Winter is here. Depending on where you live, you may have put your mittens out to dry, and are enjoying a cup of something hot while watching the snow fall through the window. Sounds good, right? If you have already slowed down, sipped some hot ginger tea (or hot cocoa, why not?), and sat down to savor the quietness of winter, congratulations to you.
Many people suffer from winter blues. The lack of light and the intense cold in the northern hemisphere during this time can be wearing. This is a natural process, and your awesome body is just telling you it is time to take it easier, pay attention, and rest. Are you game?
If we look at nature, we will see that everything slows down during winter. The animals retreat after a busy autumn gathering food and preparing for a long cold season. The trees are also in peace, many after having let go of all their leaves. Underground, beautiful processes of new life are in the making. In the meantime, we should sit and wait . . .
Unfortunately, that is not what our modern society has taught us to do during winter, especially the holidays. On the contrary, December has become a very busy time of the year, not only in the United States, but many parts of the world. And there is a reason why. If we look into a bit of history, we will find that our ancestors recognized the importance of winter and revered it.
Many cultures around the world have celebrated the winter solstice since time immemorial. From ancient Rome (the Festival of Saturnalia) to the Chinese celebration of Dongzhi, just to mention two, older cultures recognized the winter solstice as an important astronomical occurrence. Even festivities like Saint Lucia, Hanukah, and Christmas, with their importance on the use of lights, has been influenced by the longest night of the year.
In many of these festivities, gifts were exchanged, but surely our predecessors were not frantically shopping in malls, and driving while texting. These celebrations were understood more as a freedom from the necessity to work. Resting was imperative. However, today even our “holidays” have lost their “holy” meaning, and have become an excuse to do more instead of less.
We barely acknowledge any longer the dark side of winter. Our modern world just focuses on the cheerful side of the jolly, the “Hallmark” picture-perfect side of the season, leaving a great number of the people on the outskirts feeling isolated, and lonely.
Why not take a moment in your busy holiday schedule to rest and be mindful of the season without spending so much of your energy? Go back to the root of the celebrations and take some time to energize your kidney, which reigns in winter, by doing nothing.
There are a few simple things that we can do to take care of ourselves during the winter months. First, stay warm and dress appropriately when going out. Even inside of the house, wear proper slippers, always keeping your hands and feet warm. If the temperature rises, don’t be tempted to go out in lightweight clothing just as a wishful attempt for the spring to come earlier. You will pay the price with a cold in the spring. Instead, take hot baths, light candles, make it pretty . . . and nourish your soul.
Even if you live in a warmer area of the planet, it is still important that you nourish yourself during the holidays and save some good energy. Have an invitation to yet another party but feel too tired to go? Listen to your body and stay put!
To support your kidneys during the winter, you can eat salty food, especially fish or seafood. You can also rub your ears with the palm of your hands for a quick energy pick-up, especially during the late afternoon hours, when we feel more tired.
Take care of your stomach as well, which supports the kidney, by consuming lots of warm foods (think soups, coffee, tea). Also important, stay away from foods with a cold and damp essence, for example, dairy, cold or iced drinks, and salads. Yes, you heard it right, salads! All these foods will unbalance your stomach’s ability to function well and support your kidneys.
If all of this sounds like something your grandmother would have said, yes, she was right all along! Maybe she did not know about the salads, but now you have a good excuse to stay away from lettuce.
Last but not least, “Don’t worry be happy!” (And by “happy” I really mean content). It still sounds cliché. It is. So very cheesy. Yet, it is one of the hardest things to accomplish in life, and one piece of advice that will keep you healthy for years to come. Your kidney and stomach will appreciate it. This one may take a little bit of faith, and a lot of awareness. It is a daily practice. More on that in posts to come!
For now, my wish for you is to carve out some time this winter solstice and enjoy some work-free moments by truly relaxing. You won’t regret it!