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Updated: Dec 9, 2022

»... here it is: my winter. It's an open invitation to transition into a more sustainable life and to wrest back control over the chaos I've created. It's a moment when I have to step into a solitude, and into contemplation …« Katherine May, Wintering

The ancient Chinese believed that we should live in harmony with the natural cycles of their environment in order to stay healthy. By changing our habits with the seasons, we can help our bodies and minds to stay healthy and strong throughout each season.


The Winter has started. The energy of Winter is deep and potent. There is little or no growth, a time of waiting, resting and hibernating. Winter represents the most Yin aspect in Chinese medicine as it is the coldest time of the year. Yin is dark, cold, slow, stable and grounding. Yin draws our energy inward. The cooler, shorter and darker days invite us to a meditative space to rest more and reflect. In other words, winter is the best season to slow down and conserve our energy.


In the Five Element Theory, Winter is ruled by the Water element. The movement of Water is inwards. Water is indestructible, it can transform from liquid to solid state and gas, and in all its forms reveals its power! It is the most adaptable element and it appears in the form of its container - whether it be a river, lake, ocean, or a cup of tea, a bath, a swimming pool. In the body, Water refers to all the moisture. Water is also thought of as the opposing principle to Fire - Water's Yin to Fire's Yang.


Water is associated with the Kidneys and Urinary Bladder that need to be nourished during Winter. The Kidneys are considered the source of all energy (Qi) within the body and the "root of life". They store all of the reserve Qi in the body so that it can be used in times of stress and change, or to heal, prevent illness, and age gracefully. Thus, it’s essential that we take this time to replenish our resources that have been used throughout the year.

The best way to do this is through balance between rest and work, avoiding strenuous physical exercise (especially outside), protecting our bodies from cold, eating nourishing foods for this season and for Kidneys.


In Chinese medicine, each season corresponds to a certain emotion. FEAR is the emotion associated with Winter and the Water element. When our Water element is out of balance, we may feel fear in different ways. For example, we can be overly alert, have negative expectations that lead to anxiety and, in extreme cases, to paranoia. Fear is deep, visceral and is physically felt in the lower part of the body, affecting the low back, pelvis and legs. In case of extreme fear, a person can lose control of bladder.

All humans experience fear occasionally. It is a normal and natural response to danger or threat that has helped us survive as species. However, when fear becomes extreme, then it indicates an imbalance in the Water element (Kidney Qi).


We can support our body in Winter by eating appropriate foods. Some recommendations for winter diet:

* Enjoy soups, stews and warm porridge (rice, buckwheat, oat).

* Garnish your food with goji berries, walnuts and black sesame seeds.

* Include energetic, warming foods such as anchovies, bay leaves, chestnuts, chicken, fennel, leeks, mussels, mutton, nutmeg, pine nuts, and sweet potatoes.

* Use warming spices, like garlic, ginger, and cardamom.

* Millet, sesame seeds, kidney beans, lamb, beef, goose, duck, eggs, grains, seeds and nuts are all good tonics for the Kidneys.

* Bone broth is another important food to consume during the winter months, as it supports the bones and the Kidneys.

* Salted foods should be decreased because the Kidneys are affected by salt.

* Choose foods that are dark in color (the color of water element is dark blue or black), or have kidney shape, such as beans.


Although Winter is a time of rest, it is also important to stay active enough to keep the spine and joints warm. I like to practice pilates flow, stretching, yoga, qi gong, or go for a walk, preferably something different every day. It's really worth to keep the discipline, even if it is just for 15 minutes per day.

Winter is time for internal work as your Qi is deep inside. Take more time for self-reflection. Meditation, journaling, or reading are great winter activities.

As an ex-librarian and a book lover, I would like to conclude this writing by giving you a recommendation for a nourishing winter reading: a novel by Katherine May WINTERING - The power of rest and retreat in difficult times.

»More than any other season, winter requires a kind of metronome that ticks away its darkest beats, giving us a melody to follow into spring. The year will move on either way, but by paying attention to it, feeling its beat, and noticing the moments of transition – perhaps even taking time to think about what we want from the next phase in the year – we can get the measure of it. If we resist the instinct to endure those darkest moments alone, we might even make the opportunity to share the burden, and to let a little light in.« Katherine May, Wintering

Happy Winter!


J. Kirkwood. 'The Way of the Five Elements.' (2016)

Ted J. Kaptchuk. 'The Web thathas no Weaver.' (2000)

#winter #health #tcm #restandrestore


The featured photographs are by my friend Anja Benedik, taken in a magical nature in Slovenia

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