muscle pain and stiffness. Breathing with the core muscles further helps to tone the stomach, massage the internal organs, and naturally lower blood pressure.
Dr. Chris, L.Ac.
Shared on Simply Natural Saturdays