Waking up refreshed from the winter doldrums


Winter is the natural time for hibernation. Ancient Chinese Medical texts teach doctors to live in harmony with the elements. They tell practitioners that Winter is the phase of Water, a time to go symbolically deep within the womb of the earth and replenish. It is a season of nurturing and of preparation for the moment of rebirth.

The nights become longer, and daylight becomes a precious commodity. It is all too easy to brood during the dark and congealing nature of these long months, to fall prey to Seasonal Depression, or to simply have greater difficulty rousing yourself from sleep. Yet, people face the need to wake up in the morning alert, refreshed, and to continue to shake off lingering fatigue while attending to daily routines.

Fortunately, there are a number of simple methods garnered from Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine that anyone can use, and that serve as a natural “wake-up” call to the body and soul.

  1. 1. Fall in rhythm with the night.
    Nothing beats a good night of sleep. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, blood is lost (consumed) if you do not experience deep sleep. This blood fuels our dreams. It fuels our awareness. And, of course, it fuels our bodies. Assign yourself a time to go to bed. Keep to this hour. Avoid late-nite meals, and get under the covers without any electronic distractions such as your TV, computer, or cell-phone. Books and journaling are okay, by the way.
  2. 2. Move the Qi and the Blood.
    Quite simply Qi is energy. It flows in channels throughout body and sends instructions to various parts of the anatomy. There are specific Acupuncture points on these channels that will command certain functions. Press down on the Large Intestine point #4 (LI 4), called Hegu, which resides between the index finger and thumb on the back of the hand. It is on the top of a mound of muscle you can see when you hold these two fingers together. In other words, if you were to form the letter “C” with your index and thumb, LI 4 would fall on the very middle of the line drawn by these two fingers. Using your opposite thumb, press down on this point for 30 seconds. Make sure to do the backs of both hands. LI 4 moves Qi and Blood powerfully. It also wakens the Shen, the consciousness that resides within the heart.
  3. 3. Suddenly rouse yourself with your body’s own natural “smelling salts.”
    No shocking aroma is required. Press Governor point 26 with your nail. This point is 2/3rds up the philtrum, between the upper lip and the nose. Roll your index finger onto this point and then press down with your nail at about a 45 degree angle. Do this for about 30 seconds. You will feel yourself becoming more aware as you do this. This point is a resuscitation point. Finally, rub your palms over your face in the shape of a heart, starting from the nose and going to the chin. The face is the starting and ending point for many of the Yang channels. The Yang channels bring bright energy to the surface of the body. Continue to trace the heart shapes several times and you will be ready to face the day.

These are only a few of the techniques that anyone can employ to enhance their alertness and improve their performance.  Acupuncture, as well as all of the modalities of Chinese Medicine, are avenues worth pursuing — not only for further self-knowledge, but for intimate control over your own health, with you at the lead.

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Anthony VanWagner
Anthony VanWagner is a Nationally Board Certified Acupuncturist and Chinese Herbalist, a graduate of Northwestern Health Sciences University in the Master of Oriental Medicine program. Anthony opens his clinic this month at Magus Books & Herbs, and he is available for house calls. Call for an appointment, or email.


  1. Thank you Anthony for writing this awesome article! Many people have such a hard time dealing with the winter blues here in the Midwest during this time of year, and pretty much all we hear during this time of year is to take Vitamin D and use Sunlights… which yes, are very helpful… but you can do so much more simply, and your article shows that! Thanks!

  2. Thanks for posting, SchaOn. Light is really critical during the Winter. As a light therapist you might consider using Wood Element or Water Element colored lights on points Bladder #1, and #2. Bl #1 might be too much for closed eyes, I don’t know. It’s worth experimenting though. Why? Because BL #1 is responsible for the opening and closing of the eyes… and not just in a physical sense. We learn in the Nei Jing that these points ignite a bright consciousness in a person.

    Thanks again!

  3. Thanks Anthony! Yes, those are fantastic points to deal with the rhythms in Esogetics as well. BL1 we use the complementary colors of orange & blue (Blue would help to relax the excuse). On those points with those color lights, we see that they seem to influence the Pit. Gland. BL2, we actually use a point just next to it along the eye brows straight up from the pupil of the eye to help balance the Pineal Gland (which is fantastic for balancing the circadian rhythms — or helping with Jet Lag). We would do those compl. Blue/Orange as well, then follow it with Yin Tang with Red to tonify the information.

    In RE to the development of consciousness, yes, these points make sense as the Pineal would help to bring the/download information in, whereas the Pituitary then would distribute the codes out to the other systems.


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