We can all just about tolerate spring, summer has bugs, winter is a menace to our society, our minds and our scalps, but autumn? Autumn is supreme.
For many of us, it’s our entire INFP personality but beyond the Meg Ryan aesthetic, Gilmore Girls, PSL and books, there’s a deep psychological reason why we’re so drawn to this time of year. As nature takes a breath, we’re reminded that it’s ok for us to do the same, looking to the seasons as a true sign that rest is always productive and that nothing in nature blooms all year round.
Here we chat to Mariel Witmond, Founder of Mindful Sonder – an uplifting community of yogis – to find out why autumn has such a profound effect on us.
Could it be the changes in colours, making vibrant displays of art wherever you see nature transitioning as it turns flowers into leaves?Mariel Witmond
Have you ever wondered why everyone loves autumn so much? Is it the spiced drinks, a love of layering, the cosiness of candles and fires, or the build-up to the festive season? Could it be the changes in colours, making vibrant displays of art wherever you see nature transitioning as it turns flowers into leaves? Or maybe it’s that we finally feel permitted to slow down? And yet, at the same time, there’s that “fresh start” feeling that is often associated with the new year. Perhaps we see autumn as the end of our carefree summer days – a time many of us take off for holiday – or we associate it with the beginning of a new school year. Regardless, it’s a time that draws us back to structure and routine as we embrace new opportunities and experiences.
There is a degree of nostalgia associated with Fall, with memories of traditions that give us a sense of comfort and safety. Mariel Witmond
There is a degree of nostalgia associated with Fall, with memories of traditions that give us a sense of comfort and safety. There’s the excuse to get dressed up for Halloween or eat until you’re about to burst at Thanksgiving (if you celebrate it). Plus, there’s plenty on tap for introverts and extroverts alike, be it human hibernation as you cuddle up with a good book and a hot cocoa or swinging to the other end of the pendulum as you dive into “party season”. And there are both scientific and astrological associations with Fall that, though subtle, add to why we love this time of year, such as the Fall Equinox that teaches us of balance as we experience day and night in equal measure, officially marking the beginning of autumn.
But then, do you ever feel like this time of year is fleeting and ephemeral in its nature, here one minute and gone the next, without being fully present to enjoy the benefits of its transformative energy?
Seasons create moments that stand out in time, also known as temporal landmarks, by which we perceive life passing by. These markers in time can help to boost behaviour when taken advantage of. By anticipating the coming of a new season we can learn to make the most of a time we love by encouraging aspirational habits and maximising the mental health benefits. Autumn marks a time of reflection and winding down as we prepare for the excitement of the end of year – and perhaps also the psychological challenges that winter brings (such as shorter, colder days), which is why now is a great time to take seasonal inventory on where you are at (mentally, physically, emotionally) and where you want to be going. It is a chance to focus on the things that lift your spirits and nurture your wellbeing, without feeling like you are adding to the exhaustive aftermath of previous months.
Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
How to Live Seasonally: 5 Practises to Take Into Autumn
So, how can we adapt to the movement of change and harness this season of both grounding and bustling activity?
Learn to align the way you live with the world around you as you lean in to the gifts of this time of year. Here are 5 practices to add to your routine for fall that will help you feel balanced, nourished and rooted in the present moment.
1. Practice Meditation & Mindfulness
There is a lot we cannot control, but we do have agency over our minds. Autumn is a great time for a mental refresh as we look to clear the mental clutter. How our mind perceives this time of year can impact how we experience it as we attach beliefs to the seasons we are in. Instead of seeing this as the end of summer, consider looking at this time as the beginning of something new. As is the case with all beginnings, they bring with them exciting possibilities and opportunities. Autumn is a period for us to reassess what we want and to reset our mindset in order to achieve it. Getting ready for the last few months of the year can create a lot of anxiety for many, which is why focusing on tools for the right frame of mind matters to avoid unnecessary stress and burnout.
Consider mindfulness practices such as meditation as part of your daily routine. Meditating on the senses, by closing your eyes and noticing what you hear, smell, taste and feel, is a great way to acclimate to the season. Or consider gazing at the flame of a candle, following its movements as you allow your monkey mind to settle. Meditation helps us to pay attention to our thoughts and our inner realities that inform our outer experiences. Don’t get discouraged if your mind wanders, just focus on being aware of what is happening. Remember that our minds are malleable. The beauty of neuroplasticity is that we can change the way we think and behave – with awareness. Our life literally changes when we learn to change the way we think. Having a clear sense of identity stems from having a healthy mind and creates the foundations from which we can build a meaningful life.
