When it comes to health, many people see winter as the toughest time of the year. It’s not uncommon to feel challenged with immune issues, stress, depression or a lack of energy in the winter months. Partly this is because it’s the natural completion of the life cycle. The world around us is retreating into sleep mode. If our actions and choices are not in alignment with this seasonal tone, our health and wellness will suffer.
The lack of alignment with winter health practices is an all too common state in the western society. Our busy lives are filled with sensory overload, stress, poor food options and unnatural environments. All of which tell our bodies to respond in the opposite way that our natural world is presenting us. This equation creates a conflict or disconnect within us, and is the most common root cause of imbalance in the body. Leaving us sick, depressed, and burnt out.
The state of decline that winter represents is an important and necessary step in our evolutionary process. Winter offers an opportunity to become more introspective, to reflect on our life choices, and to realign with our purpose and vision for the coming season. To do this work it’s important to give ourselves the space to slow down, rest, and reset ourselves. This internal focus becomes an easy alignment when the natural energies of winter are utilized.
There are 4 basic Energetic Seasonal Alignments throughout the year:
Winters decline offers us the perfect opportunity to let go of what no longer serves us. Its a time to refocus our attention, set new intentions, and recalibrate the way we choose to show up in the world.
To do this requires us to slow down, reflect, and reduce our level of output. Choosing inward focused, rather than outward expansive practices.
Understanding the fourfold landscape of Holistic Health:
When we look at wellness through the lens of Holistic health, we realize that it is a dynamic layering of many interacting aspects.
On one hand we have seasonal alignment as mentioned above. Where our filter for determining best practices should reflect what is presented from the outside environment around us.
On another hand we have the fourfold landscape of our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual selves. Where each aspect of who we are requires a different type of nourishment in order to maintain its vitality.
To achieve lasting wellness, our health choices should be rooted in an understanding of how they affect all aspects of ourself. When we use the filters of seasonal alignment and the fourfold landscape to help guide our choices, we naturally gravitate to the right tools for generating sustainable health and well being.
For example: I know that green leafy vegetables feeds my body well with nutrients, gives my spirit vitality, and makes me happy because I can feel their benefit when I eat them and I know I’m taking good care of myself.
But living in Canada in the Winter should I eat a garden salad for dinner?
Likely not, as it is energetically cold and this type of food would never be available during this time of year.
Best winter practices for nourishing our wholistic health
Slow down, rest, stay warm and don’t push ourselves too hard. Though we should slow down, it’s essential to get some activity outside and find opportunities to breathe the crisp, fresh air. Chopping wood, walking, skiing, or just playing in the elements gives our body deeper wisdom in knowing how to best show up and prepare for the season.
Diet wise, natural winter foods are cooked seasonal options, and foods that have been preserved and stored from the summer/fall abundance. Such as fermented vegetables, beans and seeds, root vegetables like beets, carrots and parsnips, dark leafy greens like kale and collards, whole grains, healthy fats such as organic dairy, fish, coconut oil, high quality animal protein, and bone broths are all great winter choices. It is not an ideal time for cooling foods, like raw vegetables, fresh fruit, juices, sugars or tropical foods.
We can also integrate warming tonic or immune herbs, and medicinal mushrooms as teas, broths and elixir drinks. Herbs such as Astragalus, Eleuthero, Reishi, Chaga, Goji Berry, Rosehips, Fo-ti, Ginger, Cinnamon and Chai spices are ideal in this season. There are many other herbs that are supportive for proactive or specific health concerns this time of year. A great source in Canada for quality organic plant based health options is www.harmonicarts.ca
Slowing down and focusing on introspective thought can be a key practice in the winter months. If we scatter our thoughts on too many projects or ideas, it creates gaps in energy and increases the stress load in the body. Less multi tasking and more depth and imagination is ideal during this season. Find ways to avoid circle thinking on issues we can control is important. Much good visioning can be accomplished with a focused mind, and winter is the perfect time to do this work.
Looking back at what has been accomplished and setting intentions for how we are to show up moving forward. Plan projects, fortify programs, and hold space for regenerative health and rest to occur. To support nerve and brain function we can look to herbs like Skullcap, Passionflower, Ginko, Gotu Kola, Lemon Verbena, Holy basil, Mucuna, and Lion’s Mane.
Often people battle the blues and other tough emotions during the winter months. See this as an opportunity to look at your commitment to self nourishment. At this time, feelings of emptiness, loneliness and isolation are easy to fall into, and understandably as the elements outside are much less hospitable than other seasons. In Traditional Chinese Medicine philosophy, winter holds the emotion of fear. This is the base state behind many of our hardest to deal with feelings. When we acknowledge the energy of fear and dig into its root causes in our lives, we begin to recognize our own cobweb of patterns and habits that no longer serve us.
The inner sanctuary of winter offers the opportunity to deepen our commitment to self and our loved ones, through slowing down, simplifying and being more present. In this space we can begin to cultivate new rituals instead of repeating old habits, as we get clear on how we are choosing to show up in the world. The worst thing we can do for emotional growth in the winter is to distract ourselves by overloading our senses with media, social obligations, excessive alcohol and drug use, or a heavy workload. Instead look to create time for hobbies, personal connection, and self nourishment. Warm baths, comforting teas, fireside conversations, outdoor activities and reflective moments, are great ways to set the tone for healthy emotional growth in the winter months.
Similar to emotional health, our spiritual health can often feel hungry for nourishment in the winter months. These dark days can sometimes have us yearning for adventure or escape. Use this energy to deeply root your dreams and aspirations for the year to come. Getting clear on how you are creating purpose and value in your life can be a great winter project. Practices like meditation and reflective writing may help stimulate those winter spiritual cleansing muscles. Winter reminds us to look internally rather than externally for the answers to our big questions in life. It is our deepest inner work that is ripe for exploration through this slow season. The dark and coldness can sometimes trigger spiritual crisis and expose internal struggles we have been repressing, remember to love yourself and move into these feelings with the curiosity of the inner child, rather than avoid it’s discomfort. The opportunity to dig into the root of our internal struggle is one of the most powerful aspects of winter’s decline. Before we can see the light we must know the dark…
In Summary –
Once we start to unravel the codes of characteristics and natural order within ourselves and our surrounding environment, we see that optimal health choices are not so much about nutritional facts, dietary limitations, exercise regimes and health information. Real and lasting health is actually more about finding flow and balance, and accessing the power of inner and outer harmony. This lifestyle approach can start to become easy common sense practices; even if they are not all that common these days.
There are no hard and fast rules to living a healthy life, just a basic flow that governs the natural cycles of life. It is in our highest alignment to accept and work with these cycles, if we are to achieve lasting vitality and harmony in our lives, and as a collective here on planet earth.
Yarrow Willard Cl.H. (Herbal Jedi)
Yarrow is a Clinical Herbalist and the co-founder/formulator of the Harmonic Arts Botanical Dispensary at www.harmonicarts.ca . From an early age, he was raised in the ways of herbs and natural medicine. Yarrow is highly edu-taining and carries a wealth of knowledge and insight into upgrading health and vitality and deepening our connection with the natural world. He is continually sharing the “Herbal Jedi” life path through his many events, classes, blogs, YouTube channel and other social media.