5 Ways to Brighten Your Fall Mood
As the summer recedes, solutions for each of your senses.
Posted Oct 03, 2014
“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer”—Albert Camus
The advent of autumn is, for many, a welcome change from the long dog days of summer. Though the energetic rays of the summer sun can seem to add an extra bounce to our step, the fall brings not just the hustle and bustle of the school year and holiday season, but also a form of turning inward; literally, there are fewer outdoor events like barbeques and more indoor coffee dates over spiced drinks.
For some, the shift in weather corresponds with a dip in mood. While this effect may not reach diagnosable Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) levels in your life, you may still sense a change in your energy. Before fretting too much, try some of these small tips and tricks to invigorate each of your senses and keep you, well, walking on sunshine.
During a yoga session, I was amazed to hear a teacher talk about how the music played in their classes intentionally varied with the seasons. The summer might have light, energetic sounds, or an upbeat drum, while the programmed fall sounds may invoke something more reflective. As the fall often brings about a shift into more of a hustle, invite yourself to experience more music that is soothing or calming. And when your energy starts to lag, play something upbeat. Better yet, know when you need to step away from all sound, be it with earplugs or noise-canceling headphones. I love accessing a Pandora station that includes soft piano music for times when I need some serenity, and a Hawaiian station to pretend I’m in a faraway destination relaxing and sipping pineapple juice. I think I just inspired myself to take a break from this post to pour a refreshing glass, which leads me to my next point ...
Flavors and tastes can have a surprising impact on our mood and energy levels. Over the summer, I experimented with a common “detox” that many health experts recommend—a little bit of fresh lemon juice in hot water before breakfast. Some claim it replaces the need for coffee, others simply say it's hydrating and leads them to eat a smaller breakfast; still others claim it jump starts their metabolism. I just found that the smell, taste, texture, and sight of a lemon was plenty invigorating in the early morning. But since the fall is when many of us allow our taste buds to indulge perhaps too much, maintaining some of summer's lighter, healthier fare can be beneficial.
The spaces in which you live and work can have a significant affect on your mood. Take a look around: Maybe during a deep Spring cleaning you tossed and recycled, but don't wait another nine months to do it again—de-clutter and take a fresh look at your space. In the morning, I love feeling the sunlight on my back and looking out into an airy and bright space. I recently redecorated my therapy office. While keeping some more traditional and contemporary colors, I added citron throw pillows and curtains with a pop of mustardy yellow. Set against a light bright white desk with big open windows, I'm starting to feel the zen atmosphere I want my clients to experience.
But changing up your surroundings doesn’t have to involve major expense—a few small, bright tweaks can make a major difference, like plants, lamps, or covers in soothing or bright colors depending upon your mood. Listen to what speaks to you and catches your eye.
Relatedly, paying attention to textures and fabrics in your everyday can also influence your mood. Whether it’s a soft shag rug or a cozy cardigan, we experience touch and texture all the time, but too often we're preoccupied and unaware of what surround us. We sit on uncomfortable chairs or wear scratchy sweaters and then wonder why we're cranky. Instead, bring softer textures into your life—or maybe something edgy that pops. Touch can have a major affect on your mood. Maybe trade the heavy wool blanket for something warm but more cozy, or change the sheets on your bed to something silky or more soft. We are always touching and being touched, so make it count.
The scent of Fall is synonymous with pumpkin spiced lattes; cinnamon, vanilla, and similar spicy scents prevail. But while these smells can impart comfort, a burst of citrus can quickly awaken the senses. Whether it’s essential oils, body lotions, soaps, or candles, pay attention to smell in your environment. I was recently amazed by the scent of my pumpkin waffles wafting through my home from the toaster oven. It was both uplifting and comforting. So be deliberate about the scents with which you fill your environment.
Often when I start seeing patients in the autumn, their symptoms haven’t magically manifested out of the blue. It's more of a cascade of events. Perhaps they started a stressful new job, or they're students in a new term. This stressor leads them to sleep less because they're waking earlier without having adjusted their bedtime. This leads to them skip breakfast at home and opt instead for a venti mocha with whipped cream hoping the sugar and caffeine pulls them through. But then the afternoon crash comes in and they turn to another quick fix—chips instead of an apple or banana. They drag through the rest of the day with low energy. Feeling this way, they're more likely to neglect their personal space and workspace; things start to feel chaotic and disorganized. On the commute home, they listen to blaring music to keep themselves up, but only end up feeling more irritable. Eventually they crash, and the cycle repeats over again.
Yes, the above scenario sounds cliché, and yet it is an all too common occurrence.
It demonstrates a concatenation of events that incrementally chip away at your mood and resiliency. When I assess for basic factors such as sleep, exercise, diet, hygiene, social interaction, and substance use, a picture quickly emerges of where something has gone awry in an equation that once added up to good mental health. This season, be mindful and aware of the slow shifts and changes around you. Enjoy the pumpkin lattes, but also healthy meals. When cooler weather sets in, surround yourself in warmth and energy. Simple elements—colors, smells, tastes, touch, and sounds—can help you push the reset button with ease.