Summertime sadness? This is our guide on how to say farewell to summer and why you should welcome autumn with open arms
We tend to make our most poignant memories during summer: “It was the hottest day of 1999 when…”, “It hadn’t rained all summer, and then…”. These sentences lend themselves to literature, so it’s no wonder that after the dampness and darkness of winter, we crave a postcard-English summer of walking through grassy fields barefoot, and swimming in the sea. As the blackberry bushes flourish, the leaves on the trees turn crisp and brown, and the days begin to dim, many of us feel a twinge of unrest as we wave goodbye to the season. And, as the ambiance of summer is beginning to fade, it’s time to retreat back inside and draw the curtains a little earlier. While the changing of seasons is just another marker of time, for many, winter is a difficult time of year. For those who feel anxious around this period, it’s important to recognise that there are things you can do to approach this month differently.
While the darkening of days may be a natural occurrence during winter, (mark Sunday, 27th October as the day to put your clocks back), many people find themselves suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) at this time of year. Believed to occur from a decreased exposure to sunlight, which, in turn, impacts the body’s circadian rhythm and ability to produce serotonin and melatonin, this can affect not only your mood, but also your motivation, energy levels, sleep patterns and appetite. “The management of SAD can be helped with a lightbox, which is effective in up to 60 to 85 percent of cases, as well as psychological treatment (particularly cognitive behaviour therapy), and self-help strategies such as doing regular physical exercise and adjusting one’s diet can all help.” says Dr Natasha Bijlani, consultant psychiatrist at Priory’s Roehampton Hospital (priorygroup.com). “Daily use of a lightbox, starting in early autumn when the first symptoms appear, should continue until early spring when daylight hours and intensity increase.” Exposure to natural light, which even on the gloomiest of winter days is 10 times stronger than a brightly lit office, triggers several mood and healthboosting reactions. So, if you’re not able to fit in much exercise, simply taking a walk outside in nature for 20 minutes a day can be equally beneficial.
As the colder weather settles in, you may naturally seek comfort-based dishes that leave you feeling full and nourished. “Not only is autumn the season of harvest, but it’s also a time of transition,” says nutritionist and yoga instructor Mays Al-Ali (healthymays.com). “In order to flow through life effortlessly and in harmony with the natural rhythms of the world, we need to open our bodies and minds to the natural cycles of the seasons.” Stews, pies, broths and soups that are full of immunity-boosting ingredients (turn to page 113 to read our immunity-boosting special), can help keep our body in top form as the weather gets colder. “Foods and supplements that contain zinc, vitamin C and vitamin D, can increase your mood and boost your immunity,” says Mays. “Include fibre-packed, potassiumrich produce such as beetroots, apples and sweet potatoes in your diet and add in wild mushrooms, Brussels sprouts and root vegetables for all their hearty and powerful antiviral benefits. You can also offset drained energy by exercising in the morning to activate your metabolism and brighten your mood.”
If you don’t practice mindfulness already, then incorporating it into your routine at this time of year can help to reduce anxiety when it’s at its worst. Use the extra hour you gain with daylight saving time to fit in some morning meditation. “Your brain is at its best first thing in the morning, so try meditating as you wake up,” says Mays. “Breathe in deeply for four seconds, hold for three and let go for six. Repeat for as many times as you feel necessary. Just remember to do so with intention and presence, and with each breath, allow your ribcage to expand and let the chest to rise and fall.” Even if you’re not keen on mediation, bringing more mindfulness into your routine during the autumn can help ease you into the transitioning of the seasons. Don’t shy away from anxious thoughts, rather, recognise them, and return back to the present moment. Mindfulness is about learning to cope and manage worries, rather than banish them.
Celebrate the remnants of summer and make a list of what you’re grateful for. You can relive the season by creating a list of stand-out moments, big or small, then, make another list of what you’d like to accomplish over the winter months. “Autumn can be seen as a time of getting down to business and planning for the long winter months ahead, and this presents us with the perfect opportunity to reassess our life at work and at home and find the best ways to help us reach our goals,” says Mays. “Focus on what you want and then set in place some small and clear steps on how to achieve it, in bite-size, manageable pieces.” The transition from summer to winter is also a good opportunity to let go of the thoughts that have been burdening you. Is there a relationship in your life that makes you feel anxious? Are you still reliving a slip-up you made at work? Write what is bothering you down, then, on the next full moon, burn the bits of paper to help you release that negative energy. That way, you’ll enter the season with a serener mindset, ready to tackle the challenges of the year ahead.
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