Fortunately (you will understand why I say this later), this cold fall season has turned quickly into something colder and winter-ier. As this happens take a little mental note right now. What emotions do you notice around this topic? I’m not talking about the potential feelings of having family events soon for the holidays. I’m talking about the words…
Do you feel:
Joy / Appreciation / Delight
Fear / Anticipation / Agitation
It is human nature to commiserate with each other whenever we can. It brings a small group into unity under an idea or value. In Chicago, we tend to collectively enjoy this bonding over being, well, basically frustrated and upset that this season is upon us. While it’s an attempt at a group harmony, and a natural reaction to a winter experience in a city that does not have much value for snow beyond traffic, it is important to think about your holistic view of health in body and mind in your approach.
Chinese medicine teaches us that every emotion has an energy imprint associated with it. When we read your pulse, look at your tongue and ask you questions and hear your symptoms we are evaluating that “energy” and its effects on the body and mind. And I am here to tell you, those little things we do every day add up. I see it on my treatment table every week.
I know we have reason to be concerned about the weather. A cold snap can tighten the body and the snow here often turns to street mush. As you may have guessed, the emotions associated with Fear / Anticipation / Agitation are quite a bit more harmful than those or Joy / Appreciation / Delight although to be honest the Eastern philosophy wants a balance of them all and don’t chase joy around either necessarily. However, frustration and anger every time you look at the weather report for 6 months out of the year.
So my question to you is, what if we did not experience frustration automatically for all the months that we have winter? Who would we be and would we want to be that person more? What symptoms may get better in ourselves and what may open up?
I am like everyone else. I suffer from dreading the winter snap and I feel that I can lose half the year waiting for warm weather again.
Think about the American winter schedule. We have something possibly look forward to or get stressed about at the end of November with Thanksgiving, depending how well we get along with family.
Then we have Hanukkah sometime around then and Christmas in December.
Wait for the start of spring which can be May or even June for it to truly warm up in Chicago. That is 5-6 months where the main feeling is frustration I would say and nothing cultural as a celebration of the season to celebrate anymore. We are not setting ourselves up for success if you ask me.
I often aim do a creative project to come out of winter with something, but this year I decided I want to do more for my health.
So for inspiration I tend to look at other cultures and aim to understand how they have approached a topic.
Other countries do things differently, through culture, philosophies, collective insight, through survival instincts. So I am looking north to places that actually dare I say ENJOY the winter. Even when it’s dark – a lot – and for a loooong time.
Turns out a researcher, Kari Leibowitz, went to Norway to find out why a country that has at some points 24 hours of darkness, does not seem to suffer from what we like to call this concern: Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD).
What this researched asked was “Why do you think your country does not suffer from Seasonal Affect Disorder as much as other places?”
“Why should we?”
Norway has some key ideas to take away. Here are the tips.
Tip #1: Aim to enjoy more than endure.
What I take from this is that they have many mini holiday and social events linking them to their community and the more beautiful parts of winter. (The snow, the coziness, the fireside warmth, the glogg )
This is simply something that one can adjust by perhaps creating your OWN holiday in between – I plan to treat it like I would summer. Get a vacation or stay-cation weekend and appreciate the weather or the mood, or if its truly harsh outside, enjoy the vibe of being cozy inside. The point is to take time. Celebrate the season more often, and without the holiday or family stressors.
Tip #2: Get your Cozy on and Create Your Own Winter Community.
Norwegians also have the word “koselig”, which means a sense of coziness. We may escape into netflix binging but I want to point out that often this word also is associated with being in evoked in groups – similar to what happens if you camp out with people and bundle up when its colder out at night.
So they don’t tend to do this alone. They have many mini festivals and social gatherings to maximize the fun. Check out this simple wonderful winter activity that is one of my favorites – a Soup Swap where everyone brings some soup and every one walks away with 6 or more different soups to enjoy the rest of the winter and a festive cozy time is had in the process. You can set one up for your and your local community of friends and neighbors!
Tip #3 Get Out and In It.
Find the right gear and get dressed appropriately and check it out outside! Even when it is dark out there is an appreciation for the lighting and winter weather in Norway.
We tend to curse the wind. And it can howl at us. But it is also a powerful experience and if dressed right can be invigorating. And if that is too much
perhaps a trip somewhere calmer where you can enjoy the winter in a more serene way is best. The city may not always seem pretty but if you take time you can find it.
I plan on doing something more outdoors this winter. I went skiing last year for the first time in 25 years and I hope to be able to perhaps snow ski also somewhere along the lake. Maybe find a cozy cottage and enjoy some winter walks around some beautiful trees. I even found a tree house Air BnB that looks like a fun winter getaway to appreciate nature within.
Tip #4 – Get your Herbs Game On.
This one has to do with something I know Chinese culture figured out. They have amazing anti-viral herbs for colds and flu. We have antibiotic medication. Colds and flus are often viruses. So it makes sense to practice the Chinese methods. It’s as simple as that. You can beat back a cold before it even gets started.
Please feel free contact me as soon as or before you get a cold or the flu so I can try to help you with Chinese herbal medicine and a treatment and you can often prevent or cut short a cold.
Chinese culture celebrates nature deeply but has warnings about the cold. The fall early winter is also a time when the Lungs are energetically not at their peak and so upper respiratory issues come quickly. Never fear, because of this some of the earliest classical Chinese medicine texts evolved out of a desire to combat winter colds and flu. I have many herbal formulas in easy tincture or pill form that can help you stave off a cold before it even gets going, seriously. Truly amazing stuff and enough information for another email.
Learn more here:
Be well until then!
Mitch Harris LAc
P.S. Don’t forget, initial consultations are always free. Come on in, meet with me, and see if my personal blend of holistic medical services are a good fit for you or someone you care about.