It’s almost winter, and you might really hate it! Really, for most of you, you do. It’s too cold, too dark, you feel depressed or “blue,” stressed out and worn down. All of this can lead to imbalanced actions like staying up late and partying, losing sleep and rest, eating too many Christmas cookies, moo shoo chicken or drinking too much eggnog and beer, becoming too sluggish and stagnating.
Doing all of that will surely have us miss out on claiming the life we want and I feel will prevent us from achieving our New Year’s resolutions. I believe our problems come from resisting winter’s energy, not the winter herself. So the key is to align with this seemingly annoying season and learn to listen to its teachings.
If the winter acts a certain way, why not act with it? Go with its flow instead of rebelling against it. Notice the plants and animals and how they act, along with the sounds of winter (quiet) and of course the sun, moon and weather. It all suggests slowing down. Please, slow down.
When I first clued into the winter’s flow, I changed a lot of habits. I began to go to bed earlier, I woke up with the sun, got slow and created meditations based on stillness. It was already still and quiet outside; why not have this energy reside within me? I noticed the moonlight and studied it. I started learning about yin and yang, winter’s feminine energy and the water element, which correspond to our own inner emotional state.
The winter is deep, so if you like depth and want to change some habits, here are five tips (that might not seem obvious) to improve your health and well-being this winter:
1. Practice stillness meditation.
Notice the leafless trees. Nature dies in winter, and its energy moves into the ground. You should also pull your own energy back and meditate on stillness. Slow your roll this winter for greater acuity and attentiveness. Meditation is a great internal exercise for the winter, just as being all uppity and bouncy is great for the summer. Do a one-minute meditation a few times per day. Pair it with a cup of herbal tea and savor the stillness.
2. Pay attention to the moon and honor it.
It’s connected to your emotional state and represents the wintertime’s essence. Get to bed early and honor your internal process. Journal before bed and in the morning upon waking and wake with the sun or just after it.
3. Remember: the water element rules the winter.
Try to get warm fluids in your body most of the day. Eat soups with miso and sea vegetation, and drink herbal teas like ginger, nettles and juniper. Try to avoid the stimulation of caffeinated beverages like coffee! It’ll be tough, but you can do it. Remember that without proper fluidity and circulation, you’ll stagnate, get stuck and feel the winter blues. Blech!
4. Eat more sea salt, because it’s a crystal!
Crystals promote clarity! The Celtic grey salt variety is my favorite. Salts contain the minerals needed for kidney health, and balanced kidneys lead to proper fluid movement. This means no stagnancy, which will help boost your mood. PS: Refined salt is missing these important nutrients. Don’t eat it, it’s garbage and stresses kidney and heart health.
5. Listen more and speak less.
Did you know the kidneys and ears form in the fetus at the same time? According to Chinese medicine, the ears and listening plays an important role in wintertime health. They're the key sense organ for the winter, telling us to listen more and speak less. Listen to what goes on inside of you, listen to how your diet affects you, and listen to winter’s teachings to slow down and reflect.
Along with these tips, eat warming foods like soup, stews and broths. Do yoga and dive into yourself before coming out and celebrating like it’s spring — you’ll be healthier the rest of the year.