How does winter make you feel? Cold, sad, nostalgic and in pain? Or energised, looking ahead and positive? The darker months of winter can bring on many emotions: it’s a time to look after ourselves in mind, body and spirit, to be ready for the year ahead.

In nature, winter is a time of rest and recuperation, a time to gather energy. Trees die back and rest, seeds and plants lie dormant and some animals hibernate. There is a feeling of slowing down.

In Chinese Medicine, winter is represented by the Water element, associated with the Kidneys and Bladder. Overwork and lack of sleep deplete Kidney energy, so it’s a good idea during these shorter days to make sure you take time to recharge yourself for the coming year.

At New Year, many people make resolutions to change something in their lives, such as taking up a new sport or giving up smoking. Maybe it’s something temporary, like a dry January. But it’s not always straightforward to make these changes, and if you’re already off course by February then it is easy to feel down about it. Try to make your resolutions achievable!

Of course, it may not be a new sport you’re thinking about. At this time of year, I see a lot of people who are finding it difficult to do what they really want to, whether it’s going for a run or simply walking on our lovely hills.

If you’re in this position, why not find out what Chinese Medicine has to offer? For example, Plantar Fasciitis can be a really painful and limiting condition. I treat it with Tuina massage as well as acupuncture. For many sports-related injuries, we can also look at cupping and Gua sha, and also tailored exercises to relax and strengthen the area.

Diet may also be important. In Chinese Medicine we recommend eating with the seasons. So, eating soups and stews and root vegetables that are available now will help nourish us and provide warmth. Small changes can make a big difference.

A few treatments, along with simple exercises and other lifestyle adjustments may be able to get you back on track for that sport or activity you love!

It’s not just physical problems that can affect us. Sometimes our emotions also become in need of balance. When treating for anxiety, stress or insomnia, for example, breathing exercises and Qi Gong can be helpful.

Here’s a simple but excellent breathing exercise you can try:

  • Breathe in through your nose to a count of 3
  • Hold for 4
  • Breathe out through your mouth to a count of 5

It’s as easy as 3 – 4 – 5 !

Finally, here’s a summary of how we can help ourselves in the winter months:

  • Eat with the seasons
  • Get out in the fresh air whenever you can
  • … but do protect the back of the neck (“Wind Gate” in Chinese Medicine)
  • When setting New Year Resolutions, make sure they are achievable
  • Get an early night and protect your Kidney Energy
  • Be kind to yourself and others
  • Seek help for any long-term issues that have been niggling in the last year