5 Ways Chinese Medicine Can Help with the Winter Blues

By Tracey Dwight /

5 Ways Chinese Medicine Can Help with the Winter Blues

Are you looking forward to an extra hour of sleep this weekend? The short term benefits of gaining an extra hour may not outweigh the long term implications of this weekend's time change: shorter days can be challenging for many people, especially for those of us further away from the Equator.

Studies show that there are health implications to Daylight Savings Time and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine has called to end DST, writing that “seasonal time changes should be abolished in favor of a fixed, national, year-round standard time.”

While in the spring the major concern is loss of sleep, in the fall the main concern is mental health. Losing an hour of afternoon daylight after setting the clocks back can trigger mental illness, including bipolar disorder, and seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also known as winter depression.

  • A Danish study found an 11% increase in depression cases after the time change.
  • An Australian study found that male suicide rates increased the days after both the spring and fall DST shift.

If you struggle with the shorter days and winter blues, here are 5 ways Chinese medicine can help:

1) Acupuncture

If you find yourself feeling out of balance during the short days and feeling the effects of seasonal change, your acupuncturist will address the root of your imbalance rather than treating the symptoms. Next year, start treatments during the summer, which allows your practitioner to break up the patterns so they are reduced or even eliminated before the problematic season arises.

2) Yin Now, Yang Later

Go to bed earlier so you can wake up with the sun earlier, and leverage as much sunlight as possible during the day. Work next to a window. If you live where it’s cold, bundle up and get outside for a brisk walk during the day. Think about how you can align your day so you can be on the end of as much sunlight as possible. Channel your inner sunflower: face the light.

3. Align Your Day with the Chinese Medicine Clock

In common western life, we don’t pay much attention to the clock. Especially now that we are staying home more than ever throughout the pandemic, work, school, and home life are all blended together. If you’re feeling like your life is reactive as opposed to proactive, you’re probably not wrong -- or alone. When you’re home, you’re more likely to eat if you’re hungry, not necessarily because it's meal time.  Exercise may be squeezed in a break between meetings. You may work into the evening hours, especially if you’re supporting kids who are distance learning. 

The Chinese medicine clock can help you re-sync your day, even during these strange and challenging times. Aligning our hectic modern-day lives to these ancient clocks takes work, but can lead to a lifetime of good health. Choosing specific mealtimes, creating a proper sleep cycle, and timing your activities can help you to restore your balance and improve your health - which is even more important than ever. Acupuncturist Jen Ward explains the Chinese Medicine Clock in more detail in this article.

4) Eat Warming Foods

Consuming foods that are cold and raw makes your body work harder, expending energy that should be conserved during the winter months. Lightly cook your vegetables, incorporate soups, stews, and warming spices into your diet will keep your stomach at 100 degrees and support your “middle burner.” Additionally, eat a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, proteins, and whole grains to get your vitamins and minerals, and supplement if necessary (especially Vitamin D, which so many lack).

5) Herbs

Supplementing with herbs can help maintain balance during the difficult winter months. Studies have shown the popular herbal formula Xiao Yao San can help with depression, which as we mentioned above, can be triggered by the shorter days. In Chinese Medicine theory terms, Xiao Yao San soothes the liver, invigorates the spleen, nourishes the blood and clears away the liver fire due to blood deficiency. DAO Labs’ Emotional Balance is inspired by this popular 8 herb formula and blends refreshing apple and cucumber, and can help support anxiousness and stress, relieve mental tension, and irritability.

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