An article on Seasonal Affect Disorder might seem a little late, since the days are getting longer and we are all looking forward to Spring and, soon after, Summer. Truth is that the lack of sun can get us down, especially in Portland and Seattle where we get plenty of overcast sky for nine months of the year.
Chinese Medicine places us in the context of nature where the cycle of the seasons means everything. We’re supposed to bundle up in the Fall because our immune system isn’t ready for the cold weather – this is why flu season starts in the Fall. It’s also important to keep warm in the Winter because our bodies expend a lot of energy keeping us warm when it’s cold out. When it’s cold, our immune system doesn’t have as much energy to defend the body as it does in the Summer. It’s even worse in modern times because we don’t sleep that extra time in the Winter anymore. Do you know anyone who sleeps at sunset and wakes at dawn? Me neither.
Chinese Medicine supports seasonal eating as well. Eating lots of fruits and vegetables in the Summer is great, but if you eat the same thing in Winter (shipped from California or Chile) that’s going to be a whole lot of cold to dampen your digestive fire, which may be in short supply because of the cold weather outside. Better to eat colder food in the Summer and warmer food in the Winter like soups and broths. Eat your vegetables and fruits cooked in the Winter – the nutrients are more bio-available this way anyway!
If you’re not feeling well this time of year (and especially in the darkest of December) spend more time outside and get a happy light (full spectrum light). Since we don’t get enough sun in the Winter, you still might want to take some Vitamin D until the sun visits us again on a regular basis. Yes, we are a thoroughly modern society, but nature and the seasons still effect us; let’s stay healthy!