Stay Healthy and Happy This Winter With Acupuncture

Winter is the season of retreat and rest, when the Yin (cold, night, female) is now dominant and Yang (hot, day, female) energy moves inward. The trees have lost their leaves; the animals hibernate through the long, dark winter days. Winter is a time of stillness and quiet.  However, the change of clocks, dropping temperatures and reduced time in the sunshine can cause ‘winter blues’ or Seasonal Affected Disorder (S.A.D) which affects around 2 million people in the UK.  When the sun is shining, people tend to feel more energetic.  Conversely, when it’s dark and gloomy, people seem to lack energy and feel less sociable.  Symptoms that are regularly reported are depression, difficulty concentrating, decreased libido, lethargy, cravings of carbohydrates and sweet foods with corresponding weight gain.


The cause of S.A.D is not fully understood, however it is thought that sunlight stimulates the hypothalamus part of the brain which controls serotonin production and effects our mood, appetite and sleep, in the winter this production is inhibited.  This is where acupuncture can come in as a great treatment during the winter months.  Studies indicate that acupuncture can have a specific positive effect on depression by altering the brain’s mood chemistry, increasing the production of serotonin and endorphins.  Acupuncture also increases white blood cells, boosting the immune system; which benefits everyone in the winter months and strengthens the body’s resistance to catching colds and flu.  Acupuncture works by regulating the meridians or channels of the body to unblock the stagnation of qi (energy), regaining balance and harmony within the body.


The liver acts as a mediator between external and internal environments and may need treating to ensure the smooth flow of qi throughout the body. Winter is the season related to the water element and the organs associated are the Kidneys and Bladder, both of which are sensitive to cold.  When the kidneys become deficient this can result in depression. When you come for an Acupuncture treatment no two people are ever treated the same and will be tailored to your individual needs. A full case history is taken regarding your presenting condition.  Ancient tongue and pulse diagnosis used for thousands of years will be used to determine how your body is functioning internally and where your imbalances lie.  Following the consultation, Chinese sliding cupping may be used if there is tightness or tension; common in the upper back, this is done using a delightful blend of chinese oils with an amazing aroma.  Cupping is extremely relaxing and releasing and patients love it.  Finally; small single-use disposable acupuncture needles are inserted into specific points using a guide tube.  The guide tube presses into the skin and de-sensitises the area making the experience pain-free, you may be asked it you notice a slight tingling, spreading or dull sensation which is a good sign the point is stimulated.  You will be left to rest and relax in a warm quiet environment while the needles do their job.  The experience is very relaxing and most patients full asleep, waking refreshed and energized. Dietary advice, herbs and exercise may also be recommended alongside the treatment.


Whilst at a dinner party I asked a table of people to show a hand if they suffered from ‘winter blues’…everyone rose! This led me to question what really makes people feel better in the winter.  Most important is exercise, keep moving, even if you don’t feel like it! Best of all take brisk walks for 30 minutes 5-7 days a week when there is the most sunlight; yoga and qi gong are also excellent forms of exercise for the cold winter months. A small amount of coffee in the morning moves liver qi, be careful as too much can stagnate, but this can just give you the warming feel good factor you need to get up and go. If you work in an office, try to sit near to a window where you can get the most of natural light.   Try changing your routine slightly by going to bed early and waking early so you can get the most of the daylight hours.  Stay positive by using visulisation or meditation to feel good, find what works for you.  Make sure you have things to look forward too, book that restaurant you’ve been meaning to go to or go and see that show!  If you feel you need something extra, go and speak to an advisor at your local health store for advice on supplements, St Johns Wort and 5HTP are well known for there feel good and serotonin boosting qualities. Lastly but most importantly enjoy the warmth of family and friend or any activity which brings ‘sunlight’ into your life, share warm, nourishing meals and a glass of wine, again in moderation, a small amount will warm and move for your qi.

Lily Bayliss on 08/01/2014

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