It’s that time of year when temperatures start to drop and the days get shorter and shorter. Even though it happens every year this way, we always seem surprised when it does. There are, though, some simple steps that we can take in order to avoid coming down with a cold or the flu, or just to make ourselves and our families feel more comfortable.
Many years ago, I came across and began to study ayurveda, the first holistic medical system that originated in India, thousands of years ago. (1) Much of today’s natural health practices stem from this original life science. I learned that incorporating some of these ideas into my lifestyle made for an easier transition from warmer to colder weather. The following describe some of the routine that I have assimilated into my daily life. Maybe they’ll help you, too.
In order for our lives to flow more smoothly, it helps to follow Nature’s natural rhythms. Sometimes it may help to look at lifestyles from long ago to see how we can best adjust to the changes that winter brings. Keeping warm and dry, especially when outside; getting more sleep (after all, the nights are longer;) exercising only during daylight hours, are ideas borrowed from times past. Using full-spectrum lights that simulate the sunshine that our bodies and minds are missing, can also help. Daily massage with warming essential oils such as clove and cinnamon can add to one’s level of comfort. (2)
Something as simple as eating only warm foods during the cold weather made a big difference with how comfortable I felt. It’s rarely a good idea to eat or drink cold foods, especially icy cold ones, but it can bring problems for some people, especially during cold weather. According to ayurveda, this is the Vata time of year which is cold and dry. Vata is balanced with warm and heavy, which is why stews and braised dishes seem so appealing when the weather gets cold, compared to salads or ice cream which appeal to us during summer, the hot Pitta time of year. (The third period of the year is Kapha, which is cold and wet and occurs during spring.)
It always amazes me what type of food Nature produces at this time of year: root veggies such as potatoes, carrots, beets, garlic, and onions; cabbage, winter squash, apples, and pears that can be easily stored throughout the winter. These are the foods that we should be eating rather than the summer fruit coming to us now from the southern hemisphere, where they are moving into summer. I find it very difficult to eat salads during winter, although others don’t seem to have a problem at all. I can digest lacto-fermented vegetables such as raw sauerkraut and pickles quite well, and I gravitate toward these during the colder months. (3) (We should eat some raw food at each meal in order to add enzymes that will help us digest our food.)
This is also the time that I increase my use of warming spices such as: ginger, cinnamon, clove and nutmeg in my cooking and baking.
Some simple ways of building immunity that I use during the colder months include taking supplemental garlic and using more garlic, chiles, and onions in my cooking, in the soups and stews that I tend to cook more of these days. I also take cod liver oil to provide extra Vitamins A and D. This was an old-time practice in northern Europe as eggs, which are a main source of A and D, were harder to come by during the winter months. Chickens raised in a natural manner will stop laying eggs sometime between November and the end of January as they molt their feathers.
Following a hot shower with a cold one immediately afterward, can really boost a sluggish immune system. Alternate back-and-forth between the two, as time allows. Daily massage with immune boosting essential oils is very comforting along with thinking healthy, warm thoughts. If feeling cold is truly making you feel uncomfortable, say after a huge drop in temperature, visualize warmth surrounding you and coursing through your veins.
The change of seasons can come as a shock at times, especially when the temperatures drop all of a sudden, but there are things that we can do to help make the transition an easier one.
Knowing steps that you can take and then assimilating them into your lifestyle, can help you and your family learn to enjoy and appreciate winter more, or at least, not to dread it.
(1) For more information on ayurveda, see MAPI.com
(2) Do not handle essential oils without being familiar with their use. You could research them online or consult with the staff of a health food store that carries them.
By Kathleen Rafter
Kathleen Rafter is a natural health practitioner. She conducts one-on-one health-related consultations, workshops, seminars, and cooking lessons. She has also appeared on WZZM with Valerie Lego. She lives in Rockford, Michigan with her husband, Jack, and their twelve year old son, Patrick. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.