1. Wrap up warm: Sounds like common sense but in Traditional Chinese Medicine there are key areas you need to keep warm to avoid catching a cold. Keep your kidneys, knees, stomach and nape of your neck covered up as these are your most sensitive areas at this time of year and more susceptible to cold. This means that knees and lower backs can get sore, stomachs can get upset, and coughs and colds can be caught and may develop into more severe conditions like sinusitis or bronchitis.
TOP TIP: Try wrapping a scarf around your middle making sure to cover your kidney area and stomach when you feel cold instead of turning the heating up and see if you feel warmer. In Chinese medicine your kidneys are the centre of all energy and thus heat in your body and so this is a very effective way of keeping warm in the winter.
2. Soups, stews, and broths: In China it is believed that in order to stay healthy one must live in tune with the seasons, and in fact your qi (energy) moves in tune with the energy of the earth. Sensible advice! If you look around you will see that animals are hibernating, foliage on plants and trees has started to diminish and wither, the days are drawing in and the nights getting longer. This is a time of yin an inward and contracting movement where qi begins to slow down and move inwards too. If you wish to stay healthy you need to support this movement by eating foods that warm, nourish and support the body. Slow cooked foods such as soups, stews, and broths full of root vegetables, beans, pulses, organic meat or meat substitute are ideal foods to support this movement.
TOP TIP: Two things to help with this in your busy life – a slow cooker with a timer (fabulous investment) as this can be left on whilst you are at work and when you get home voila – a nice hot nutritious meal is waiting for you, and, a flask to carry soup with you when you are on the go. This way you also know what is going into your food and don’t have to worry about piling on the pounds through hidden sugars and salts in pre-packaged meals.
3. Slow Down: Whilst we live in a hectic and busy world, at this time of year we must also take into consideration our exercise habits. When you run outside in the cold and the rain you are taking that cold damp air straight down into your lungs which according to Chinese medicine creates ideal conditions for cough and cold viruses to take hold. If you must run outside in the cold or rain please make sure the areas mentioned above if not the whole body is covered up including wearing a hat to keep your head warm. If your happy to hang up your running shoes until it gets warmer then winter can be the perfect time for indoor sports instead and the more gentle the better.
TOP TIP: For those of you who like a little more exertion now is the perfect time for Bikram (Hot) Yoga but do be careful to re-hydrate slowly and sufficiently afterward.
4. Meditate: In winter it is more important than at any other time of year to get plenty of rest and take time out for yourself. Meditation can be an excellent way to calm the mind, relax the body and revive your energy. Even as little as 5 minutes a day can make a big difference to your health.
TOP TIP: Take 20 minutes out of each day if you can to lie down and allow the body to regenerate. In Chinese Medicine your Liver is responsible for the smooth flow of qi through your body this can be very difficult to maintain when faced with the barrage of stress that comes with modern living often resulting in conditions such as IBS, migraines, and anxiety. When you lie down you allow your qi and blood to return to your liver helping to soothe and nourish it.
5. Boost your Immune System: If you do feel a little sniffle or a cold coming on or are already in the midst of a terrible cold or flu then acupuncture can help by strengthening your immune system to protect you from further infections.