Tips for a better winter

One of the most interesting concepts I've learned throughout my years studying nutrition and wellness is that our bodies (and lives) are cyclical in nature. We, like the moon, have phases, some of which repeat on a predictable basis.

And just like the pull of the moon influences the tides, our bodies are impacted by these different cycles and the different seasons.

Today I want to share a little more about the season of winter, the season that we in the Northern Hemisphere are currently experiencing (and experiencing HARD - it's in the single digits in Brooklyn as I write this).

I used to hate winter. I despised the cold and wanted to just put my head down and push through it as quickly as possible. I still prefer warmer temps (there's a certain freedom that comes with them when your main mode of transportation is a BIKE), but once I learned to honor the season for what it WAS instead of trying make it look or feel like a different season, I learned to really love this time of year (okay... maybe not LOVE but at least LIKE and appreciate).

Plus, by leaning into the winter-ness of winter, I'm better able to appreciate and use the energies of the other seasons when they come around.

Me embracing winter - ie home early, snuggled up with a heating pad + good book

Me embracing winter - ie home early, snuggled up with a heating pad + good book

So how does one "lean into" winter?

First, let's take a moment to think about what we associate with winter. This will give us some insight into the role of the season, and some clues for how to best use it's energy.

Here's what I think of when I think of winter...

Winter. Cold. Staying in. Gathering around the fire. Sleeping. Reading. Hibernating. Finding warmth. Comfort food. Less growth. Fewer hours in the day. More darkness. More blankets. Quiet. Reflection. Clarity. Coziness.

The cold and quiet is not "bad" - it's just different, especially for our go-go-go society. If we expect ourselves to operate on the exact same schedules as we did when we had 14 hours of daylight and temperatures in the 80s, it's going to feel hard.

If instead we work with these natural tendencies, if we use this season as a time of rest, reflection and getting in touch with our selves, not only will we feel more in harmony with the world around us, but we'll be better prepared for the energy and expansion of spring when it comes around.

Restorative yoga is amazing this time of year.

Restorative yoga is amazing this time of year.

Beyond food there are also activities that are better suited for these cooler months. Below I've listed out some specifics to give you some ideas, but these lists are not exhaustive. Feel free to use your own intuition and what it's telling you is best for your body based on what you've read here.

Foods to focus on:

  • Warm foods (especially baked, slow roasted and stewed)

  • Root vegetables

  • Soups

  • Warming spices like garlic, ginger and cinnamon

  • Cooked whole grains (brown rice, oats, barley)

  • Kidney beans and black beans

  • Food from the oceans like deep sea fish (halibut, swordfish) and seaweed*

Foods to avoid:

  • Too many raw foods (too cold)

  • Excess fruit and sweets

  • Overeating in general (we naturally move a little less this time of year so our diets should reflect that decrease in physical activity)

  • Ice water

Activities:

  • Yoga (especially slower practices with longer holds like yin and restorative yoga)

  • Reflection practices like journaling and meditation

  • Breathwork (to move energy without having to be out in the elements)

  • Staying in. Yes. Do less, especially on week nights. Meet for an early meal or invite friends over so that you're not out and about late.

  • Salt baths*

  • Use a heating pad, especially on your lower back (to focus on keeping the kidneys warm)**

*According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the Winter is associated with the element of water which is why these foods and activities are recommended this time of year

**Also according to TCM this is the season of the kidneys and bladder. The kidneys are said to store our chi or energy, which can be depleted easily this time of year if we run ourselves down through poor food or lifestyle choices. 

Whether you live in a climate that feels traditional seasons or not, you can still explore the concepts and tips that I shared above - there is a shift in energy that happens even if the weather changes aren't as noticeable.

For more in depth advice on eating and living in tune with the seasons, I highly HIGHLY recommend this book: Staying Healthy with the Seasons

My favorite book on living in tune with the seasons.

My favorite book on living in tune with the seasons.

If anything I hope what I shared in this post has given you permission to go a little easier on yourself this time of year, or at least take the next few months as an opportunity to slow down. To do a little less and spend more time reflecting on where you're at and where you want to go in the year to come.

Wishing you a cozy, quiet and introspective winter!