On September 22nd we will enter the Autumn season. But it really begins when you feel changes in your mind and body and the environment around you. Lately, I’ve been sensing the seasonal shift, which always encourages me to look at my self-care, emotional, and nutritional needs and with that, the gentle surrendering to slow down, be present, and listen.
Just as seasons cycle every year, so does our mindset and attitude. Transitioning through the seasons allows us to reflect and adapt to the conditions surrounding us. Autumn is a beautiful time of the year when the earth is preparing to rest for regeneration. Everything is beginning to slow down from the activity that was present during the summer.
I find Autumn a very gentle, nurturing and satisfying time. Our bodies naturally know how to find balance, if only we take care to listen to the cues. It’s within this quiet space that we actually get the chance to tune in.
Autumn’s shift to darker nights and cooler days can leave us feeling a little out of balance both physically, mentally, and spiritually. With summer about to end, not only do we start to notice the leaves turning colour, but we may also notice a physical and emotional transition in ourselves, too. Autumn can affect everything from health and mood, to energy levels and our natural circadian rhythms. That’s why it’s essential to keep yourself grounded and in touch with your body and the nature that surrounds you.
East meets West
According to Ayurveda, each season has different properties. For example, early Autumn is very dry (vata), while early Spring is quite wet and heavy (kapha). As we transition into Autumn, we might feel vata-related imbalances, such as excess nervous energy, anxiety, trouble focusing, difficulty sleeping, constipation, dryness of the skin, feeling chilly around the neck or cold in our bones, etc. If we want to flow into the new season with ease and grace, it’s important to prep our mind, body and spirit for the new things each season brings so we don’t feel out of sorts during these weather-changing periods.
A little bit of Eastern wisdom can go a long way in helping us making the necessary adjustments as we move towards the changing season. Ayurveda uses subtle seasonal implications that affect everything from the food we eat to our physical activity. Using local, seasonal produce supports this way of thinking and living, something that I deeply believe in and have written about here. And of course there are general things that work for all of us, like early to bed, early to rise and leaving time between meals, so we can fully digest. A change of season resets our taste buds, schedule, eating patterns, and digestion.
My approach to flowing with the seasons
My approach is a very gentle, forgiving one. We don’t have to be perfect – that’s not achievable, or sustainable – and a slippery slope to other extremes. Instead, I aim for a gentle balance. I like to use the analogy of a surfer riding the waves, embracing the ups and downs with strength and flexibility, rather than a flat, predictable surface. Nothing in life is predictable or constant, so let’s not set ourselves up for failure with that notion. The key is to try to incorporate healthy habits wherever we can. Once you notice the benefits of taking some time to recalibrate, you will naturally start to fall into step with the flow of the seasons and look forward to them.
For me, this means listening to my mind and body and having a chance to tune in to the bigger picture spiritually, paying attention to what I’m craving and trying my best to be kind to myself. This way, I’m able to keep healthy habits year-round and whenever I can’t keep to my routine, I don’t beat myself up about it. Tomorrow is a new day.
Cycle with nature
Generally, I try to live more in tune with nature, winding down when the sun goes down, waking in time to greet it, eating my biggest meal at lunchtime and eating local, seasonal food as much as possible. Even something as little as walking barefoot on a patch of grass helps the body recalibrate, or keeping a plant on your desk can promote balance and enhance your everyday.
A seasonal cleanse and reset
To assist the changing of the seasons and to reset my taste buds, I like to do a simple weekend cleanse. It’s important to mention at the offset that the seasonal cleanse I’m talking about here is not about weight loss. It never puts your body through strain – there’s enough of that in our modern world anyway – nor does it leave you hungry as a juice cleanse might. When we’re not punishing ourselves, when we’re not restricting ourselves, it’s easier to listen to our bodies and our minds and to answer with what we actually want and need.
