Welcome to January! For many the start of the new year is a time to start something new in their lives. Though this is an admirable ideal, most new years resolutions, especially those involving drastic exercise regimes or diets, only last a couple of weeks. Is this lack of resolve due to weakness on the part of the resolver? Generally, no.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, winter is a time when energy moves deep into the core of the body. It is natural for our limbs to be cooler, our energy levels to be lower, for it to be a little harder to wake in the morning, and for a little bit of extra weight to settle on our frames. In essence our bodies naturally want to hibernate. During this time of year our bodies are using that deep energy to heal and repair injuries from the previous year, solidifying ideas and goals that we put into place and planning for new goals when the weather warms. And there is the crux, the body doesn’t want you doing anything extreme during this time as it disrupts its natural winter processes.
Keeping the energy flows of the body in mind, the following are some things that the body would really rather not try to do in the winter and therefore make poor choices for resolutions.
- Starting a new exercise routine
- Starting a weight loss program
- Doing cleanses or fasts
- Giving up a long standing vice like smoking or drinking
- Making dietary changes that involve eliminating heavier foods like meat or bread
All of the above examples are asking your body to moving energy outward, away from the core. If you have been exercising already, keeping the routine going in the winter is ok, though you might want to be a little gentler or slower in your routine. Losing weight is asking your body to shed during a time it is trying to hold, same holds for cleansing and fasts. Many people complain of being cold while trying to diet in the winter, this is a good example of the body using its reserves to shed rather than generate warmth. Giving up a vice can often put your body into a mild purge state as the body begins to heal from any damage that the vice caused. Again this holds for giving up heavier foods as they tend to slow digestion so that we absorb more nutrients in the winter, removing them accelerates digestion and can stimulate purging.
In nature, many plants need the long cold winter to allow seeds to germinate so they can put forth new growth in the spring, our bodies are much the same. If we think of our bodies as seeds, winter becomes a time to plan, to set goals for later in the year, to germinate new ideas. Spring is an excellent time to do many of the activities listed under the Don’t section for winter as the energies of Spring want to move outward and expand.
Winter is also a time when the deep energies of the Kidney nourish the brain and mind, this makes winter and excellent time to start a new hobby or learn a craft. It is also and excellent time to start a meditation practice as the inward movement of the energies matches perfectly with the inward actions of meditation.
Though winter is not a time to start a vigorous workout regime, it is important to keep moving. Because the energies of the body are so deep, it is easier for stagnation to occur. Gentle walking or Qi Gong are excellent in the winter and of course energetic bodywork and acupuncture are great ways to keep energy moving as well.
To summarize resolutions that are good to make at New Years
- Make goals for the New Year
- Plan your Spring cleanse or new Spring work out schedule
- Start a hobby or craft
- Begin meditating
- Begin daily walking or Qi Gong
- Get regular bodywork or acupuncture
And a final thought on any new embarkation, in the words of the Buddha as he was preparing his disciples for his departure from this world “Just do your best”. Happy New Year!