Winter Health Tips 冬季养生

Winter, spanning from the beginning of November to early February, encompasses six solar terms (节气): the Beginning of Winter 立冬 , Lesser Snow 小雪, Greater Snow 大雪, the Winter Solstice 冬至, Lesser Cold 小寒, and Greater Cold 大寒. It is the coldest season of the year, characterized by freezing temperatures, brisk winds, and a hidden vitality in nature. During this time, the Yang energy retreats, while Yin energy reaches its peak. Trees shed their leaves, and insects hibernate, entering a state of dormancy to preserve energy for the upcoming spring. The body’s yin-yang balance undergoes a slower metabolic process, favoring substance over transformation. Therefore, the key to winter health lies in the concept of ‘storage.’

Nurturing the Spirit

To maintain the normal physiological state of the hidden Yang energy, it is essential to prioritize mental tranquility. The ancient Chinese medical text ‘Yellow Emperor’s Inner Canon (Huangdi Neijing 黄帝内经) ‘In the winter months, this is a time of storage… Keep the mind hidden and reserved. ‘ This implies that to achieve mental calmness, one must control emotional activities, treating them with the same privacy and satisfaction as one would with personal secrets or treasures. By doing so, there will be ‘no disturbance to Yang,’ fostering the accumulation of vitality for the emergence of spring.

Lifestyle Adjustment

In winter, adhering to a proper daily routine is crucial. As mentioned in ‘Yellow Emperor’s Inner Canon ‘In winter, this is a time of closure. Water turns to ice, and the earth cracks, with no disturbance to Yang. Retire early, rise late, and wait for the sunlight… Rid the body of cold and seek warmth, avoiding excessive sweating, as it is the way to nourish and store Qi.’
In the cold season, one should not disturb the Yang energy and disrupt the physiological balance where Yin substance dominates over Yang transformation. Therefore, prioritizing adequate sleep, waking up with the sunrise, and maintaining a balanced indoor temperature are essential. Excessive cold or insufficient clothing may deplete Yang energy and increase susceptibility to colds, while excessive warmth may disrupt the closure of pores and hinder Yang energy’s retreat.

Essence is the foundation of the body. Therefore, storing essence in winter prevents illness in spring. This underscores the importance of regulating sexual activities and preserving essence to prevent warm-weather ailments.

Dietary Practices

For a normal individual in winter, dietary choices should follow the principles of ‘nourishing Yin and not disturbing Yang.’ Foods that are neither too cold nor too hot are preferable, with an emphasis on those that nourish Yin and conceal Yang. To avoid vitamin deficiencies, fresh vegetables should be included in the diet. According to the relationship between tastes and organs, as mentioned in ‘Yellow Emperor’s Inner Canon ‘ ‘The kidneys govern winter… The kidneys need to be firm, and consuming bitterness strengthens them. Bitterness supplements and salty flavors drain them.’ This is because, during winter, when Yang energy is weak, and sweating is minimal, reducing salt intake can ease the burden on the kidneys, while incorporating bitterness can nourish the kidneys and heart.

In practical terms, to preserve Yin and conceal Yang during winter, it is advisable to consume grains, lamb, and black wood ear(黑木耳), favoring warm and nourishing foods to protect Yang energy. Winter, being a season focused on ‘storage,’ is an opportune time for supplementation.

Exercise and Health

The saying ‘Move a bit in winter, avoid diseases’ emphasizes the importance of winter exercise. Despite the cold, consistent physical activity is recommended, but outdoor activities should be avoided during strong winds, extreme cold, heavy snow, or foggy weather. It’s worth noting that in winter mornings, due to the influence of cold high pressure, there may be temperature inversions, leading to poor outdoor air quality. Exercising indoors is preferable during such conditions.

Winter is an ideal time for strengthening the body.

The cold of winter can also exacerbate chronic conditions such as bronchial asthma and chronic bronchitis. Cardiovascular diseases like heart attacks and cerebrovascular diseases, as well as rheumatic conditions, may worsen due to exposure to cold. Therefore, protecting against the cold and preserving Yang energy is crucial. Additionally, attention should be given to facial and limb care to prevent frostbite.

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