The philosophy of health embraced by TCM encourages us to live in harmony with the natural cycles of our seasons and environment. The energy of autumn has inspired us to declutter in preparation for the onset of winter. Both the cold and darkness of winter urge us to slow down and hibernate, conserving our strength so that we can emerge feeling replenished and full of vital energy in the spring time.
In contrast to the outgoing yang energy of summer, winter is yin in nature, it is inactive and encourages us to be introspective. It is ruled by the water element which is associated with the kidneys, adrenal glands, bladder, ears and hair, the associated taste of which is salty and the emotion is fear. According to TCM the kidneys are the source of all of our qi as well as providing storage for our reserves that may be called upon in times of stress and change, to help us heal, prevent illness and to age gracefully. It is our base, or kidney energy that determines our ability to grow and develop, emotionally, physically and mentally. It controls our skeleton, spine, legs, hearing, head hair and brain. It is also directly linked to fertility and our reproductive system.
During the winter months it is important to nurture and nourish our kidney qi as it is the time when this energy can be most easily depleted. As we feel our bodies instinctively expressing the fundamental principles of winter – to rest, reflect and conserve, it is helpful if we can respect and honour these feelings as working against them can cause us to feel exhausted and depleted.
Aswell as aligning our lifestyles with the energy of the seasons TCM also encourages us to adapt our diet throughout the year to maximise our energy and health. During winter it is helpful for our system to emphasize warming meals as raw and cooling foods tend to cool the digestion making it less effective. Soups, stews, root vegetables, winter greens, mushrooms, apples, pears, citrus fruits, beans, miso & seaweed, garlic, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg and nuts – especially walnuts, are all good warming winter fare.
Eating warm hearty soups, whole grains and roasted nuts helps to warm the bodies core and keep us nourished. We gain the most nutrition from eating whole, natural, locally grown, organic foods. Embrace the energy of winter and the foods that are grown during this season, sleep early, rest well, keep cosy and expend the minimum amount of energy in order to stay well this winter and skip healthily into spring.