December involves shopping, decorating, traveling, and other high-energy activity. Yet instead of having fun, we often end up feeling ill or even anxious. The reason, according to Taoist philosophy and traditional Chinese medicine, is that the action-packed schedules we keep at this time of year fall out of sync with the earth’s natural cycles.
We naturally have less energy to burn during the winter. So when we engage in behaviors more appropriate for summer—staying up late and dashing around town—it’s no wonder that the forced cheer of the holiday season can wear a bit thin.
Taoist philosophy conceptualizes universal balance in terms of yin and yang, complementary forces that govern the universe. Yin characteristics are cool, wet, slow, feminine, and quiet, whereas yang is the opposite: warm, dry, fast, masculine, extroverted. Winter, the yin season, is a time for storing and conserving energy in the way a bear retains fat by hibernating, or a farmer stores food for the cold months ahead.
In agrarian cultures, people spend the shortest, darkest days indoors by the fire, eating warm, slow-cooked, nourishing food and sharing stories with their families. The incongruity between winter’s restful, introspective, yin nature and the frenetic way many people spend their Christmas can contribute to seasonal affective disorder.
To stay balanced during winter be good to yourself. Try some restorative yoga, meditation and walking are best suited for yin season, as they safeguard your energy reserves.
Eating cooked, spicy yang foods provides another good way to replenish energy. Prepare yang-strengthening soups, slow-simmered stews, beans, roasted root vegetables, and warm drinks. Add yang spices such as garlic, ginger, black pepper, cloves, and basil to increase the warming effect.
Bring balance and you will have more energy to spend with close friends and family. The important part of Christmas.