How To Balance Yin Energy For A Great Mood & Tons Of Energy All Winter Long
When we think of winter, we naturally brace ourselves for wind chills, snow days, and trying to stay warm with a big bowl of stew. Winter is tolerable for some, but for many of us it's a tough time of year, especially for those of us who suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
The winter blues are very real and can affect our mental health no matter where we are on the scale with SAD. Experiencing depression, paranoia, low energy, strength, social withdrawal, weight gain, constant low back pain, oversleeping, and an inability to stay focused are just a few signs and symptoms that the winter months are creating a little havoc within your health and inner world.
Seasonal affective disorder, from a TCM perspective.
From a traditional Chinese medicine perspective, experiencing one of these intensely and/or a combination of these signs and symptoms may be a red flag that the kidney yin of your constitution may be weakened and needs to be reinforced.
Winter is the most yin of the seasons and corresponds with the kidney meridian energy. The kidney meridian is deep within our bodies and is the source of our Jing (also known as the root of life), which regulates the yin and yang of the whole body. Jing is a powerful substance that determines who and what we are; it's our primal and foundational energy reserve and determines our vitality and long-term energy. The kidney is connected to the element of water, the color black, and also regulates the emotion of fear and determines our will to live and push through to our destiny. Ultimately, the kidney energy is the backbone we need to get through our life purpose and vision.
Living in harmony with the seasons, which you can accomplish with practices such as eating with the seasons, is important to our overall well-being and emotional health. And understanding how the yin aspects of kidney and winter are connected to your emotional well-being can help us better manage our experience during this season.
The importance of kidney chi.
During winter, the yin aspect of our chi will sink and go deeper into the body as if traveling to the dark abyss of our nature, allowing us to face our shadows. This natural movement also causes us, without thinking, to face our thoughts and emotions, creating a time for deep reflection while we restore and rest to build our kidney chi before moving on to the next season. It's during these moments of physical hibernation that we are given an opportunity to review and reassess our emotional and psychological patterns and recognize where we are weakest. It's important that we not only reflect upon our emotional triggers but that we understand the importance of supporting the yin nature of our bodies by building our kidney chi. The ability to work through our difficulties and confidently express ourselves is dependent on having strong kidney chi.
How to balance yin energy in the winter.
Whether or not you experience SAD or any emotional downs during winter, your goal should always be to tonify kidney chi. Below are a few take-aways that will help you be more aware of steps you can take:
1. Honor kidney time.
Each organ has a specific time when it functions best, and taking advantage of this can be really beneficial. For the kidney, this is between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. This is a time to begin winding down from your day. By doing this, you are able to boost your vital energy necessary to properly process your fears. Use this time to journal and process your day and all the emotions that have arrived, allowing the mind to settle and release the energy onto the page. Sit in prayer or meditation, allowing your inner self to be nourished and soothed. This is also a good time to go for a brisk walk after dinner to activate movement of chi to flow more smoothly.
2. Avoid excess.
This is the time of year to avoid anything in excess, especially caffeine, fruits, salads, alcohol, eating late at night, overeating, drugs or other stimulations, and even sex. These can scatter chi, making you feel less grounded and more depleted. You can also counteract the excess with more sleep and more water.
3. Eat salty foods that are in season and well-cooked.
This season is the best time of year to cook foods at a low temperature for longer periods of time. Bone broth is a great example because it's a Jing tonic, meaning it's another great way to tonify kidney chi. If bone broth isn't your thing, eating all foods that are in season, like steamed winter vegetables as well as dark leafy greens, miso, seaweed, kimchee, and dark-colored foods like black beans, and yes, kidney beans are great bonuses. Adding whole grains like millet and barley is also helpful. Salt in moderation is key, as this is the taste associated with the kidney and helps to tonify. Roasted nuts and seeds, like chestnuts and sesame seeds, are great for nourishing kidney yin. Here is a great resource on foods that work with all meridian systems.
4. Lean on your support system.
Last but definitely not least, scheduling regular sessions with an acupuncturist can help balance the delicate energies within all meridians in your body, which will offer benefits mentally, emotionally, and physically. Seeing a therapist this time of year can also help you navigate your emotions. Finally, don't be afraid to lean on your support system of friends and family at this time of year.
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