Lifestyle:

How To Keep Warm & Have a Win-Win-Winter

As a foreigner who moved to Melbourne partly because of what I perceive as a great climate, I’ve observed many Melbournians like to whine about winter and persistently deny that winter hits here once a year, every year! In spite of global warming, Melbourne winters probably aren’t going to disappear any time soon…so it’s time to start accepting and dealing with it’s annual return and the challenges it brings!

It seems the main challenges of winter are the cool weather, the darkness and the seemingly unavoidable common cold (so common we dedicated a separate blog post on how to combat it!).

Would you like winter more if you felt less cold? Or if the coldness you feel turned out to be a fair dinkum pathology (cause of disease) that could be treated?

What if I told you winter hibernation is good for your health and that you could fight both flues and frosty feelings by eating (the right) fabulous food?

Would you be interested in knowing more, possibly gain great health benefits both physically and mentally, and turn a seemingly wicked season into a win-win-winter?

If you do, read on for a few simple ideas on how to cope better with the coldness and darkness of the dreaded Melbourne winters…

Young woman shivering with cold

HOW TO KEEP YOUR COOL WITHOUT BEING COLD

If you don’t like the cold weather you have three obvious options:

  • Move to a warmer climate
  • Save up, plan ahead and escape winter with a holiday somewhere warm
  • Rug up!!!! Dress according to the weather any day and every day!! (We recommend wearing lots of layers you can peel off and put back on in sync with the constant changes Melbourne’s weather is so notorious for)

If only life was so simple, eh? What if you’re one of those people who just can’t warm up no matter how many layers you wear? According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) some people hate the cold so much because they ARE internally cold. ‘Internal coldness’ is considered pathological and a genuine disease pattern. Cold contracts, can cause stagnation and pain and affect everything from your immune system to joint and muscle aches, mental health, menstrual problems and fertility.

This undesirable pathological ‘internal coldness’ is usually a result of one or more of the following:

  • (Prolonged) exposure to cold (or wet) environments, such as swimming pools, cool rooms, sitting on cold surfaces, or working in drafty conditions (like that poor barista at the café window where you pick up coffee every chilly winter morning…)
  • Being under-dressed (midriffs and crop tops are a big no no!!)
  • Illness
  • Repeated courses of antibiotics
  • Genetics
  • Diet
Moxibustion

Warming up with moxibustion

WHY ACUPUNCTURE AND CHINESE MEDICINE IS SO ‘HOT’, especially in winter!

So the less obvious options on how to deal with coldness, whether pathological or not, is to eat suitably according to season and constitution, and to seek treatments to warm you up sufficiently from the inside. Chinese herbal medicine, acupuncture and moxibustion (a traditional warming technique) can all be great for doing just that. The acupuncture and moxibustion frees up the flow and circulation in your body and the herbs can help re-ignite your inner fire and warm the organs to improve all your bodily functions to strengthen you and improve your health (condition).

IS IT REALLY POSSIBLE TO EAT YOURSELF WARMER?

What you eat and drink can affect your temperature significantly. So yes, you can actually eat yourself warmer!

Traditional oriental beef broth with mushrooms

Eating and drinking cold and raw foods or icy drinks straight from the fridge requires your body to spend a lot of (unnecessary) energy warming the foods and drinks up to body temperature for digestion. By eating more cooked and warming foods and drinking warmer drinks (room temperature at least) you help your digestive system and your body immensely. Click here for inspiration and information on what and how to eat in winter for warmth.

WINTER DOESN’T HAVE TO BE A SAD SEASON

Does the darkness and the shorter days of winter tend to negatively affect your mood, motivation and energy levels? You’re not alone!
It is scientifically proven that humans require light (preferably natural light) to thrive, and that there’s a link between light exposure and lightness of being.

Young woman by window looking at the rainSadly many suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), a very real form of seasonal depression that needs to be addressed and treated appropriately in order to avoid developing into more chronic depression. (For more information on SAD click here or find out more about Chinese medicine for depression here). Part of the treatment for winter SAD is light therapy….

Even if you don’t suffer from SAD getting a good dose of daylight every day will brighten your mind and lift your energy. Getting enough exposure to light can be challenging when the days are short and you work long hours inside an office building or similar. Make it a priority to get the most out of every little break or opportunity in the day to either get outside or close to a window during daylight hours. It’s pretty simple ‘medicine’ and it works!

WHY WINDING DOWN COULD MAKE YOU A WINNER

By tuning into the natural flow of the seasonal changes, not fighting against the elements and instead working with them you’ll find you feel much better. It’s natural to require more sleep and to feel less motivated when it’s darker and colder. It’s nature’s way of telling you to slow down, rest, replenish and rejuvenate before spring comes. Winter is wind down time and the slowing down will do you good.

DARK BUT NOT DULL

It may be dark, but it doesn’t have to be dull! You can still exercise and still go out, be social and have fun. However, adjust your activities slightly, be smart when choosing venues, dress appropriately, reduce the vigour of your exercise and the exposure to the elements of winter weather.

Cozy winter nights are perfect for quiet and homely activities, cooking, cuddling, warm baths, gatherings of family and friends, and catching up on great books, movies and TV shows. What’s there not to like about that!!!!

Close-up of hands holding coffee cups in front of lit fireplace

Christina Tolstrup
Practitioner of Chinese medicine at Gardenvale Traditional Chinese Medicine
July 2015