Five Elements - Water: Winter is the Time for Restoration

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In Chinese Medicine, Winter is associated with the Water Element. This is the time of year when everything seemingly goes still and into a hibernative state. The leaves on the trees have fallen and the branches are lain completely bare. The lack of foliage feels stark compared to the visual movement the leaves provide during the spring to autumn months. The animals that were busily fattening up in the Autumn have hunkered down in their warm nests and are hibernating to conserve energy. Even Water slows down as streams and rivers ice over. However, do not be tricked by the appearance of lack of movement. The trees are in a dormant period, but they are still slowly metabolizing the starches they stored over the Autumn months. A bear will slow its heart rate from 55 bpm to 14 bpm and it will only take a breath every 30 seconds or so. Though the world may feel slow, don’t forget that there is still movement and life there beneath the surface. The seeds that lay in the deep recesses of the earth may be dormant, but they are beginning the metamorphic process of manifesting their destiny. You may also be called to examine the innermost depths of your own destiny. You may be called to befriend the hidden aspects of yourself.


The wisdom that can be found in Winter is that in order to fully enjoy the seasons, you must allow yourself to surrender and sink into it. There is something about simply sitting indoors while it is raining or snowing outside that is restorative. The energy of Winter is all about consolidation and reflection in order to renew the cycle again in Spring. It is about the conservation of energy when Nature is at its most yin state for the purpose of being able to match the energy of Spring as yang begins to emerge.  


Each Element governs an aspect of the emotional and intuitive aspect of human nature. The emotion associated with Winter/Water is Fear. There are no emotions that are considered to be “negative” in Chinese Medicine. Any emotion can be manifested in a healthy and unhealthy way. During its infancy a few thousand years ago, Chinese medicine was developed by philosophers and practitioners who were in direct contact with nature. They assigned the emotion of Fear to the Winter season because it is when families had to rely on the stores they had packed away in the Late Summer and Autumn to last through the cold, harsh Winter. Just like the trees live off the storage of starches they were actively squirreling away, people too had to live off their storage of food.


Fear operating in a functional manner has the nature of directing us to have caution and attentiveness to our lives. In the face of danger, constructive fear can manifest as willpwer, courageousness and readiness to motivate our movements.


However, there is also a dark side to fear that many of us have experienced. Someone who has an imbalance in the Water Element may feel themselves feeling overwhelmed by fear. If Water is not given a vessel, it has the nature and ability to seep into every little crack and tiny unseeable pore. Fear is the same way. It has the potential to permeate every aspect of someone’s life and can become an obstacle to flow and movement.  A fear of failure may prevent them from taking the first step to reach their goals. A fear of slowing down may manifest as someone who overworks to the point of adrenal fatigue. A fear of vulnerability may cause them to show up in their relationships in an inauthentic way.



  • Fear and phobias

  • Anxiety and panic attacks

  • Lower back pain

  • Adrenal fatigue

  • Premature aging

  • Too much/too little libido

  • Hormonal imbalances

  • Infertility

  • Chronic urinary problems: UTIs, Kidney infections, overactive bladder

  • Resistance to change



  • Meditate and Practice Self-Acceptance: I hear you! Meditation is so freaking hard! But this is actually the easiest and best time to start your meditation practice. Because your body wants to live in harmony with Nature, it is going to be slowing down to match the energy of Winter/Water. You may find it easier to sink into a daily meditation practice now compared to when the gatherings and beaches are calling you in the Summer. Take advantage and start a practice that you will carry into the rest of the year. It doesn’t have to take over your life. This video features Eckhart Tolle explaining how simplified his meditative practice is. He famously said: “One conscious breath in and out is a meditation.”

  • Practice Yin Yoga: Yin yoga is the perfect restorative practice for this season. Poses are typically held for 3-5 minutes at a time and this allows you to feel the rigidity that your body is holding and uses the gift of time to allow the body to unfurl.

  • Create Mindful Habits Around your Phone and Social Media: Let’s be real, the news and social media cycle is enough to get your heart rate and blood pressure up. This is counter to the energy of winter. I personally like to take weekend getaways into nature to restore and replenish myself and when I do, I use this as an opportunity to do a phone/technology/social media detox.

  • Nurture Yourself: This is the time to direct your attention inward. It is not the right time to make drastic movements and plans, but it is the perfect time to look at your intentions, hold them close and see what emerges just from observing.


Check out the recipes section of the Acubalance website for ideas on fun meals to cook at home. During the Winter months, it is best to stick to a diet that emphasizes these key points:

Eat Warm Foods: This is the time of year to get creative with your soups! Warm, nourishing, slow-cooked meals like stews and braised meats perfectly matches the energy of Winter.

Drink Water: It is important to stay hydrated throughout the year, but because we all have our heaters on this time of year, it is easy to get dehydrated.

Swap Your Table Salt for Himalayan or Celtic Sea Salt: We’ve all been told to avoid salt for decades now. In actuality, we need salt to balance our pH, absorb glucose, amino acids and water. Salt is composed to sodium and chloride which are two electrolytes that help maintain fluid balance and nerve impulses. The problem with table salt is that it is stripped of the trace minerals we need.


I hope you have a restorative Winter.



To book a complimentary 15-minute phone consultation with me, just give Acubalance Wellness Centre a call at (604) 678-8600.



Kathleen Lee FABORM, RTCMP, L.Ac. MTCM


Photo credit goes to the lovely @elissa_kline