The alluring Autumn is among us, and with her, she brings chunky sweaters, cool night breezes, cinnamon-scented candles, tree leaves that turn a beautiful kaleidoscope of colors, and the invasion of pumpkin-spiced everything! I absolutely love the Fall season. It calls for everything snugly, inviting, reflective, intimate, and cozy. However, for many, this season is nothing to celebrate.
The Autumn Equinox is a season of balance and harvesting. It is one of two moments in the year when day and night are in perfect balance – when the hours of light during the day and the hours of darkness at night are equal. This year the Autumn Equinox fell on September 23rd. For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, it officially marked the beginning of the Fall season, with our hours of daylight continuing to grow shorter each day until the winter solstice in December.
It is this deprivation of sunlight that can lead to changes in serotonin and melatonin levels, causing many to feel fatigued or experience a decline in their mood. More intensely, many suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), or depression related to the change in seasons usually beginning in the late Fall or early Winter and remitting in Spring or Summer.
Though humans have not been considered seasonal creatures, there is growing evidence that lends to the contrary. Scientists now know that humans, like other mammals, have a circadian rhythm or internal clock that governs our sleep/wake cycles, among other daily functions. According to an article by Khan et al. written in the International Journal of Biological Science, light also provides us with non-visual cues that influence things like our pupil dilation, alertness, and heart rate modulation.
While we live in a world that tells us that we must never slow down and we should pile more on our plates, during and after the Autumn Equinox the universe begs of us to slow down. Our natural instincts may be to fight through the fatigue and depression. But if we really listen, there should be no fight, just flow. Our ancestors were aligned with the energy of the equinox, giving thanks to each season and honoring the cycle of nature. Some species will hibernate and migrate until after the cold weather passes. Why do we believe ourselves to be different?
The harvesting metaphor of the Autumn Equinox prompts us to engage in rest and reflective contemplation. According to Elaine Voci Ph.D., a Certified Life-Cycle Celebrant, this is an optimal time to examine the past year of our lives, clarify our intentions for the future, and to re-energize our life goals. It is also a great time to engage in rituals and honor the processes of renewal, creativity, and replenishment. It is this flow of nature and not the fight that will help to make Autumn more alluring and empowering for you.
Make the following small adjustments to spark your creativity and feel rejuvenated during this Fall Season:
1. De-clutter – Give or throw away things you no longer need or that hold negative memories for you. Discarding them will clear your physical and mental space in order to make room for the new.
2. State your intentions – Take time to be reflective and write down or journal those intentions, goals, or seeds that will take root in Spring.
3. Ensure that you are getting enough rest, sleep and time to reflect during the coming colder months.
4. Indulge in making warm delights such as stews, chili, soups, or baking.
5. Set boundaries – take time to reflect on those activities and people that no longer lift you up. Then be willing to walk away.
Whether you are looking forward to snuggling around a cozy fire or dreading all the obsession with pumpkin spice during the growing darkness of Fall, we are all affected by the Autumn Equinox. As the sun makes its way around the earth, this can indeed be an illustrious time for us to honor the beauty of balance – between day and night, jaunting activities and restful times, productivity and contemplation. It also encourages us to give thanks for our life’s bountiful harvest. Make your emotional health and mental well-being a priority this Fall season by shifting with the beautiful wisdom of nature.