January can feel like a long month. We all want to jump into a new year full of energy and feeling great. The reality is the festive season may have left you feeling depleted. You over-indulged, your immune system is struggling and your energy is low. It’s time to nourish your body and boost your immunity; energise your body and calm your mind.
Adopting some key principles from Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine can restore your energies and set you on the right track for good health in 2020. January isn’t over yet . . . so now is a great time to make some lifestyle changes to make the most of your health. Below are my top 6 tips for a fast track to good health in 2020.
1. Get more Sleep
Everyone knows sleep is important for healing and recovery. Getting enough sleep helps us wake in the morning energised and with a clear head. In Chinese medicine when we sleep at night our Blood returns to our Liver to detoxify. This allows us to eliminate toxin build up and discard products and thoughts that do not serve us. Then on waking we feel refreshed and ready to eliminate waste products from our body. Our sleep health is most improved when we get to bed by 10pm. There is a tale that every hour sleep before midnight is worth 2 hours after!
2. Drink more Water
Don’t underestimate the importance of drinking enough water each day. Water keeps us hydrated, regulates our digestion and helps us to think clearly and stay alert. Drinking enough fluids can be difficult in cold wet weather when you don’t feel thirsty. Equally important to volume is the temperature of the water. It is best to avoid ice-cold and water from the fridge at this time of year. Aim instead to drink room temperature water or warm water. I wouldn’t increase your tea and coffee. Alternatives are fruit and herbal infusions or try something homemade bone broth or vegan “bone” broth as a warming drink.
Try changing the flavour of your water to a taste you enjoy. In the winter I add fresh ginger to my water. You can read more ideas to help you drink more water in my previous blog.
3. Eat well, Nourish your Body
January is the perfect time to revisit your Winter diet and focus on food that nourishes most at this time of year. Where possible eat locally produced food that is in season. Stay away from lots of salad at this time of year. Instead, aim to increase your vegetable intake. Soups and roast vegetables are a good way to do this. As fruit can be cold try cooking it and enjoy winter alternatives such as baked apples or poached pears.
For good health in the winter minimise damp and phlegm forming foods. Switch from bread & pasta to gains and rice. Bananas, cheese, yoghurts and milk can act as allergens and cause a build up of mucous. This in turn can lead to sinus problems and chest infections. Nourish your body with a slow cooked casserole, a warming stew or a tasty risotto.
Stop eating when you are no longer hungry rather than when you are full; it is good to stop eating when you’re around 80% full then wait for 20 minutes for your digestion to start working. You may be surprised after this pause you feel fuller than when you first finished your meal! To support your digestion, have your evening meal before 7pm or even earlier and don’t snack until breakfast the next day. Then as you sleep your body can work on healing and repair rather than breaking down and digesting food.
4. Cover your Neck
Please, please wrap up your neck in cold, windy weather. . .
In Acupuncture there is a particular energy channel that passes over your shoulders, neck and head. When this area is exposed to certain elements, wind, cold and dampness can enter your body and travel to a deeper level. This can lead to imbalance, compromise your immune system and result in poor health and illness.
Always wear a scarf or wear high neck jumpers to keep your neck and upper back covered. When sleeping with the window open for fresh air, avoid sleeping in a direct draft. Also, if you are taking a flight this winter and sitting directly under the air conditioner vent wrap your neck up to avoid cold air blowing straight onto your neck.
5. Keep Moving
When the weather isn’t so good, we tend to hunker down and become fairly dormant. The days are shorter and it becomes tempting to spend every weekend and evening relaxing on the sofa watching TV or surfing the internet – please don’t. It is easy to loose track of time and all of a sudden find you we have been sitting stationary all evening. Ideally we want to keep our energy moving during the day and evening so at bedtime we feel ready for our sleep.
It is important to unwind after a long day but also good to introduce some gentle activity in the evening. This prevents our energy from becoming stagnant and our digestion sluggish. Start a new routine and get some fresh air by taking a short walk (remember to keep your neck covered!!) or do some gentle exercises or stretches. Maybe use the evenings to tidy and sort those cluttered cupboards you have been avoiding? You could arrange to meet up with friends and maybe start a new hobby. Dance classes and community choirs are both really popular. They are a great way to keep your energy moving while having fun. Some of my patients food shop after dinner: they are not hungry so buy less junk food and ready snacks and in the evening the supermarket is quieter so less stressful and faster to get round!
6. Get Creative, Express Yourself
This tip ties in with the last. Screens take up so much of our time. The evening has gone before we know it and our minds are over stimulated straight before bed. Instead of watching screens to ‘unwind’ try being creative and let your mind unwind naturally. You will also find you get a better night sleep. Take time to read, draw or build something. This Christmas John Lewis saw their biggest increase in sales of Lego for grown-ups ever! Other options are to play games, listen to music or take a relaxing bath. The important thing is to schedule regular downtime where your body and mind can properly relax and unwind.
Here’s to a Happy, Healthy and Relaxed 2020!