Winter is probably the most challenging time of the year with cold and flu season upon us, as well as the mental and emotional stress the holidays may put on us; in addition to the common occurrence of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which frequently goes unattended. SAD is actually one of the best examples of how the seasonal changes can effect us, simply through the decrease of sunlight we receive due to fewer daylight hours, cloudy weather and staying inside to avoid falling temperatures.
I recently had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Elson Haas at his practice, Preventive Medical Center of Marin, where he and his staff support people by employing integrative and preventive healing systems such as nutrition, body therapy and herbal and homeopathic medicines. Dr. Haas is the author of “Staying Healthy With the Seasons,” first published in 1981, one the ground breaking guides on keeping oneself healthy by staying mindfully attuned to the natural rhythms of the Earth.
With a little discipline and some simple tips, we can stay on top of our physical and emotional health during the winter months. In “Staying Healthy With the Seasons” Dr. Haas uses the model of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which associates winter with the element of water, as one way to guide us in making healthy seasonal choices. The chapter on winter begins by discussing its connection to the element of water, which makes sense, as it is the rainy/snowy time of year in many regions. However winter can also be very drying to the human system because of the cold air, so it’s important to stay hydrated with warm soothing teas, soups and broths. When we are sick and run down, our physical well-being greatly effects our emotional well-being.
The element of water is also associated with the emotions in TCM as well as many other healing systems. Winter can be emotionally challenging for many reasons, such as the aforementioned SAD and holiday stress, as well as loneliness for those who feel isolated by family or community during a celebratory time of year. Making time for self-care and reaching out for support is paramount now. Taking baths, exercising and getting extra sleep and rest are all ways to support your mood and body.
The cold, dark months are also a time for inner reflection. Many people take inventory of their life in the last year and make resolutions on January first, letting go of old patterns and starting afresh. So take some time to reflect upon both your past and your present, making changes where necessary for staying healthy through the season.
Happy New Year!
*Here’s a little bonus list of 7 Foods for Winter Blues.