Note from Hannah: This is a guest post by Darcy Forrest, who practices acupuncture and Chinese Medicine right here in Southern Maine.
Most people from the Northeast hate it. It’s cold, baron, icy, and brown. Bringing out the trash becomes a slight form of torture, and the thought of getting out of the shower at 6am haunts you as you watch your last show on TV before bed. Then there is the shoveling, the scraping, the dog begging to go out when the thermometer reads 9 degrees…the numb toes, the dry skin, the icy hands, and the overstuffed winter coat that makes you feel like you’re stuck in bubble wrap.
Ohhhhh, winter. Why do we loathe thee?
I spent a few years in Tucson, Arizona, where the winter is not a winter, and snow literally means a city wide shutdown. It’s nice all winter long, nothing really dies, nothing freezes, and people all start to become really active because they’ve spent the past six months holed up in their apartment with the swamp coolers blasting all summer.
For me though, it just felt off. I wanted to bundle up, to wear a winter hat, have a white Christmas, feel like I could just cuddle under a blanket and relax. It’s quite the coincidence that I left Maine because of the winters, and there I sat, dreaming of snow and freezing temperatures..
To make this long, random story short…my body missed and needed something that only about half the country are so fortunate to have.
Real, live, seasons. They are amazing, and once you leave them, after growing up with them, you miss them dearly. I feel so fortunate to have nature guiding me, showing me how to adapt to change.
We are part of our universe, a microcosm of the macrocosm, we are a reflection of our environment through and through. This is what Chinese Medicine is; it’s being in accordance with nature, harmonizing our beings with our surroundings, allowing things to take their course, allowing change, growth, and decline.
When we are not in harmony with these cyclical changes, things pop up, a rash, low energy, hip pain, diarrhea, headaches, etc. These symptoms are our bodies way of telling us that something is off, and it’s trying to fix it.
How do we help?
We listen. We accommodate. We provide.
Winter gives us the opportunity to rest. Just like the trees, the animals, and virtually every living thing, we need to go into hibernation. I’m not talking about literally hiding in your house with stores of food for a few months, I’m talking about slowing things down.
Conserving energy, relaxing, resting, reading a good book, meditating, stretching, and just allowing yourself downtime. It’s freezing outside, and this tells us that we need to stay warm, wear layers, protect your skin from wind. That coldness tells us that we need to balance it with warmth, we should be eating warm things, soups, stews, cooked veggies, and meat.
Winter corresponds to the kidneys in Chinese medicine, the kidneys correspond to bones, and bones are the deepest source of yin. Bone broths, homemade stocks, and marrow are perfect ways to nourish our bodies during winter. The color of the kidneys, and of winter, is black. Black wood ear, mushrooms, black sesame seeds, purple onions, eggplant, and other black or dark veggies are key.
Drink warm teas, adding ginger, cinnamon, or fennel, which all warming spices. Start your day off with some soup or some old fashioned oats. Do light exercises, stretching, yoga, taiji, qigong, or light walks. Allow yourself to be tired, go to bed early, and settle down after dinner.
Be lazy! Do something you’ve been wanting to do, a hobby, a craft, a project…get creative. Sleep in on the weekends! Who doesn’t want to sleep in? Winter is telling us, it’s ok!!!! Listen.
Instead of loathing this cold, dark, yin filled season, try to embrace it.
Accept it as your opportunity to slow down.
It’s truly a gift in a way..it literally forces us to comply, giving us a chance to store our energy and preserve our qi and blood.
This gives us the reserves for spring, a season characterized by bursting forth, new beginnings, growth, and cleansing. Giving our bodies the roots, or a good foundation to work with, will yield healthier and brighter bodies this March.
Take the time to cater to yourself. Your body and spirit will benefit greatly from a little TLC. You deserve it.
Darcy Forrest, LAc, Dipl. OM is a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist.
Her office is located at:
55 Foden Road, South Portland