The water element and winter

Veronica Tift enlightens us on how the water element plays a role in the winter season and how to achieve balance with this element.

Let me take you on a little journey, you’re sitting nestled by a warm, glowing fire, crackling away. The blankets wrapped around you are comforting and make you feel held. You have in your hand a warm soothing drink and your beloved pet is comfortably nuzzled in a little ball near your feet. Why does this sound so completely ideal, as the cold weather starts to settle around us?

Because deep down we know that winter is the time for this kind of rest and restoration. Winters are like that, a more inward and sensitive time; its natures resting season, quieten down, deep in the earth and the roots preparing for spring. This is also a great time for you to go deeper within yourself, resting, reflecting and looking for replenishment.

The water element and winter

Are you feeling a little more emotional these days, craving salty foods or maybe everything tastes a little too salty, possibly feeling more fearful, especially in the evenings you can feel the anxiety creeping in?

According to the Chinese Five Elements, winter is related to the water element. Winter is the season in which the water element is most dominant. The kidneys, adrenal glands and bladder are the organs associated with the water element and the winter season.

From a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) point of view, people with deficient water energy may struggle to slow down, rest or relax. A balanced water element allows fluidity and flow, there is the ability to nourish and rest, not only for themselves but others. Both water and emotions are unpredictable, when flowing, all is well, but when blocked or stagnant, great pressure can develop, or disease can set in.

Water is amazing; of all the qualities that are needed for life on earth, water is in all living things, whether they live at the bottom of the ocean or the dry desert. Water has made life possible on earth. It is adaptable, taking shapes of its container, changing form with cold and heat.

Having a water element out of balance doesn’t mean drinking large quantities of water. While you need to look at the quality of your water, the intention in which you drink it and being mindful of how much you drink or don’t drink, there is more to this season and the water element.

The kidneys

In TCM, the kidneys house our jing or in the Western world this would equate to your DNA and longevity. The building blocks for physical vitality are responsible for our aging. Jing is also responsible for fertility and reproduction, growth and development. So, when you move against the flow of life, you are exhausting out your own precious life force.

Use your Jing wisely. Step into flow rather than against it, this does not mean being complacent, but rather spending time and energy on things that align with your true desire and authentic expression. Warm yourself emotionally with family and friends, doing things that bring you joy.

Overworking, stressful or traumatic events, overexertion, emotional stress, spending energy on things that drain you, poor diet and lack of sleep will all make it harder to handle the cold and feel balanced during the winter season.

The emotion fear relates to the water element. The kidneys and urinary bladder organs can reflect as we see when anxiety and chronic stress correlate in scientific literature to frequent urination or painful urination as well as pelvic pain. In Chinese Medicine, the stress is specific to the emotion of fear and urgency to release pressure.

The kidneys can be thought of as your batteries, they can give you horsepower that is needed to move towards your ambitions, but only when they are in alignment. The changing of each season can bring stress to the body and illness itself can give you the opportunity to re-evaluate your life.

Questions to ask yourself  

  • Am I over-reacting in situations and do these situations really require this much stress from me?
  • Do these actions align with my natural gifts, talents and interests? Does it feel like my authentic truth?
  • Is this the right time for me to act? Is this the season of my life for this intention to flourish?
  • Am I forcing anything, pushing past signs that this is not right and acting outside my authentic self.

Ways to balance the water element

These include resting, walking in nature, moving your body, journaling, meditation, prayer, eating whole foods that are in season, reducing alcohol and drug use, and prioritising sleep.

Be with feelings of grounding, breathe and feel your body. Bring love to your fear, have compassion for how hard it has been and send yourself some kindness. Listen to your authentic self and wisdom of your body, feel what feels right for you.

Winter diet

As you move into winter, it’s a good idea to shift your diet to create more heat internally. Fruits should be eaten less. Vegetables should be steamed or baked. Eat hearty vegetable soups with root vegetables like carrots, turnups and onions. Not forgetting warming spices like ginger root and garlic while cayenne pepper adds heat to your meals and warmth to your toes.

Cooked whole grains can also be an excellent staple in winter and roasted nuts can be a good snack. The most important thing is to listen to what your body is really telling you to consume. Brewing an herbal tea with ginseng roots or ginger are also traditional energisers.

Exercise in winter

Winter is the season of storage and preparation, take care of your activity level during the winter month and don’t run your batteries down. Move every day with stretching and dance, deep breathing and keeping that circulation moving. It’s a good time for indoor exercise like yoga, even a short practice can be beneficial.

The KD-1 point

The Yong Quan or KD-1 is the first point along the kidney meridian. It’s found between the second and third metatarsal bones on the sole of the foot. This point connects you directly with the vitality of the earth/yin energy and can aid in grounding and elevating energy, depending on what the body needs. It can bring up a deep well of energy or calm energy down, just like a fresh water spring emerges from the darkness of earth.

The KD-1 point gives access to the energy that is balanced and harmonious, and can be useful for fertility, easing anxiety and panic, restlessness, memory and insomnia. This is just one reflex point on the feet and regular treatments are key during the winter months.

Massaging this point, especially before bed, making contact with the earth when walking barefoot if possible and gripping your toes slightly in the earth while imagining energy flowing up into your body and reflexology are all great ways to keep your water element in balance.


Inge Dougans Reflexology the 5 elements and their 12 meridian’s a unique approach; Thorsons

Haas. Dr Elson M. 1981, Staying healthy with the seasons

Axe, Dr Josh. 2021, Ancient Remedies for modern Life

Veronica Tift is a therapeutic reflexologist, registered with the AHPCSA, based in Benoni. She continues to grow her knowledge through attending international and local courses on various subjects related to reflexology. Veronica has a special interest in working with couples struggling with infertility.


Veronica Tift is a therapeutic reflexologist, registered with the AHPCSA, based in Benoni. She continues to grow her knowledge through attending international and local courses on various subjects related to reflexology. Veronica has a special interest in working with couples struggling with infertility.

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