We are quickly approaching the holiday season including Winter Solstice, which officially marks the longest night of the year and the return of the lengthening days. In Chinese medicine, we consider winter to be a time for restoration and going inwards in opposition to summer when the abundance of sunshine gets us moving and wanting to be outdoors. That may seem easy as the weather makes staying inside a little more tempting, but it may be harder than you realize.
This idea of waxing and waning energies is described as “Yin and Yang Theory”, which is portrayed in this iconic black and white symbol. In this theory, everything is divided up into relative “yin” and relative “yang” categories which work together to mutually oppose as well as support each other. You cannot have one value without the other: up/down, in/out, left/right, male/female etc. Daytime belongs to yang (brightness, movement) and nighttime belongs to yin (darkness, stillness), which means that winter is the most yin time of year. What does this mean for our health and well-being?
It means that during winter, taking time to be quiet and reflective is even more essential. That certainly can be challenging amongst all the demands of the season to shop, socialize, decorate etc. While these kinds of activities help to bring brightness on the darkest of days, we must remember to honour that inner calling to slow down and regenerate as well. So many other animals are hibernating right now and I’m sure many of you have felt the temptation to curl up in the blankets just a little bit longer. So, I would encourage you to do so and stop judging yourself for it; sleep a little longer, read a few more pages of that book, sit quietly in a chair and take an internal inventory or review of your year.
While there is a real concern for Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is well addressed in many articles out there with helpful tips including Dr Marita Schauch’s (here), we must also remember that there is a natural decrease in sunlight occurring that may be affecting our energy levels. With that in mind, ease up on how much you are demanding of yourself right now and be sure to check in with yourself on how many events you can realistically do comfortably. You might be pleasantly surprised how taking it a little easy now can set you up for a better health in the spring.
I also encourage everyone to make sure you have things to look forward to this winter season. Perhaps a yoga or meditation class is just what you need to set aside some quiet time to go within. A counselling session could also help put things into perspective. My patients find that acupuncture is wonderful way to recharge your batteries and let go of stress. There are so many “shoulds” at this time of year, make sure you add something in for yourself, now or in the New Year.
Happy holidays everyone.