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Winter is the backbone for summer’s joy | Hardin Acupuncture

Winter is the backbone for summer’s joy

icy branch

One of the things I love most about Chinese medicine is that it has so much wisdom to offer on how to live in alignment with the seasons. Each one is acknowledged for its specific strengths and opportunities.

Winter is like the backbone for summer’s joy. It may not be as pretty or exciting or fun but it’s an essential part of the year and an essential part of our lives.

These cold, dark days give us the chance to work on our foundation, to refill our reservoirs with deep rest, and to get clear about our priorities.

If we’re not bursting with energy this time of year, that’s completely normal. We put so much pressure on ourselves to be super-productive, super-together, super-happy all of the time. Which isn’t appropriate any time of year really, but especially not in winter.

Think of a bulb underground. Those lazy lazy bulbs, just lying there doing nothing. That’s what it looks like, but they’re busy storing up energy for a big burst of growth in the spring. The deeper they can go in winter, the more vibrant they’ll be come warmer weather.

The same is true for us in a way. No, we don’t have the luxury of burying ourselves underground for months at a time. Life goes on, we have projects and obligations and that’s all well and good.

But what does hibernation look like in the midst of a human life?

Well the obvious one is more sleep. There’s nothing more restorative to the body. We really do need more rest during the winter, so don’t beat yourself up if you’re feeling extra tired. Make a conscious effort to go to bed a little earlier. If possible, take a nap, or at the very least, rest your eyes for a few minutes in the middle of the afternoon.

The winter is a great time to start or deepen a meditation practice. It’s like pouring water over the seeds you want to grow in the spring. Like an incubation period for all the big things you want to bring into the world. And it does wonders for anxiety.

Make sure there’s some open space in your calendar. Say no to more things than you might say no to in the summer. You don’t want to totally isolate – stay connected with friends and fun and laughter. But let there be time for doing nothing as well.

For the most part, stick to cooked and warm foods. You want to keep that internal fire stoked and cold foods are going to dampen that. If you do eat salad or green smoothies, balance them out with warming spices like ginger. Some particularly nourishing foods this time of year are sardines, seaweed, adzuki beans, sweet potatoes.

If you’re really struggling, spend the day at Phipps Conservatory. Seriously, it’s like mainlining spring. It’ll give you enough juice to get through a rough couple of icy days.

And one final tip: find one positive thing to say about winter. Even the most die-hard winter hater could probably think of at least one thing they like about this time of year. Be a breath of fresh air instead of the hundrendth person of the day to say that you’re sick of the weather. This doesn’t have to be over the top or annoying. You don’t have to declare that it’s a glorious day after fighting icy streets to get to work. But just find one small thing.

One of my favorites is how crisp and bright the stars look on these cold nights. It’s just beautiful.

Maybe yours is skiing or sledding or hot chocolate.
Or maybe cuddling or warm socks or icicles.

Even if the only thing you can think of to like about winter is how freaking amazing spring is going to feel when it finally comes – that’s something! We don’t get that energizing, creative, momentum without spending time in the depths.

Spring will come, with its burst of “let’s do it all now!” energy. And we can harness that and do amazing things.

But for now, take advantage of what winter has to offer. A chance to slow down. A chance to gather your resources. A chance to rest.

And for later reference, when spring does start peeking it’s head into winter: How to avoid being a frosted-over crocus


(Image source: Simon Wa)

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Hardin Acupuncture
1804 Chislett St
Pittsburgh, PA 15206
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Phone: 412.927.4768