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Wellness and Temperature

Despite our technological sophistication, we are still subject to the powers of wind and rain and sun. Living well includes a rekindled respect for the natural rhythms of things - and an attempt to harmonize ourselves with the changes, both internal and external, that weather brings.

Today it is almost possible to ignore the weather, as we move from heated or cooled homes to heated or cooled automobiles to heated or cooled offices, schools, department stores, and supermarkets, then back again. These luxuries have brought with them negative effects on life and health. Summer colds are frequently the result of air-conditioning that creates January in June, upsetting the body's equilibrium in the process. As we move in and out of these artificially cool environments, we repeatedly chill and dry the mucous membranes of the nose and throat. Our mucous glands must work overtime, often to the point of exhaustion, pumping extra fluids and then slowing down dramatically. The lungs are shocked by differences in temperature of sometimes twenty or thirty degrees as we leave an air-conditioned car or building to walk across the street. Humidity fluctuations may be even greater. In this tenuous state, the body is ripe for hosting some confused virus. It's the summer cold!

Winter brings its own unique stresses. Many North Americans suffer colds and other more serious respiratory problems during the winter. The dryness that central heating produces in the air plays havoc with the whole respiratory tract. The extremes experienced in moving from the overheated home into the stabbing cold outside create similar unbalancing effects.

Because the body's need to generate and conserve heat is greater in the cold season, the heart, especially, works harder at this time. Heart failure and other coronary fatalities occur more frequently in winter than at any other time of year. The same individual who rakes leaves or exercises vigorously without difficulty in the gentle autumn weather may suffer a heart attack when shoveling snow from the front walk in near-freezing temperatures.

If body-trust, self-responsibility, and moderation are your governing principles, you can celebrate the changing seasons in good health. Here are some simple suggestions:

  • In warm weather, keep air-conditioning no lower than 75°F/24°C.
  • Keep humidity generally between 40 and 50 percent; if you live in a dry or cold climate, use a vaporizer or humidifier in areas of your house where you spend a lot of time.
  • Acclimatize yourself with outdoor exercise as soon as the seasons start to change.
  • In cold weather, keep the temperature in your home about 65°F/18°C.
  • Loose clothing over tight forms a natural air insulation and keeps you warm.
  • Check your heartbeat occasionally (see How Much Is Enough?). If it's too fast, rest from your work or exercise.

If necessary, make your needs for comfort and health known to those who control the thermostats. As the seasons change, your body slowly adapts. Learning to respect your internal rhythm during seasonal transitions is an important aspect of wellness. Don't be too hard on yourself. Work during hours that support your personal efficiency rhythm. Rest or "goof off" when work energy wanes. Nourish yourself throughout the year, but particularly during the transition times between seasons.

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