Socks are on, winter boots are out, love it or hate it, Autumn is in full swing. Personally, I’m a lover of the season and all of its rewards, like extra cuddles to warm up from the cold and the excuse to drink hot chocolate every day. However, if we don’t treat it with care, Autumn can have a pretty negative impact on our moods.
Do you notice little changes in yourself during this time of the year? Maybe your appetite has changed, or your sleep pattern, or maybe you’re noticing a difference in your energy levels or mood? Just like animals, our instinct is to adapt to nature's course. If we ignore this instinct we may find that our bodies and minds start to suffer the consequences, and in turn, our moods deteriorate.
If you have noticed any of the symptoms below have affected you since the turn of the season, then maybe it’s time you considered a few changes:
What happens during autumn
The body, mind and emotions change with the season just as nature intended. Here are some of the changes you might encounter in Autumn and the colder months:
• Dry skin: Less moisture in the air means the water in your skin evaporates a lot quicker than in the warmer months, causing dry skin.
• Blocked sinuses: The dryness in the air can irritate your sinuses, meaning they compensate by creating more mucus, resulting in a blocked nose.
• Digestive problems: You may notice that during the colder months, you're prone to feeling hungry more frequently. This is because your body is using energy a lot quicker to keep yourself warm. The problem is we tend to eat the wrong foods to fill this void resulting in stomach irritation.
• Low mood: There's a reason we love to talk weather – it directly impacts our mood, grey skies = grey moods. This is primarily due to a lack of vitamin D during colder months. Research from New England Journal of Medicine shows that the lack of vitamin D in the body can be directly related to depressive symptoms.
• Difficulty sleeping: In the Winter, we have an increase of the natural sleep hormone, melatonin, and a decrease of serotonin. Research shows this combination can cause our body clocks to become out of sync and lead to symptoms of insomnia.
• Lack of interest in activities: Winter makes us want to stay inside for obvious reasons. We become less social and more withdrawn.
• Stressed and irritable: If our moods are low, fuses are shorter, leading to irritability and stress.
Tips for living well in colder weather
1. Eat for the season
The easiest way to get around the new colder months is to allow the seasons to guide you. This will help you to avoid seasonal affective disorder (SAD) too. Think about it – what kind of foods does Autumn offer? More earthy, root vegetables, right? Listen to your body. This is what it wants. On the other hand, give your body products out of season and your digestion will slow, subsequently leading you to feel lethargic and lacking the 'get up and go'.
2. Keep the skin moisturised
Oil helps warm up the skin as well as nourish it with what it lacks during the colder months. The great thing about oil is that it’s natural, cheap and you can pretty much use whatever you find in the kitchen cupboard. I would recommend Grape seed oil not only because it’s full of vitamin C, it absorbs easily and makes the perfect carrier oil. I mix it with some grapefruit essential oil to perk me up in the morning and it leaves me feeling fresh all day.
3. Stewed fruit breakfasts
Eating something warm and nourishing on a cold morning is just what's needed to gently coax your body awake. Stewed fruits can go with anything – porridge, granola, pancakes and yoghurt. Make a batch for the week on a Sunday evening for example, and then all you have to do is heat yourself some each morning. I always stew with cinnamon or cardamon, spices that are known for their calming medicinal effect on the mind and digestive system. Here's an easy Autumn breakfast recipe to last you one week:
Bag of apples cored, peeled and chopped, tsp of cinnamon, 1 tbsp agave syrup, 200ml of water. Place in pan of simmering heat and cook until softened.
4. Get to bed earlier
Just half an hour will make all the difference. In the winter, just like other animals, our bodies and minds crave more sleep. The shorter days are a guide for our body clock, so try shifting your evening routine to half an hour earlier. To help you with this, begin turning your main lights off about 30 to 45 minutes before bed and have some low lights or candles on instead. Take this time to listen to music, read, take a bath or do some restorative yoga. No blue screens here! (i.e. no electronics).
5. More heat and more oxygen
We need to give our body a bit of heat but also need to gain a bit more oxygen in the blood-stream to keep us going through winter. Attending a hot yoga class or some dynamic flow yoga can help a lot. Try to balance this with slower pace practices too – like meditating for 5 minutes after your class. Also, if you can, try to get these done in the mornings – remember, evenings are for hibernation prep.
6. Walk to appreciate the beauty of Autumn
Research shows that walking can have a wealth of benefits for the mood. Autumn brings a whole new spectrum of colour to the world and taking only 15 minutes to walk amongst the crisp leaves will ensure you get fresh oxygen into your lungs and bring a lovely autumnal glow to your face.
7. Soups and stews
As mentioned above, root veg is what it’s all about from now on. Think pumpkin, butternut squash, carrots etc. There’s something very satisfying about making a soup or stew from scratch. I recommend using a slow cooker to really get the most from the veg – plus, you can throw them all in before work, and it’s pretty much ready for when you return in the evening.
8. Drink warm water and lemon
If you’re really struggling on the energy front, it might be because your digestion needs a little pick-me-up. Try hot water, lemon and 1/4 tsp ginger paste each morning. This can create that little bit of fire your system needs to get things moving again.
So there you have it, your guide to staying healthy and happy this Autumn and Winter. Try to be completely present with what is. Don’t wish the season away, dreaming of bikinis and beaches. Enjoy it and all it has to offer. You’d be surprised what a little gratitude and acceptance can do for you.
Read next: 4 Steps You Can Take Now to Prevent A Cold
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