2. Learn from Nature
By walking around the changing trees this time of year we can learn to stand firmly grounded, unphased by our falling leaves as unobstructed views give us renewed perspective on things we may have previously missed or forgotten. When we learn to live in tune with nature, we can start to move more freely through the inevitable changes that both life and each season bring. Autumn is a season of transformation; a time of letting go, surrender. Surrender is what happens when we let go of the notion that we “should” be able to manage and control our situation. It happens when we release the belief that things should be any different to how they are. We let go of our thoughts of the future and allow ourselves to be fully rooted in the present moment.
To many, surrender is a sign of vulnerability when in fact it takes a lot of strength and courage for us to truly surrender, and this does not mean giving up. Quite the contrary. Surrender teaches us to be present, to process, to allow what we cannot control, or change, to be – and through this, we regain our power, propelling us to action. Being with nature allows us to embrace the vulnerability of the season.
3. Explore Softer Forms of Movement
With the pressure of a “summer body” behind us, Fall not only calls for a new wardrobe, it allows us to be more at ease with how we look, encouraging us to stop being so hard on ourselves as we consider softer forms of physical activity. Yin yoga is a slower and more meditative type of yoga that targets our deep connective tissues, such as the fascia, ligaments, joints, and bones. This gentle practice gives us the space to draw energy inwards and tune into both our mind and the physical sensations of our body. It can help us to navigate through layers of awareness that hide our true Selves. By holding postures several minutes, we further encourage the body (and subtle body) to surrender and let go, offering us an opportunity to spend time in stillness and introspection.
You can also use this time of introspection to cultivate a practice of gratitude. There is abundance in gratitude and always more to be found when we are grateful, and that’s what we create for our future – a mindset of abundance.
4. Nourish Your Body
Adapting our diets to the seasons is something we see in Ayurveda, a holistic approach to healing and wellbeing from India. According to Ayurveda, we are entering a time of transition from the Pitta months of summer and early autumn to the Vata months of late autumn and winter. These body types or “doshas” relate both to us as individuals and the seasons – each with a unique set of characteristics because each dosha corresponds to 2 out of the 5 elements of nature (in the case of Vata – air and ether). Food is essential to how we feel and you can eat foods according to each dosha/season.
In order to balance Vata and counter the effects of Autumn, Ayurveda suggests foods that have opposite elements and characteristics to airy Vata, meaning warm cooked foods that include fruits like apples, pears, and bananas, and steamed vegetables like pumpkin, squash and sweet potatoes. Mushy, soft foods with spices and hearty grains that nurture are great for keeping us grounded. Eating right for our energy type encourages mindfulness and can help to boost our overall health and wellbeing. Other things that support Vata include creating daily routines that help us set the tone for the months ahead.
5. Make New-School-Year Resolutions
Take a moment to embrace those new-school-year vibes to make some resolutions. Consider what it is you want to accomplish and prioritise your list of goals. Then ask yourself, is this really the end result I am looking for? In other words, consider what the goal beneath your goal might be. Often we think we want something, but it is really just a means to another end. What will you have when you accomplish that goal? Be curious and honest with your answers and set a clear intention. Then consider whether your goals stem from a deep personal yearning or a sense of external obligation, because goals chosen for the wrong reason are less likely to last. What tangible milestones (call them projects) can you set to accomplish your goals? How will you reward yourself each time you finish a project? Lastly, on a piece of paper write all of the things you can do differently to attain your goals – but instead of writing I CAN, write I WILL.
If you struggle with what it is you truly want, why not start journaling to become better acquainted with your innermost desires? Enjoy this process of committing to yourself and your well-being. You have the ability to create your reality, you just need to believe in yourself and take action!
Transformation and change are naturally occurring, as nature and its seasons regularly remind us. We are a part of nature and nature is a part of us. After all, this cycle is currently taking nature (and us) into a state of supposed hibernation.
In the midst of everything we love about this time of year and how many of us see it as a time of seasonal joy, it is also important to remember that there are those who find the closer we get to the “festive season” the deeper our struggles become as we navigate hardships such as loss, loneliness and burnout. Autumn teaches us that we cannot control the things that happen to us any more than we can control the changing seasons, but we can control how we think about and respond to it all.
Get inspired to turn a new page by enjoying time in nature, focusing on what you want to achieve, setting goals to help you achieve it, and doing things that nourish your body and nurture your mind. Offset any weight of the season with the right coping skills to find the resilience and mental clarity needed to ward off those winter blues and finish the year on a high.