October 7, 2021
As autumn advances, temperatures drop and the days become shorter. This shift can cause some people to feel down. But incorporating autumn self care activities can help lift our spirits!
Why is self care so important? Because wellbeing starts within! Taking time out of the day for yourself is a small act of self-compassion that can nourish you from the inside out. By adding calming and revitalizing activities to your routine, you can begin to bring balance back into your life.
Fall-inspired self care activities, in particular, can bring us immense comfort. Certain seasonal objects, scents, flavors, and environments can help us create emotional anchors that are soothing and reassuring.
At minimum, luxuriating in cozy daily rituals can help you feel a little better and give you something nice to look forward to. Regular self care is very beneficial for your overall health and wellbeing. When you are at ease you are more likely to reconnect with yourself and regain a positive perspective.
Start by looking outside the nearest window. You can see it’s only a matter of time now – the trees are about to show us how lovely it is to let things go! Autumn is a great time to reexamine old habits and drop those thoughts and things that are no longer serving you.
Take this opportunity to slow down, set new boundaries, and create some breathing room for your mental health. Next, consciously make the decision to incorporate a positive activity into your day. Self care can sometimes be hard, but it helps to begin by making a deliberate decision to change your routine.
Little by little, move from inaction to action. Start small to set yourself up for success. Little things can add up to have a profound effect on your life. Think about how you can purposefully make use of your five senses to feel your best. Jot down some ideas if it helps you identify the things you might enjoy the most.
Meaningful sources of inspiration are all around us during fall! Awareness and mindfulness can transform even the most ordinary moments into something special.
One of the simplest ways to lift your spirit is by taking a walk outdoors. The chill in the air can help you feel reinvigorated, and a small dose of sunlight can help you replenish Vitamin D. Watch the leaves change colors and notice how the natural landscape changes day by day. Taking time to enjoy the natural environment is an excellent way to bring yourself mindfully into the moment.
Hearing the crunch of fallen leaves underfoot is also soothing to many people. The sound can even generate an autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) in some. ASMR is a calming and relaxing emotional response and/or pleasant tingling sensation that is produced by certain sensory experiences. Studies have suggested that ASMR experiences can have therapeutic value. These sensations may improve mental and physical health by helping to regulate emotions or by combating stress or anxiety.
We are fortunate to have beautiful green spaces in Kansas that make it easy to enjoy nature. The Konza Prairie Nature Trail in Manhattan, the River Walk Trail in Junction City, and state parks at Milford Lake and Tuttle Creek Lake come to mind as accessible areas to take in the open air. You may even see some wildlife!
But you don’t have to go far – even ambling around your neighborhood or stepping out for a quick stroll on a lunch break can do a lot of good! Researchers at Cornell found that as few as 10 minutes spent outdoors can help people feel happier.
What is your favorite autumn drink? Make a point of having some warm spiced cider, a cup of tea, hot chocolate, a fall-themed latte, or even a savory cup of soup. Comforting beverages and soups are especially delightful this time of year.
Warmth is commonly associated with safety, and hot drinks can have many therapeutic effects on our wellbeing. A warming drink can bring relief to those who are feeling under the weather. They can help the body by improving hydration, digestive wellness, and by providing immunity support.
A warm drink can also assist in building a routine to help set the pace of life. For example, many people start the day with a hot cup of coffee or tea and end the day with a non-caffeinated warm drink to wind down and promote sleep. These daily rituals can add structure to your day and help you slow down to savor the moment.
Did you know pleasantly warm temperatures can also encourage prosocial behaviors? Interestingly, a study published in Science showed that simply holding a hot drink can influence how you perceive others. When holding a cup of coffee, study participants viewed others as having “warmer” personality traits. So it follows that sharing a warm drink with a coworker, friend, or partner may support a positive interpersonal climate.
The fall harvest season is a great excuse to pick up some fresh local produce to enjoy. Visit your favorite farm to choose a special pumpkin (or several!). This relaxing and positive fall tradition reminds us to express gratitude and look forward to the future. The pumpkin is a quintessential symbol of the harvest representing growth, abundance, and prosperity. And although pumpkins ripen as the summer comes to an end, their plentiful seeds signal the opportunity for new beginnings.
You can decorate a pumpkin with paints, carve a pattern to create a jack-o’-lantern, or leave them as-is to enjoy their natural beauty. Choose a “pie pumpkin” and try your hand at baking a fresh pumpkin pie, pumpkin spice muffins, or a creamy soup made from pumpkin purée.
Pumpkin seeds can be washed and saved for planting in the spring, or they can be roasted and eaten as a nutritious snack. Scientists have noted numerous health benefits related to the consumption of pumpkin seeds. Pumpkin seeds have also been found to contain compounds that have anti-depressive potential (but further research is still needed to support this possible benefit).
