One of the most inspiring takeaways from my studies in the principles of macrobiotics is the practice of seasonal attunement. While not a foreign concept to those familiar with Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), it was, at the time, an insightful discovery for myself. Seasonal attunement, or living in harmony with the seasons, is an ancient belief that seasons have a profound effect on human well-being. To be in harmony with nature as the days grow longer and warmer, or colder and darker, gives us the power to be more balanced and whole as human beings.
These days, as we begin to step deeper into the folds of winter, I urge you to consider what it means to be in tune with this season. For those of us living in the northern hemisphere, where the shortest day of the year, Winter Solstice, sets the tone with less daylight and more darkness, we might want to consider adjusting our lifestyles in order to find harmony within ourselves.
When we think of winter, we intuitively may think of stillness, hibernation, quiet nights by the fire, and warming foods. But, do we actually put those thoughts into practice? We may notice that with the shorter days, it may be harder to rise in the mornings and while this is indeed normal, do we adjust our busy lifestyles to make space for what is?
Winter in TCM is considered yin, defined by what is feminine, a period of contraction, cold, and being more grounded.
How can we translate this into our daily rhythms? Well, I personally see it as a time to slow down and reflect. A time to practice self-love and hold space for all that is. Within my work as a clinician, I look at all aspects of my client’s lifestyles, so let me give you some specific examples of how I might choose to embrace these next few months according to the principals of winter attunement:
- Prioritize winter fruits and vegetables: apples, pears, pomegranates, squashes, root vegetables and winter greens such as kale, swiss chard and brussels sprouts
- Cook foods, the longer the better. Think of crockpots filled with stews and warming soups.
- Rich earthy flavors, with sweet undertones take precedence, nourishing our kidneys, bladder, and adrenals, the organs specifically associated with winter.
- Indulge in warming foods, that push our energy and blood up and out to the surface of our body.
- Incorporate warming ones such as ginger, garlic and cayenne
- Consider preparing an herbal tea to carry you through the day such as a pot of Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum) or a traditionally warming Chai tea
- Think of replacing your long runs or HIIT classes with a brisk daily walk
- Perhaps a restorative yoga or Pilates class that prioritize breath work and stretching in lieu of a high intensity interval session
- Give priority to calming the nervous system not aggravating it even more
- Go to bed an hour or two earlier than usual and allow your body to sleep the extra hour or two it needs. This may mean a bedtime of 9pm in order to get the 8 hours of sleep that your body may be craving
- Winter is not the time to have late nights and little sleep, take a cue from the sun’s own schedule
- Take a bath with Epsom salts and essential oils such as lavender or chamomile
- Step into a sauna
- Get lost in a favorite book next to the fireplace
- Take a nap if your time and lifestyle allow
- This is a time of personal indulgence and regeneration
- Pick an app for your phone that takes you through a 10-minute meditation practice
- Consider learning a special breathing technique that is quick but effective in calming the nervous system
- Reconnect to a religious practice
- Make an effort to spend more time with loved ones
- Embrace anything that connects you to something greater than yourself
While this list is extensive, it is not exhaustive. Tune in with yourself, be honest and listen to what your body really needs. Now is not the time to focus on inner criticism or denial. It is not about crushing a workout or pushing your mind and body to extremes. These behaviors may even backfire, simply because they are not in harmony with nature.
If you can allow yourself the grace and respect to take a step back and focus on what you truly need, you may find that when spring starts whispering in your ear, you will discover an inner energy surface, leading you to achieve your goals in a much faster and healthier way.
Do you need some inspiration to help you through these next months? Reach out to me and I will be happy to help!