Autumn might be my favorite time of year.
I always feel a sense of new beginnings, perhaps because it used to signal the start of a new school year. Or maybe the leaves represent things falling away to create a clean slate.
Also, because I’m not a hot weather person, I feel a renewed sense of energy when it gets a bit nippy outside. However, I fully understand that I am in the minority when it comes to fall.
For many people, the cooler weather and diminishing sunlight bring on a sense of melancholy. An urge to go into hibernation. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) begins to kick in, and instances of depression rise. SAD can cause low energy, difficulty concentrating, feelings of hopelessness, and food cravings, among other things.
All hope isn’t lost, though. You can start doing things right now that will help you combat the cold-weather blues and prepare you for the long winter ahead.
The key to better winter mental health just might be substitution.
Start by making a list of all the things you like to do during the spring and summer months. What activities do you enjoy most? What kinds of social events do you favor? You may not be able to recreate them exactly during the colder months, but you can find something to take their place.
Like to play bocce? Try a bowling league. Enjoy swimming? A three-month membership at the local Y might fill that void. Live for outdoor summer adventures? How about indoor rock climbing? Biking… Spin class. You get the idea.
Activities don’t even have to be so on the nose. If you spend four hours a week in a summer softball league, try to find an activity that will keep you busy for the same amount of time during the fall and winter. The trick is to stay engaged nd maintain your connection with the outside world in a way that is meaningful.
If your instinct is to tuck yourself away, that’s okay, too. Learning something new can keep your brain working and keep your focus on the positive. Cooking, knitting, woodworking, volunteering, online classes, or reorganizing your living space—doing something worthwhile can reinforce your sense of self and create a sense of purpose without forcing you to cross the threshold of your cozy lair.
Make a list now of all the things you’d like to accomplish before we turn the clocks ahead in the spring. Are there books you’ve been putting aside for months? Dive in! A project or craft you’ve been meaning to finish? Dig it out of your closet and get going!
Finding a friend to ride out the doldrums with can be helpful, too. Make a pact with your bestie to keep each other engaged and active. Start a phone chain to check in on family members. Plan to meet a friend for breakfast the first Saturday of every month. Sometimes just knowing someone cares can alleviate the feelings of isolation that can build up over time.
Spiritual projects can also guide you through the tougher times. Get active with your church and organize a food or clothing drive. Start a prayer chain. Learn to meditate. Do something that brings you within, and helps you find peace.
Whatever it is you decide to do, START NOW. Don’t let the long, dark days set in before you have a plan. New beginnings have a way of brightening even the coldest, darkest days.
Until we meet –