State of Liberty online wellbeing retreats are inspired by nature and aligned with the seasons.
In Chinese Medicine there are five seasons: spring, summer, late summer and autumn and winter. Each season supports, nourishes and prepares the body for the next season, creating a constant cycle of wellbeing. In line with this, we offer five seasonal retreats per year and share simple self-care techniques to help you integrate wellbeing into your everyday life.
Today, I’m going to hand you over to Gemma David, our seasonal living expert…
Living with the Seasons
Living in harmony with nature and the seasons is a fundamental element of many ancient philosophies. Classical texts illustrate the importance of following the natural rhythms and cycles of our planet to support balance in our bodies and minds.
In Chinese Medicine, Yin Yang theory describes the flow of energy throughout the day, months and year. Yin traditionally represents female energy (stillness, cold, quiet, night, the moon) while Yang symbolises masculine energy (movement, heat, activity, day, the sun). Our circadian rhythms compliment this flow, but culturally, as we have moved towards an urbanised 24-hour lifestyle, many of us find ourselves suffering from the symptoms of imbalance.
In addition to Yin and Yang Theory, Five Element Theory is used to measure the internal journey of life and human activity in relation to the natural rhythms of nature. Each season correlates to the elements of wood, fire, earth, metal, and water, and illustrates their interconnected nature. Each element also has an dominant organ, colour, emotion and taste connected to it.
Together with the theory of Yin and Yang, the cycle of Five Elements guides us towards living a life that is harmonious with nature, and one that we can use as a foundation for good health.
Chinese Medicine does not generalise with health; you are seen as an individual with unique characteristics of Yin and Yang. However, when you are unwell, this balance is affected. One of the easiest ways to maintain health is to observe and connect to the natural rhythms of your environment.
If you practise eating seasonally and follow rituals that ease you gently into the energy of each new season, your individual energy and emotions will also become more stable; life will feel better.
Winter is the time of full Yin and symbolises both endings and beginnings. The element is water, which in its Yin state represents absolute rest, passivity and receptivity. However, there is also a creativity to water as it is vital to the survival of every living thing.
As a season, this is when we follow our natural urge to move inwards, both physically and mentally, allowing ourselves to reflect the nature of the season. It should be a period of rest and restoration which is vital in the cycle of life. If we do not rest sufficiently in winter, we will be deficient of the Yang energy required for the natural surge of spring.
The kidneys are the organs that represent winter. In Chinese Medicine, they are believed to hold our most fundamental energy, our Yin and Yang. They receive energy from the lungs and hold it, using it to fuel most of the organs in our body. Balanced kidneys allow us to feel a strength and connection to ourselves. We will feel resilient and have a good awareness of our energy resources. If there is imbalance in water, there will be fear and a lack of inner strength. We will feel a lack of creativity and find reaching out for help difficult, other symptoms may include lower back ache, insomnia, excess grey hair, urinary tract infection, infertility or ear/hearing problems.
When the water element is strong we are able to show compassion, love and respect to others, and crucially, ourselves.
Observe your own internal flow or connection to the rhythm of life. Do you make enough time for your own pleasure? Think of this as vitamin P, as essential as all the other vitamins.
Accept the slowness of the season and prepare the home and your environment for comfort and rest.
Light up your life with candles, fires and fairy lights.
Diffuse oils; eucalyptus, clove and orange are all good for this time of year or the SOL Winter Blend, a combination of frankincense, patchouli and petitgrain, assists in calming the mind and is great for relaxation, sleep and meditation, but also has just enough zing to get you motivated throughout the colder, darker months.
Eat warm, nourishing foods; soups and stews are essential for winter.
Stay hydrated; there is no defined amount that we must drink each day, but make a conscious effort to have water or herbal teas.
Exercise moderately and practice yoga.
Journal and reflect on the previous year and set some intentions for the year to come.
Try to keep your feet and chest warm and covered at all times.
Bathe often in warm water with magnesium salts.
Connect with people – personally. Meet friends for tea and have hearty suppers at home.
Practise mindfulness meditation. Just five minutes daily will have such a positive impact on your wellbeing.
Water and Food
The water element manifests in salty foods, which are best eaten when water is overactive, during times of fear or anxiety, and during winter. Salty foods help support the kidneys and bladder by regulating water metabolism. Small amounts moderate the water element, although larger amounts weaken it.
Try incorporating the following foods into your winter diet. Aim for plenty of seasonal fruit and vegetables and a small amount of salty food.
Salty Foods – Salt, seaweed, and tamari sauce
Salty and Sweet Foods – Brown rice, millet and miso
Vegetables – Mushrooms, squash and beans
Fruits – Apples and pears
Drink plenty of water, filtered or spring. Use cooking methods like boiling, steaming and poaching, cook foods for longer, at lower temperatures.
Generally, eat heartier and warmer meals with a mindful helping of salty foods.
Most importantly be kind to yourself, schedule in time for rest and enjoy slow and cosy days.
Lizzie will be sharing some winter recipes over the next couple of weeks.
You can find our ‘Winter Wellbeing Tool Kit’ here.
Love Lizzie, Gemma and the SOL team xx