You've heard of these, yes? Maybe now it's time to try something here you've never tried before. Or to pick up the habit again. Call it internal spring cleaning.
1) Alternating hot and cold water treatments are a tried and true remedy for chronic or acute joint inflammation, swelling, edema (or just an overall immune system boost). You can do either a local or full body application of hot water for three minutes, followed by 30 seconds of cold water, repeated 3x (always end with cold). This alternating temperature, as hot as you can take and as cold as you can take, produces a pumping action on the circulation of the blood into and out of an area of the body. The hot water vaso-dilates or expands the blood vessels, bringing blood into the area. You visually see this as your skin turns red with the heat. The cold water then vaso-constricts the vessels, pushing out metabolic waste and inflammatory cell byproducts, essentially flushing the area out. As you repeat this 3x, you produce this pumping action that really helps to move lymph, massively improve circulation and speed healing time. I've seen it work so many times, it's one of my top recommendations for old chronic injuries, lymph swelling and joint pain. And you know what? It costs next to nothing, except for the good resource of water.
You can begin in the shower, alternating from hot to cold and back 3x. Or if you have a shower head that can be removed, this is an easy way to do a local treatment on a body part.
2) Depressed? Anxious? Try Cold plunges.
Seriously. Most folks are not thrilled about anti-depressants and many psychiatrists know that they work only 20% of the time for 20% of the people. As a treatment for depression, we now know that cold water plunges create a short increase dopamine concentration in the blood by 250%. This builds quite quickly over time. Dopamine is a critical neurotransmitter that helps us move out of overwhelm. There's a growing body of research being done on cold plunging, you can find some of these articles here. Begin in the shower, after your hot shower, end with 30 secs - 1 minute of cold. Work your way up, 3 minutes, 5 minutes, 10 minutes. You may find yourself becoming addicted to the experience. Even better, fill a bathtub with ice and water and dunk in for as long as you can stand.
Why is this particularly important in the Spring? It's a known fact that spring and early summer months see the highest rates of suicide, and many people experience increased depression and anxiety. Research shows a consistency of a spring suicide peak across countries, continents, hemispheres and time. Western medicine does not have an explanation for this, but from a Chinese medicine perspective, this is explained by Wood (Iiver) energy rising. Emotions that get stored in the liver begin to move and express themselves as this energy peaks in the spring.
Depression, anxiety, frustration, resentment - we become more aware of these impulses. And as these emotions begin to flow and express themselves, they stir up the heart fire and can make us feel crazy or at least slightly insane. This is a good time to ground into your practices of meditation, Qi Gong, movement and deep breathing into the earth. Acupuncture can potently reset your nervous system. And a cold plunge.....yes it sounds daunting but I double dare you to try.
3) A short customized cleanse that's optimal for you. What foods can you eliminate for a short period, 1-3 weeks for example, that would improve your health? (Think sugar, alcohol, caffeine, bread, dairy, soy.....the usual suspects ). How's your water intake? Plants need water for growth, so do your tendons, ligaments and all the cells of your body. This is the traditional time of Lent, Ramadan.....even if you're not religious you can follow the guidance of these spiritual fasts.
A cleanse supports your body's detoxification capacity, to get clear and ready for the lighter foods of warmer days. Each Spring I do a cleanse as a way to prevent chronic disease, to clean up my diet and get clear in my thoughts and emotions. It's a powerful way to wipe your lens clean, shake out the winter doldrums and get your physical body ready for more activity. Not all cleanses are created equal! I recommend staying away from cleanses that involve lots of supplements and powders that you need to buy. It can be as simple as eating brown rice and vegetables for a week, cutting out alcohol, coffee and sugar. Or you can go with vegetable juicing for a week, taking the time to prep yourself well going in and coming out of this kind of a cleanse. I'm happy to consult with you individually to create a customized cleanse for you.
4) Meditate and keep a Steady view of the big picture: The trees at this time that are continually in the process of reaching for the light, from a place of deep rootedness. In fact, the higher the tree goes, the more deeply it roots need to be to survive. At the same time, a tree that's flexible and can move with the winds of change, like the hollow bamboo, provides the greatest strength. Empty yourself out, letting everything go and letting everything be. This can become a regular daily practice. Look at different guided meditation options if you need support - with Tara Brach or Sam Harris (google Sam Harris, Waking Up and you'll find his guided meditations).