What Is the Secret to Autumnal Bliss? Leaning Into It
A Personal Perspective: The fall season brings us gifts.
Posted October 30, 2022 | Reviewed by Jessica Schrader
- We associate autumn with returning to school and the return of routines, which is inherently calming.
- The benefits of the fall season can be amplified to build resilience.
- Recognizing the seasonal changes and aligning with them can provide opportunities for better goal-setting, relationships, and health.
The air is laced with scents of cider, maple, pumpkins, and falling leaves and the wind is blowing a little bit colder. It’s autumn, the season Americans say they most look forward to. Coming on the heels of summer vacations, and long, lazy days, fall brings a return to the comfortable routines associated with school starting again, inspiring a sense of possibility and new beginnings. The season’s warm reds, oranges, and yellows are the colors of comfort, optimism, and cheer.
The cooler weather enlivens us after the hot and salty summer swelter. A walk in the woods can bring a crisp emotional snap against the exhilarating backdrop of changing leaves and migrating butterflies and birds. Autumn is also a time of harvest—our peak opportunity for apples, root vegetables, and pies with cinnamon spices.
Autumn is a season able to bolster our bodies, minds, and spirits. By making the most of this season, we can amplify the positive vibe that comes with fall and build resilience as we ready ourselves for the more melancholy days of winter to come.
We can build resilience by getting out into nature as much as possible. Fresh air amps up our oxygen intake, which is essential for healthy neuronal functioning and can boost clarity of thought. In addition, being in green spaces improves concentration, especially when office-bound for long periods of the week. Further, exposure to the sun, and the concomitant absorption of vitamin D, plays a critical role in supporting the immune system. Vitamin D levels tend to drop in the winter months. Spending time in the sunlight can help us build a robust immune system, more able to fight infections such as the flu, common cold, and, of course, COVID-19.
Nature also provides the best opportunity for mindfulness, that is, cultivating an awareness of our internal processes and the external world. We are an essential part of our natural world; and so, becoming more in tune with seasonal cycles, and heightening awareness of the sensory elements of seeing, hearing, tasting, and feeling, naturally reduces stress and creates a state of eudaimonia, or well-being (Bratman, 2019). Simply taking a walk and noticing the sights and sounds around you, or sitting quietly under a tree and becoming aware of your breath, can elevate your mood and spark creativity.
Leaning into the season can really give us a boost. The season has so much to offer. Fall reacquaints us with the cozier side of living. Woolen socks, fleecy blankets, and warm, knitted hats feel snuggly and safe. Carving out time to immerse yourself fully—picking apples, burning candles, baking, camping, going to football games, and doing just about anything fireside—are healthy and fun ways to enhance the experience of autumn and increase overall positivity. Adding mindfulness and gratitude to the mix will further enhance and strengthen resilience.
The transitional nature of autumn intuitively encourages us to reflect on change. Fall is an opportunity to think about where we are going, reprioritize our daily goals and, perhaps, reconnect with people with whom we’ve lost contact. This season’s energy is quieter and beckons us to align ourselves with its reflective coaxing. Autumn is about taking stock of what has happened so far this year, and then, letting go. By welcoming the lessening light and enjoying the cooling days, we relax and become more balanced, as we allow ourselves to move with the flow. Fall is an opportunity to consider our trajectory and release whatever old habits and patterns no longer serve us, to make room for the people and activities that we determine to be most essential in our lives.
To fully lean into autumn, try pushing some of these activities together. Snuggle up with a friend in front of a fire and enjoy hot cider and reminiscence of good times. Sink into a candle-lit hot bath and watch the gentle, fall leaves swirling outside on the streets. Congratulate yourself on the year’s accomplishments and set seasonal goals that will challenge and sustain you. And, finally, consider a creative endeavor. It doesn’t have to be a big production—perhaps journaling or small doodles, or simply singing and dancing along to a favorite tune. Any creative activity improves mood and reduces anxiety and stress, again bolstering your immune system and refreshing your body.
Play outside, delve inward, reflect, and enjoy all the richness the season has to offer. As nature reminds us to change along with it, leaning into autumn will build empowerment, resilience, and joy.
Bratman, G. N. et al. (2019). Nature and mental health: An ecosystem service perspective. Science Advance, 5(7). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aax0903