Observing and living in rhythm with nature can be beneficial to our health and well-being. Living in harmony with nature is not a new idea, it is one of the foundations of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TMC) and was also the basis for health before society became too busy and stressed to feel the rhythms of their bodies. Fighting or not listening to our rhythms throws us out of balance into a state of dis-ease.
By observing the changes that take place during the winter season, maybe we can attune ourselves to a healthier winter. Leaves have fallen off the trees providing nutrients for the soil, plants pull their sap and nutrients back into their roots, days are shorter, life slows down, some animals hibernate, nature withdraws into itself, the earth rests. Winter is a time of regeneration.
Winter should be a time of personal growth, a time to go within, a restful break, a time to replenish energy for the start of the “growing” season – Spring. The cold and dampness, a hint to stay home where it is warm and comfortable.
The shorter days that winter provide should be used as an opportunity to get more rest, sleep and dreams. Personal growth requires a lot of quiet time and solitude. Solitude is always an interesting period in our lives. It can be a time of independence, loneliness or a time of reflection and growth – the choice is ours. Winter is the time to go within. Time spent alone has the ability to open creativity. It allows us to become our real selves, true to ourselves. A time to explore who we really are; our strengths and weaknesses. We are all complete as we are but we don’t usually realize it. No one can provide true happiness for another person; that is dependency. True joy and happiness comes from within when we take the time to be ourselves, to discover who we are.
If we use this quiet time to reflect on the past, but not cling to it, we are able to see where we were and where we may be heading. We realize how we’ve changed, what we’ve learned and how we’ve grown by past experiences. The biggest steps in our development are created by the hardest lessons of the past. Recognizing difficult times as just that allows us to release and forgive, to move on. Obstacles along our path provide a stopping point, a time to slow down and reflect. We are all give the strength to remove or move around the obstacle. The past should shape our future, our present, not take away our potential.
Winter is a time to maintain our exercise routines but maybe switch them into a gentler direction, more in tune with the body, such as stretching, yoga, dance, walking, or some of the martial arts. Bodywork such as Reiki or massage is beneficial to release stored tensions and relax.
Another not so gentle hint that nature provides for our wellness is food. Learning to change our diet to match what is available according to nature is a giant step towards maintaining health. Foods that provide more energy and heat are necessary during the cold months of winter. Isn’t it amazing that our freshest vegetables during this season are the root crops that provide more carbohydrates, fiber and proteins; creating warmth to the body and regulating digestion when we don’t have the same activity levels? So, listen to nature, add potatoes, carrots, turnips, onions, beets, squash and garlic to your meals. Grains, beans and nuts are also fresh during this season, a good source of fiber, protein and essential fats. Have you noticed that squirrels collect nuts for the winter?
Herbs and spices should also be added to the diet. Warming herbs include ginger, garlic, cinnamon, clove, coriander, fennel, fenugreek, turmeric, cayenne, and cardamom seed. Enjoy them added to soups or other recipes – you’ll be surprised how they can change the ordinary into something soothing and satisfying. If you don’t feel too daring, add a little cinnamon to your chicken breasts next time. Garlic is great for the immune system. Feeling cold and can’t get warm? Try a ginger tea or add some of the other warming spices, they increase circulation and most improve digestion after a meal.
Listen to nature, listen to yourself, feel your rhythm.
A couple books I recommend: