Each year the dominant western culture “celebrates” from Oct 31 until Dec 31, by consuming massive amounts of sugar, refined carbohydrates, and alcohol at holiday parties. This sugar festival coincides with increases in colds and flu. This is not a coincidence.

The three weeks before and after winter solstice (December 21) are the darkest of the year in the northern hemisphere. The hours of daylight are the fewest. The temperatures drop. Throughout winter many animals hibernate. In Traditional Chinese Medicine winter is the season to nourish Yin, the feminine, dark, moist, supple, earthy, and quiet aspects of life. Here are some ways you can nourish your Yin health.

Eat seasonally-

  • dark leafy greens such as kale, collards, cabbage, mustard, nettles, spinach

  • root vegetables such as radishes, beets, carrots, turnips, rutabagas

  • mushrooms especially shiitake, maitake, black trumpet, lion’s mane

  • black foods nourish Yin esp. black olives, black sesame seeds, black radish

  • grass fed or pasture raised meats or wild cold water fish in modest amounts.

  • These can easily be combined in soups or stews to warm the body and retain adequate moisture in the organs and glands. Winter winds can be drying.

Supportive habits-

  • Finish eating at least 3 hours before going to bed to allow your digestive system to finish digestion before it does its nighttime repair and maintenance.

  • Get some sunlight during the day. This may be difficult when the weather is stormy, but therefore even more needed on other days. Sunshine and blue sky during the day sets our biological clock by increasing our production of melatonin, which is then released about 3 hours after darkness falls. Melatonin relaxes the body and mind, signaling that it is time to sleep.

  • Have a consistent bedtime ritual which includes turning off Wifi and all screens, turning down the lights or using amber/blue blocking glasses, relaxing, taking a hot epsom salts bath and going to bed at the same time every night. Avoiding all caffeine can help if sleep is elusive.

  • Get 8+ hours of sleep, in the cool dark. Think cave. Hibernate as much as possible without losing important relationships.

We need to rethink our winter activities. Winter is a good time to rest and recharge. Even though holiday parties beckon, honor your needs and don’t go out at night if your better instincts say stay home and rest. Consider getting together with friends in the daytime, and gathering without sweets and alcohol. Have a healthy and happy holiday season.

Winter is a time to slow down and take care of yourself.
Winter is a time to slow down and take care of yourself.