A solar term is a period of about two weeks and is based on the sun’s position in the zodiac. Solar terms form the traditional Chinese calendar system. The calendar follows the ancient Chinese belief that living in accordance with nature will enable one to live a harmonious life. This article series explores each of the year’s 24 solar terms, offering guidance on how to best navigate the season.
Solar Term: “Winter Solstice”
2021 Date: Dec. 21–Jan. 4
In ancient China, “Winter Solstice” was considered to be the most important solar term among the 24 terms in the year. Some folk sayings hold that Winter Solstice is an even more important day for wellness than Chinese New Year Day.
Not only does this fourth solar term of winter bring in the New Year, but it was also the very first solar term identified in history, during the Zhou Dynasty (1046–256 B.C.).
There are two significant natural phenomena on the day of the solstice (Dec. 21). One can observe the shortest daylight hours of the entire year, and also that the shadow of the sun at midday is the longest.
Impact on People
During Winter Solstice, the yin energy inside our bodies reaches its peak, while the yang energy starts to strengthen. This period, when the yin and yang are changing over, offers the best opportunity to push diseases out of our bodies and to strengthen and balance the body’s five internal elements.
From the traditional Chinese medicine perspective, if you supply nutrients correctly to your body, you will get maximum results with minimal effort.
According to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), there are five important steps to supplementing nutrients correctly in the body: remove blockages, detox, balance, supplement, and nurture.
Here are the ideas, symptoms, and purposes for these five steps.
1. Remove Blockages
When our digestive system and the assimilation of nutrients is blocked, the areas that need support cannot get what they need, even if we are taking in plenty of nutrients. This applies to all veins, energy channels, digestive channels, and so on.
In TCM treatments, the removal of blockages is often used as the first step in a treatment plan. The congested areas need to be opened up before any further remedies can be given.
The symptoms of congestion are poor appetite, poor digestion, not going to the toilet regularly or normally, hardly sweating, low energy, obvious fatigue between 3 p.m. to 4 p.m., and difficulty falling asleep.
Helpful essential oils include eucalyptus, basil, lemongrass, oregano, and lemon.
If the channels have been blocked for a long time, toxins will have accumulated inside the body.
These substances, such as water, are not all bad originally, but just as stagnant water in the natural world may breed pests and bacteria, stagnation in the body can lead to infections, deterioration, and so on.
The symptoms of toxic buildup in the body may include skin irritation (such as rashes), joint pain, a poor immune system, and a tendency to get seasonal illnesses such as a cold or the flu.
Helpful essential oils include juniper berry, cypress, thyme, pine, niaouli, lavender, and German chamomile.
After we remove the bad stuff, we need to work on why this happened. What went wrong in our organs or system to trigger the problems?
According to TCM, in most cases, it is because our bodies were out of balance in terms of the yin and yang, blood and energy, and functions between the organs and bodily systems.
Once we restore our balance, our health should return to normal.
Helpful essential oils include sandalwood, cedarwood, rosewood, licorice, and marjoram.
Due to our natural genetics, diet, and our environment, some essential elements or nutrients could be missing from our bodies.
The way to rectify this is simple. Add them to your diet to complement the deficiency so that your body can have a complete supply of all the substances it needs to function in its best possible state.
Helpful essential oils include myrrh, frankincense, rose, ginger, angelica, and hyssop.
Our health is very much the result of not only our diet, but also our personalities. Our temper, habits, and routines play the main roles in determining our wellness.
To nurture not only refers to our physical bodies, but also very much to our souls and our inner selves. This is critical if we are to maintain our health and solve any problems from the root.
Things you can do to nurture yourself include listening to music with positive energy, gardening, reading quality books, or practicing meditation. All are brilliant means to bring yourself to a peaceful and better state.
Helpful essential oils include sandalwood, spearmint, neroli, and bergamot.
Even if you haven’t tried traditional Chinese medicinal herbs or acupuncture, you can still take the essence from the above wellness tips and apply them to your self-care rituals.
Ancient Chinese people believed that if we take good care of ourselves and eat well during this time, our health will be in good shape for the following year.
4 Ways to Maximize Wellness During ‘Winter Solstice’
1. Drink plenty of green tea for mild cleansing. For those who have skin irritation or poor circulation, add licorice root.
2. Add cinnamon powder to desserts or drinks such as coffee, to repel the winter chill.
3. Massage your feet, inner calves, and the outer part of the legs to help with circulation when feeling cold.
4. Rotate ankles to the maximum after lying down in bed. This is particularly helpful for those who have trouble sleeping, as this helps to unblock the energy channels, relax tense muscles, and enhance sleep quality.
Wild fish and tomatoes are great for those who have weaker hearts and blood problems. Foods that are black in color, such as black mushrooms (shiitakes), mulberries, dark olives, black soya beans, black sesame, and dark chocolate, can help to restore and strengthen energy.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the length of the midday shadow.