It’s official… winter is here in the southern hemisphere. The days are shorter and chilly temperatures have us wanting to curl up on the lounge rather than get out and move, walk, exercise or perhaps even catch up with friends. Our energy levels may even start to feel like they are on an escalator heading nowhere but down.
TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) tells us that winter is our most Yin season. It is associated with the water element and the energy of the kidney, bladder and adrenals. It is a time to slow down and conserve our energy in preparation for the transformation of spring. And it is why our bodies naturally tell us to do less and chill.
While winter is a natural time of year for us to move a bit slower, there are still a few worthy activities we can get into to maintain a sense of warmth, fitness and wellbeing. Perhaps now is the time to finally start journaling or a meditation practice? Or maybe find a Tai Chi or Qi Gong class, not to mention continuing your yoga or Pilates practice. All of these activities are excellent for the immune system and supporting our kidney energy at this time of year. These types of activities are also very helpful to relax the mind, calm our emotions and raise the spirit.
Importantly, winter is NOT the time to ignore our gut health. Slow cooked soups and stews are fantastic at this time of year; but do be mindful of how much pasta and other complex starchy carbohydrates you’re gravitating towards. Too much of a good thing can quickly turn into wind, bloating, constipation, weight gain and even worse, poor sleeping patterns.
Winter is also a time to create space for nurturing and nourishing activities at home.
Here are our five top warming tips for winter; to look after your body and soul throughout these cooler winter months.
- Eat delicious & nutritious foods to fuel your body. But, as mentioned, do consider the ‘heaviness’ of those warming foods. You could try this delicious, easy and nourishing spiced carrot, sweet potato and red lentil soup (see below).
- It’s time to get lots of sleep! That desire to hibernate is real because your body needs quality sleep and rest. It is so important. So before going to bed, turn the TV off, stop the scrolling, and put the phone down. Try to head to bed early. And, if you need a pre-sleep slow down try reading that book that’s been staring at you from your bedside table for months.
- Get outside and get some fresh air! While it can be chilly, just rug up and embrace the fresh feeling of the cool air on your face. Walk the dog, meet a friend, and make it a winter habit at least a few days each week.
- Keep the fluids intake up. Hydration is just as important in winter as any other season. Drink lots of water and try some of the beautiful herbal teas that are available. We love the range of teas and tisanes from Apotheca by Anthia, brought to you from naturopath Anthia Koullouros or Mayde Tea from Byron Bay; amongst many wonderful brands. Perhaps your local naturopath makes their own range too? Importantly, hydration is so important to helping with regular and healthy bowel movements. So don’t let this important habit slip.
- And finally, carve out some time for you! To avoid becoming run down, which is easy at this time of year, create some space to relax and unwind at home. It could be a lovely soak in the bath with some beautiful bath salts and essential oils, lying down with a face mask or just sitting in that sunny warm corner with a cup of tea (remember… hydration) and that book we mentioned above! Whatever it may be, find time at least weekly for a slow down or pamper ritual.
While it’s easy to feel unmotivated, tired, or lethargic check in with yourself and your gut and maintain a focus on you and your body to ride the winter months and be ready for that coming spring time renewal. It’ll be here before we know it.
And here’s that soup recipe we mentioned:
Spiced Carrot, Sweet Potato and Red Lentil Soup
2 tsp cumin seeds
Pinch of dried chilli flakes
1 tsp curry powder
1 onion, chopped
1-2 cloves of garlic, chopped
3-4 carrots (500g), roughly chopped
200g sweet potato
¾ cup (150g) red lentils, rinsed
4-6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
400ml coconut milk (optional)
Heat a large saucepan over low heat. Add cumin, chilli flakes and curry powder and cook, stirring, for 1 minute until fragrant.
Add the stock, onion, carrots, sweet potato and lentils and bring to the boil.
Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 15-20 minutes until vegetables are tender. Cool slightly, then puree using a stick blender until smooth. Add coconut milk if using.
Season with salt and pepper.