We’re delighted to welcome Julia Richards as a creative contributor for Viva70. Recently, I spent a lovely weekend with Julia in Yorkshire where she lives with her family. She moved there nearly 20 years ago from Sydney, Australia. With views of the green rolling hills of Yorkshire, over dinner and a glass of wine our conversation turned to things Wellness. Julia is a qualified medical herbalist, a deep and insightful coach and as she recently touched 50, a woman entering life in later years….. perfect! Here’s Julia’s article about harnessing the energies of winter to help create health and happiness.
In the Southern hemisphere, it’s wintertime. This means shorter days, less light, colder temperatures and damper air. In nature everything has slowed down and withdrawn. Some animals are hibernating and plants are directing energy into their roots. This stillness means it’s a perfect time for redirecting your own energy inwards, getting better rest and reflecting deeper. The respite allows for new growth in spring. The heaviness of the weather is often reflected in our body as congestion, with colds and flu forcing you to slow down. However, if you align your tasks, environment, diet, exercise and mind-set as to the energy of winter, you can recharge, prevent the winter blues and feel healthy. Take a slow deep breath and breathe out – ahhhhh. It’s time for R&R.
Work and Life Projects
As plant roots are going deep into the ground to find nutrients for spring growth, you too need to feed your personal and professional growth. Our western culture praises constant productivity, however, the gifts of winter are to pause, rest, and re-evaluate for better creativity and productivity in the spring and summer when you will feel more energised to implement ideas. The diagram shows the main energy and activities for each season.
Things to do:
Create time in your schedule for your personal / professional growth
Use the quietness of winter to discover more about yourself, others and the world around you.
Read more books, listen to podcasts, watch TED talks and attend events that lift the spirits and stimulate new thoughts. My favourite feel good podcasts are Good Life Project and Oprah Super Soul Conversations.
Ruminate on the questions below. Take your time: you have all winter. Get your thoughts written down in a beautiful notebook or recorded on your phone. Alternatively reflect upon them in the bath or walking in nature, or discuss them with a good friend / colleague / coach.
|What’s working and what’s not in the different areas of your life? Consider: commitments; work; hobbies & activities; health; relationships; home
What can you stop doing / start doing / keep the same?
Can you create more balance in your life by letting go of some things and increasing others?
How will you focus your energy in spring? What seeds do you want to plant now for growth?
Create cosy gatherings with friends and family
Winter afternoons and evenings are ideal to develop relationships with those you like, care about and find interesting. Keep things simple and relaxed. Use the pot luck method and ask each person to bring a dish or beverage. After wards, reflect on what you have learnt from other people’s perspectives.
Your environment can affect your mood and productivity. Winter is about creating a cosy cave to nurture yourself and others.
Things to do:
Ensure good light because it wakes you up and boosts your mood. Open the curtains and turn lights on as soon as you wake up. Keep your environment light and bright during the day.
Use candles or fires because the flickering light and warmth is calming and relaxing. Use beeswax candles as these release negative ions to clear the air of mould spores, bacteria and viruses.
Use colour by replacing some of your summer blues and greens with reds, yellows and oranges to feel warmer and boost your mood. Think pillows, quilts, plants, place settings and clothes. Black also induces calmness to an energetic house or person.
Use circles to promote harmony. Introduce spotty fabrics, oval or round cushions, rugs and mirrors.
Play sounds that are soft and rhythmic to put you in a reflective mood. A white noise machine or a recording of waves is soothing.
Block distractions by turning off your devices and phone and keeping clocks and watches out of site for a few hours a day to promote calmness.
The best foods for winter are hot and expansive to warm and nourish. Think stews, casseroles, dried / cooked fruits, beans and pluses.
Things to do:
Root vegetables (beetroot, sweet potatoes, celeriac, radish, swedes, parsnips, carrots, potatoes) to get the vitamins and minerals you need for a healthy winter. Google recipes with these vegetables in and try out some new dishes.
Citrus fruits and Broccoli and Cauliflower for a Vitamin C boost.
Porridge because it is high in zinc for enhanced immunity.
Herbs that bring blood to the surface of the skin to warm your body. These are usually also antimicrobial to help fight winter infections and good for the digestion which is often sluggish in winter. Add ginger; coriander; cinnamon (also regulates blood sugar); cardamom and nutmeg (also open the respiratory passages to clear mucus); garlic; and peppermint (also soothes aches and pains) to your dishes.
To maintain health over winter try Golden Milk.
To help ease colds try an herbal tea with any combination of the following: elderflower, elderberry, peppermint, yarrow; and ginger. Add some lemon and local honey.
Exercise and Self-Care
Things to do:
Exercise in winter is important as it releases endorphins in the body which trigger positive feelings therefore helping prevent winter depression. It also keeps your immune system working efficiently.
Exercise inside if the weather is bad. Find a class online or borrow DVDs from the library.
Exercise outside when you can to absorb some Vitamin D. It promotes bone health and boosts immunity. A simple brisk walk is all you need.
Indulge in more baths for rest, reflection and relaxation. Add warming essential oils to the bath in a carrier oil (such as almond, jojoba, olive) or diffuse them in an oil burner. Try sandalwood, cedar wood and sage. If you have a cold, try thyme, rosemary, eucalyptus, tea tree, marjoram and oregano for their anti-viral and sinus clearing properties.
Get more sleep in winter. The Nei Ching (oldest known Chinese medicine document) advises that we should go to bed earlier and rise late in the morning when the sun does. Even if you can’t do this all the time due to commitments you might be able to try one to two days per week. It will help keep you in tune with the energy of winter.
Watch this space for tips on how to work with the other seasons as they emerge.
Written by Julia Richards, Medical Herbalist and Learning Consultant at enhanceone.com
Julia Richards is a qualified Medical Herbalist and Director of Enhance One Limited, a consultancy passionate about helping individuals, groups, families, communities and organisations be the best they can be physically, mentally and emotionally. To achieve this, Julia uses a holistic approach to help you enhance yourself by drawing on her experience and studies in personal development, life coaching, aromatherapy, nutrition, herbal medicine and other wellbeing techniques. Julia helps you design a wellbeing plan that is unique to you and works in a complementary way with your doctor or any other therapist you are seeing to help you make improvements in your health. Julia offers individual consultations and group workshops. She can be contacted via the website. Julia lives in Yorkshire, UK.