Seasonal Depression & the Water Element

December 8, 2022

Winter is upon us! It’s that time of the year when the cold air lingers and the sun hides behind snow clouds. We pack ourselves in layers and seek warmth under blankets. 

Our mood shifts in winter too. The gradual change from summer to winter parallels decreasing happiness. This effect is often referred to as seasonal depression or seasonal affective disorder. 

This change in season may have us feeling lethargic, unmotivated, cold, sad, and melancholy. 

The shorter days and lack of sunlight can also leave us feeling depleted and defeated. 

This shift in mood is natural. The winter months are the time to hibernate, slow down, and shut down like the trees and animals around us. It is nature’s order. 

When this natural order is met with dread and resistance only more discomfort is generated. We can not control the weather. What we can control is our response. There are a number of ways to do this, but the first is to shift your thoughts about winter. 

In Chinese Medicine, we know that winter is a nourishing Yin time for introversion, introspection, and deep rest. It is a time to replenish, renew, cultivate, and create. To be who you truly are, and to commune with those who truly support you. Winter is a blessing. It gives us the time to light our internal fire and seek contentment within. 

we light our Internal fire by nourishing our water element


The Five Elements of Chinese Medicine are living in all of us. We naturally embody and gravitate towards some more than others. While the remaining few may be where challenges and lessons reside.

The Five Elements are:

  • Fire (Summer)
  • Earth (Late Summer)
  • Metal (Autumn)
  • Water (Winter)
  • Wood (Spring)

Each element has associated organs, season, color, taste, cardinal direction, personality characteristics, and much more. 

The Water Element is associated with the Urinary Bladder and Kidney. 

Other associations include:

  • Season: Winter
  • Taste: Salty
  • Emotion: Fear
  • Color: Black / Blue
  • Sensory organ: Ear
  • Tissues: Bone & Bone Marrow
  • Cardinal direction: North
  • Time of day: Bladder between 3-5pm & Kidney between 5-7pm
  • System: Urinary


Water imbalances can include, but are not limited to: 

  • Low back, hip, knee, ankle pain or weakness
  • Frequent urination
  • Urinary dribbling
  • Night time urination
  • Night sweats
  • Hair loss 
  • Dark circles under eyes
  • Ear pain and excessive wax
  • Diarrhea
  • Nasal discharge
  • Shortness of breath
  • Amenorrhea, late periods
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Lack of libido 
  • Inability to conceive
  • Feeling unworthy, not enough
  • Needing to prove self, worth
  • Lack of confidence, purpose
  • Depression, withdrawn from self and society

There are many practices for nourishing your water element and supporting yourself during the winter months. Each of them will replenish, support, and strengthen your true self. 

Choose those that are most interesting to you and feel good. Whichever practice(s) you choose to do, do it several times a week, 4-6 days. Your Kidneys and Urinary Bladder are like a pond or lake. They like to be full, yet still with gentle activity, and tended to by the natural elements around it. 

Before you go, check out this list of Salty foods. Salty is the flavor of the Water Element, Kidneys and Urinary Bladder.

"the kidneys are responsible for the creation of powers.
skill and ability stem from them."
~ Neijing



I hope you found this information useful. If you have any questions or comments, please leave a reply down below.

As always, stay curious!


Disclaimer: This information is intended for general reference only. It is not a replacement for professional health advice. The content in this post intentionally does not provide dosage information or possible interactions with prescription drugs or other medications. Please contact a certified health practitioner such as a physician of Oriental Medicine or Herbalist before considering use. To schedule an appointment with Malerie, visit the services page.