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Harris B Stratyner Ph.D., CASAC

Tips To Chase Away The Fall Blues

How To Beat The Fall Blues

In my last blog, I spoke about the "blues" that many of us feel in the fall. With the summer ending, the weather changing and the signals that vacation is over and that it is time to get back to school and work, many individuals feel sad and dare I say even a little depressed. However, one does not have to give into these feelings.

I am sure you have heard the old saying "you are what you eat," well probably even more true - "you are what you think." Please note that I am not disregarding Seasonal Affective Disorder (a type of depression that primarily occurs in the winter but often starts in the fall), but what I am discussing is not as serious and not as intense - just more like the "fall slump."

If you anticipate that when the fall comes you will feel sad, then I can assure you that you will feel sad. Right now, I will not take the time to explain why this occurs, but rather how one can use it to their advantage.
It is really rather simple, but does involve a commitment to develop a new philosophy - one that stresses living in the moment. When one commits to live in the moment the seasonal change to the fall really does not exist. This philosophy is very similar to how people get sober - the "one day at a time" approach. If one stays in the moment they begin to appreciate the subtle changes that come about in a manageable manner.

You see, "biting off" a smaller piece of reality allows us to "mentally digest" what we are experiencing in a more thoughtful manner. Now, that statement may actually sound ironic or even funny, but remember we are the only animals that we know of that can use our brains to study and change how our brains work.

What a powerful tool the mind is - it can lead us into darkness and despair, but it can also deliver us from darkness and despair into a life of happiness. Even if one has a chemical predisposition to a substance - the mind is the organ that can help one to change. Why we even say that alcoholism is a brain disease - we know that the seat of addiction is in the mind.
So, first one must train themselves to live in the moment.

Second, one must focus on their surroundings - the eminent psychiatrist Emanuel Zane referred to this as "contextual therapy." Ask yourself, "What is the context of my life right now?" If I am at work, I want to experience the work I am doing - I want to focus on being productive and see the work that I currently do as a learning experience where I can grow.

There is no experience that one has that is not capable of being turned into a marvelous lesson. I know this may sound like "pie in the sky" thinking, but it is true - every miraculous moment. Remember, I said you have to practice. But also remember, your negative thinking required practice as well - years of reinforced pessimism, anxiety-provoking, self-loathing thoughts of "unimaginable imagination," but you did it!

Now it is time to be optimistic - think of the famous "Serenity Prayer," and when you think about the days growing shorter as the fall comes upon us simply deal with the fact that you need to have the "serenity to accept the things you cannot change." This author calls this "go with the flow thinking."

Lastly, "take the time to take the time." Everyone, I don't care what you are doing with your life - be it neurosurgeon, psychologist, unemployed and searching for work, "butcher, baker, or candlestick maker," - everyone can take just five minutes to sit still. Just breath deeply through your nose and exhale through your mouth focusing on something that makes you smile. You will be amazed after only a week what a difference this can make.

So, there you have it - boiled down admittedly, but never the less extremely valuable:

1. Stay in the Moment

2. Take note of your immediate surroundings and place your life in a realistic but positive context

3. Take a few minutes every day to meditate on something that brings you joy

O.K., for all you skeptics out there, I know I am going to hear how simplified I have made things - "if it was that simple Stratyner..." Well all I can say is don't knock it till you really give it a fair try - what do you have to lose besides the blues?


About the Author

Harris Stratyner, Ph.D., CASAC, is a Clinical Associate Professor at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine; he is also with Caron Treatment Centers.