Light a candle and fill your home with your favorite autumn aroma, or start fresh with a seasonal scent you have not tried yet. Gourmand fragrances like apple, caramel, cinnamon, pumpkin, and vanilla can create a cozy atmosphere.
Did you know? The gentle calming effect that scented candles produce is stimulated by interactions occurring in the limbic system of the brain, which controls mood and memory. The limbic system recognizes smells through the olfactory bulb and uses them to modulate brain waves and emotions.
When used safely, aromatherapy can help manage symptoms of anxiety, insomnia, stress, or depression in some people. Since our sense of smell is tied with memory, we can select scents that encourage positive feelings and evoke fond memories.
If fragrances are bothersome or distracting to you, you may still benefit from lighting an unscented candle. Candles create ambiance and can transform the way we feel within a space.
Scented and unscented candles are commonly used in various spiritual and religious practices around the world. For example, candles can act as a tool to increase focus during meditation, they can serve as a votive during prayer, or they can be lit to honor the memory of loved ones.
Sitting by a bonfire or campfire on a cool evening can be a powerful tool to boost relaxation and contentment. Enjoying a home fireplace, wood stove, electric fireplace, or even a video recording of crackling logs can produce a similar effect.
To understand why sitting by a bonfire might be beneficial, we can refer to previous activities in this list like the ASMR effect or the influence of candlelight and scents. Scientific findings show that blood pressure is reduced and relaxation is induced by being fireside.
One theory behind this is that the multisensory experiences that controlled fires produce appeal to us on a primeval level. In ancient times, fires were used to illuminate the darkness, cook food, and warm living spaces. Since fires require planning and tending, they also encourage social connection.
Eventually, controlled fires were brought into homes and the hearth became the central focus of social life. Today, the modern cooking “hearth” is the kitchen range. This brings us back to baking pumpkin pie (yum!).
Is there a book you have been meaning to dig into? Autumn is the perfect time of year to get into the habit of reading regularly. Instead of reaching for your phone or turning on the TV, make a conscious effort to spend your spare time absorbed in a good book.
Reading can reduce stress and help improve mental flexibility. It can help increase empathy, creativity, and insightfulness. Make a day of it and head to the park to read in the sunshine. Or, simply spend an hour or two reading on the porch or in your favorite armchair at home.
You might even consider joining a book discussion club to connect with the community and make new friends. Research has shown that bibliotherapy (the use of literature to promote mental health) in the context of participating in a guided reading circle can be an effective way to improve psychological wellbeing, boost self-confidence, and increase social interaction.
Take a moment to write something down too! You could try journaling or have some fun with creative writing. One of the best things you can do with the written word is to write down what you are grateful for. Expressing gratitude about the things, people, and experiences (even the difficult ones) that have contributed to positive outcomes in your life can enhance mental health. Here is a list of gratitude exercises to get started.
Go outside tonight and look up! Stargazing can be a tranquil activity that can help you unwind and find your way back to nature. If where you live has a lot of light pollution, you can take a short drive out into the Kansas countryside for more spectacular views.
Nothing is more awe-inspiring and peaceful than the night sky. Glimpsing a starry sky can quiet your thoughts and remind you that you are part of something bigger than yourself.
It is important to experience this feeling of the “small self” once in a while because it can inspire altruism and enhance personal wellbeing. Watching the night sky can help us be more present and put worries into perspective.
You can safely appreciate the stars together with your friends or family. Stargazing can be as social as you like! Make yourselves comfortable with blankets, cushions, or pillows. Talk about what you see, and then quiet down to enjoy the smallest sounds in your natural surroundings.
Avoiding artificial light in the evening can have many positive effects on health and mood. If you make stargazing a habit, you might even reset your circadian rhythm and enjoy deeper sleep.
Self care is something that can be beneficial to anyone (and by no means should your self care habits end with the passing of the season). Remember, self care is not selfish! We all have mental health and it’s key that we take time to attend to it. But it’s true that good self care takes effort.
Certain conditions like depression, anxiety, PTSD, or seasonal affective disorder (SAD) can make it more difficult to carry out daily activities. You are not alone – asking for help is the most courageous act of self care.
The goal of self care is to develop an understanding of your own emotional and physical needs, to learn to set healthy boundaries for yourself and regarding others, and to build skills that will improve your resilience and wellbeing in the long run. Attending therapy consistently can help you work through issues you may be facing and provide you with the tools you need to improve your self care habits.
Take a personal moment to reflect. When you are ready, contact us and claim your time to heal with ongoing, compassionate support from our skilled team. You can also check out our list of local and national mental health crisis resources for immediate assistance. ⯁
Former Director of Marketing and Communications at Andrews & Associates Counseling.