The changing of the seasons is a great opportunity to begin practicing mindfulness, or paying attention on purpose.” The busy-ness of life can overwhelm us physically and emotionally, so it is important to create a plan to take care of yourself. My own self-care plan is based on finding small moments in the day to be mindful to the present. This helps me unattach from worries about the future or ruminations about the past. Finding small things you can do daily to settle and calm yourself can help keep the toxic effects of stress at bay. Fall is the season for drawing inward and preparing for the stillness of winter.
The settling in of this new season inspired these mindfulness tips.
Notice the changing of the temperature each morning. Just spend a few moments outside breathing in the morning air. Try a “4-7-8” breath to energize and focus for the morning. Breath in deeply through the nostrils for four long seconds, hold the breath for seven seconds and gently blow out for eight seconds.
Let go! The trees must shed their leaves in the fall to conserve energy. We can use them as inspiration, too. Clean out the space you use the most, whether it is your car, the kitchen counter or your desk. A peaceful clear space can prompt a peaceful, clear mind.
Warm up with a tea or coffee meditation practice. Next time you need that cup of tea or hot coffee use it as an opportunity for calm. Sit down, notice the warmth of the cup in your hand, the steam floating up, the smell of the ingredients and how it feels when you sip it. Instead of scrolling through your phone, simply just drink and notice.
Take in the nice weather with a walk. The National Institute of Health found that 30 minutes of walking three times a week will drastically improve your mood, increase restful sleep and provide quick stress relief. Walking is an easy way to boost serotonin and other endorphins in the brain that make us feel good. Try not to listen to music but listen to the sounds around you: the crunch of the leaves, the bird songs, the high-school band practicing down the street.
Make sure you spend some time outdoors while the sun is up or try a light box. The time change can trigger some seasonal affective issues such lack of motivation, increased fatigue and withdrawal of social activities.
If you do have feelings of depression or have worry you cannot control, check with your doctor or talk to a mental-health therapist. Counselors can be a great resource to help create a self-care plan and to give a little extra support during any difficult season of life.
Dr. Megan Clapton is a licensed professional counselor and clinical director of Mindful Therapy.