Wind and cold weather: what to wear
- In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), wind is considered responsible for afflictions related to common colds and flus, so it’s important to protect yourself against it
- Wear warm, natural and sustainable fibres and protect your neck and shoulders with a woolly scarf
- Strengthen your immune defences and defensive qi by getting plenty of rest, eating warming foods, and managing your stress levels
One of the central principles of the ancient wisdom of TCM is that humans are part of their environment, not separate to it. So, when the weather is cold and windy, it’s important to dress accordingly in order to maintain a healthy balance between your body and the world around you.
The importance of climate in TCM
In TCM, the concept of climate doesn’t just refer to the weather where you live – it also encompasses a wide range of factors that are capable of causing disharmony or ill health in the body, and takes into account the elements and energies that exist inside the body, as well as those in our external environment.
Wind in TCM
Wind, one of the five elements in Chinese medicine, is associated with winter and spring. It’s traditionally regarded as the driving force behind many health conditions, especially those that appear and move quickly (like the wind itself) and that may also disappear quickly.
Read on for some helpful ways to protect your body from the wind this winter season, including tips on what to wear in cold weather.
How wind shows up in your body
According to TCM, wind can be split into various subtypes, with the two most common being wind-cold and wind-heat.
Wind-cold symptoms include dislike of the wind and cold, fever, headache, body aches, runny nose and cough. Wind-heat signs include typical common cold and flu symptoms such as sudden onset of symptoms, sore throat, nasal congestion, headache, sweating, respiratory issues and sore throat.
What to wear in cold weather
Winter can take you by surprise, especially in Australia where the cold can sneak up on you. Protecting your body against the wind can be a breeze when you follow these simple steps:
- Rug up – it sounds obvious, but many of us don’t dress warmly enough for the chilly weather
- Choose woolly socks and scarves, beanies, turtleneck jumpers and winter coats with collars that protect your neck area and shoulders
- Wear natural and sustainable fibres like wool, cashmere, organic cotton, bamboo or hemp cotton. Sustainably-grown fibres are better than synthetics for keeping you warm while still allowing your skin to breathe, and are more environmentally friendly too
- Invest in a good quality, waterproof raincoat or windbreaker – freezing cold winds + soaked clothes = chills and sniffles
- Avoid going out in blustery conditions. If you do need to go out, keep your neck and head well covered. These areas are traditionally regarded as easy access points that enable wind to enter the body 
Other ways to guard against wind: strengthen your defensive Qi
With the outside environment taken care of, what about the internal environment? From the perspective of TCM, wind can sometimes be present in excess in the body, particularly during winter and spring.
Thankfully, there are simple changes you can make that can strengthen your immune defences (or ‘defensive qi’ as the immune system is referred to in TCM), helping to reduce and even prevent wind-related illnesses.
Getting enough hours of quality sleep is often overlooked as a way to strengthen your immune reserves.
We mentioned earlier that TCM encourages us to alter our lifestyles in alignment with the seasons. Winter days are characterised by a later sunrise and earlier sunset than at other times of the year, so try to follow their rhythm by adjusting the times you wake up in the morning and head to bed in the evening. This practice allows the body to follow its natural circadian rhythm, which is proven to have immune benefits.
Earlier bedtimes, longer sleep times and staying warm and rested under the covers support the immune system and defensive qi – another reason we love the wisdom of TCM.
Dust off the slow-cooker
A hot meal on a cold day can do wonders for your body and spirit. The whole concept of eating warming stews, soups and roasts feels intuitively right during the colder months, and is something many of us naturally gravitate to at this time of year. TCM teaches that your intuition is correct, and that these are exactly the types of food you should be eating when the weather is cold: dishes that are hearty, nourishing and cooked slowly.
At the same time, TCM recommends that in winter we minimise the salads, raw fruit and veggies, smoothies and juices that form the backbone of a healthy diet during summer. While these foods have their place, an excess of cold foods can lead to fatigue, overproduction of phlegm, bloating and discomfort, and congestion.
Breathe a sigh of relief
Breathing in deeply and exhaling sharply or ‘sighing it out’ can do wonders for the nervous system, and also helps strengthen defensive qi and support digestive function. The benefits of deep-belly breathing include stress reduction and stress can affect how the immune system functions.
Dressing warmly is vital to looking after your health and being over winter, so dig out for your favourite cosy jumper and most stylish scarf, and get ready to brave the elements. While you’re at it, don’t forget to adjust your diet and lifestyle to the winter months in the same way that you change your wardrobe!
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