During the season of winter many people begin to feel a decrease in their energy level and ability to function at full speed. While our society often demands a consistency in output of energy and productivity, this seasonal drop in energy is not necessarily pathological. Chinese Medicine teaches us that just as there are fluctuation within the 24-hour daily cycle, with a time to be active and a time to rest/sleep, there are similar fluctuations over the course of the year.
If you compare the seasons of the year to our 24-hour daily cycle, Spring is morning, Summer is mid-afternoon, Fall is early evening, and Winter is nighttime. During the course of the year our energy naturally waxes and wanes following this cycle, with peak energy in the Summer and the lowest amount of energy in the Winter.
When we tap into and honor these seasonal fluctuations, we open ourself to reaching our highest potential both in health and in life.
The Benefits of Winter
In Chinese Medicine winter is the time for energy conservation, the drawing within and storage of energy. In fact, it is precisely our ability to conserve energy in winter that allows our energy to be able to grow in the spring and then to flourish in the summertime.
In addition to the rejuvenating effects on our physical energy, the drawing within in winter also relates to our mental awareness. Winter provides space in our lives to carve out time for stillness and reflection. This in turn can clarify our focus and intentions in the year ahead.
3 Ways to Honor the Energetics of Winter
- Exercise in the morning. Although rest and rejuvenation are a priority in the winter, it’s still important to keep the blood, joints and muscles moving via exercise. If you have a very vigorous exercise routine, try cutting back on the intensity that you approach your exercise with during the winter months. Don’t worry, you can ramp them back up in the Spring! To prevent exercise from depleting your energy reserves, schedule your exercise in the morning, when the natural energy in the day is rising.
- Eat with the Season. Incorporate small amounts of energetically descending bitter and salty foods into your diet this winter. These flavors help your energy draw inward to your core. Salty foods include — miso, seaweeds, millet, and barley. Bitter foods include – lettuce, celery, turnips, rye, oats, quinoa, and amaranth.
- Meditate. By withdrawing our awareness from external stimuli during meditation, our energy is both conserved and replenished. Try sitting in a comfortable position and focus on the inhalation and exhalation of your breath for 10-30 minutes daily. It can be helpful to gently rest your hands on the lower abdomen to feel the deep rise and fall of the breath. To focus the mind, count your breaths up to 10 and then restart, with the inhale and exhale counting as one full cycle of breath.