A time to reflect and ground into one’s center, harvesting the fruits of the seeds planted earlier in the year…
For part one in the series: Preparing for Winter, from herbalist and wellness expert, Danny Kahn.
As nights grow longer from the autumnal equinox, we prepare our minds for the absorption of what has been developing throughout spring and summer. It is a time to reflect and ground into one’s center, harvesting the fruits of the seeds planted earlier in the year and assimilating the contents into the unconscious mind, which will come to serve as freshly nourishing soil from which to sprout ever more healthy and bountiful growth. Thus the primary focus of winter is to create a foundation to build from. The first step in preparing for the winter months is to recognize that the body and mind are inseparable. They are an integrated pair, the states of which reflect each other as one unified whole. It follows to say that in order to maintain a steady mind, we must maintain a steady body. This becomes challenging while transitioning to winter as it grows cold and our bodies become more susceptible to outside intruders. But we can transition smoothly into the winter season, and the first phase begins with addressing a few key aspects of nutrition.
Refine your diet.
First and foremost, there is no replacement for a diverse and nutrient rich diet. Take special care to ensure adequate amounts of all your vitamins and minerals (and lots of water!), and take note of those that have a special affinity for the immune system: zinc, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin D. It is also very beneficial to eat cooked food as opposed to raw, as it takes less energy to digest, and helps your body to stay grounded, and your mind to stay centered.
Nourish your immune system.
Astragalus is a catalyst of immunity power. It is essentially food for your bone marrow, which is the core of your immune system. It provides nourishment to, and actually increases the number of stem cells in the marrow! Use astragalus to build up the walls and actively prevent attack from intruders. Another active prevention measure is medicinal mushrooms such as chaga, cordyceps, reishi, shiitake, and turkey tail. These all have their own specific use cases; however, their beta-glucan content serves as extremely powerful allies in the immune system.
Maintain consistent heat circulation.
Diaphoretic herbs are those which spread heat throughout the body. This can happen by either actively stimulating the radiation from center outwards, or by relaxing tension that is interfering with the circulation. Drinking a tea with a balance of stimulating and relaxing diaphoretic herbs is a great way to ensure every nook and cranny of your body is accounted for. A chai tea with cinnamon and ginger is especially stimulating, while adding a bit of elderflower will put just the right amount of mild relaxation to loosen up the pipes and complement that stimulation produced from the warming chai spices.
Sustain your energy.
If you’re the type that gets especially low energy during the winter, consider making a drink with cacao. The high quantities of theobromine will activate the body and mind, helping you to pierce through the often heavy weight that is synonymous with the winter months. Incidentally, cacao is also a great source of magnesium which, along with B vitamins, are crucial for maintaining a steady, stress-free mind and body.
All of the physical preparation has to happen concurrently with mental stability. Allow winter to be your reference point to reach back into your sense of calm. Just as music would be nothing without the contrast of silence, finding this stillness will act as a point of reflection coming into the new year, and the new seeds you plant come spring will reach even greater heights. For part two of the series, I will be addressing the next phase in preparing your mind and body for winter. Stay tuned next week…
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Lead image by Dane Bourdo.