It’s a very gentle, nurturing cleanse that I like to do anytime that I feel out of whack or if my body feels inflamed. But, in general, I aim to do it 4 times a year for every change of season. A little holistic reset allows us to take care of things like our environment and sleep hygiene, too. When life is running in the fast lane, it means we need to bring back balance with periods of downtime and rest, so gentler activities rather than hyper-stimulating ones, such as going for walks, practicing yoga, meditation and breath work. The food I choose to eat reflects this and revolves around very simple, adaptable and satisfying meals that can be mixed and matched for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It can even be followed for just one day to experience beneficial benefits. In next weeks Journal post, I’ll be sharing more about how I do this.
Nature’s medicine cabinet
I call herbs and spices nature’s medicine cabinet and I absolutely encourage you to add them to your cooking repertoire as they are incredibly beneficial. They make food taste delicious and they have unique healing properties. Healing starts with food and good digestion, and many spices, such as cumin and fennel, can support you. Turmeric is an anti-inflammatory power house as well as being antibacterial, as is ginger. I like to incorporate them as foods to enjoy their properties – a little bit of this and that in my everyday cooking and teas.
Around this time, I’ll like go through my herb and spice box and do a little stock check. I pull out the ones that are out of date and make a note to replace them. Old herbs and spices lose their aroma and valuable properties, so I am pretty intentional about this, especially as I like to use these precious foods medicinally. I encourage you to buy your herbs and spices in small amounts from specialist shops and health food stores that source their products organically, ethically, sustainably, and are of the highest quality.
I prefer to buy spices whole, grinding them in an electric coffee grinder just before I plan to use them. This helps to release their fresh flavours and oils, therefore retaining their valuable properties. I store the herbs and spices in small glass jars and bottles, which I label, making sure to include the date I bought them. These are kept in a cool dark cupboard away from direct sunlight. You can find a list of my favourite medicinal herbs and spices here.
Stoking your digestive fire
In Ayurveda, having good digestion or a lively Agni (meaning “fire” in Sanskrit, the language of Ayurveda) is one of the most important pillars of maintaining optimal health. Those of you who have been part of the 3 Sources community for a while will know that optimising gut health is the foundation upon which my health and wellness philosophy is built upon. You want your body to be able to properly digest and extract the most nutritious aspects from your food, which is why I am passionate about the importance of good digestion. And whilst proper nutrition is important, the way you eat and when you eat are equally important to keep your digestive fire strong.
As I transition into Autumn, I’m thinking about my nutrition and the cooking practices that will encourage digestive fire in readiness for the cooler months. I focus on three main factors:
- Eat cooked, easy to digest fibre-rich food
- Include warming and digestive spices in my cooking
- Add in some simple digestive teas
This might look like warming soups and broths, trays of roasted root vegetables, and poached fruits with cinnamon and star anise. Spices like asafoetida, ginger, garlic, black pepper, nutmeg and anise are some of the best spices to use in cooking to ignite the Agni. Herbal teas using these spices can be sipped 15 minutes before you eat, which is an easy and effective way to wake up your digestion. On Autumn mornings, I favour chai tea blended with coconut butter and topped with energising bee pollen.
Movement for immunity
With the seasonal shift, a return to longer workdays and the back-to-school onset of germs, our immune systems can easily become compromised. I believe that a daily practice of movement keeps illness at bay and prevents stagnation from building in our bodies. When we keep moving, literally and figuratively, it activates and supports the immune system, discouraging the growth of bacteria and reducing cortisol levels. Find a supportive movement method that you enjoy that promotes ease rather than push, such as yoga, pilates, rebounding, ballet barre, dancing, walking, etc. Find an online class and fit it into your daily routine. No gym required.
Daylight positively affects your energy and serotonin levels and Autumnal sunshine offers an extra boost of vitamin D, which we will need coming into the darker months to support the immune system. So get your daily dose of light from the best source: the sun (even if you can’t see it directly). Beginning your day with a morning walk, or even taking your breakfast outside for 20-30 minutes is a great way to start.
I do a proper intention setting ritual at least once a season. Then, after I’ve set them, I review them as often as I can, especially when I need a mental boost. It’s something to remind me not to get lost in the details or things that aren’t essential. This helps keep me focused and excited about what I’m calling in to the new season and gives me a starting point on days I feel lost or unsure of where I’m going and helps me stay on track.
We are all dreamers. And, planners. Spending time envisioning your ideal day, week, or life is time well spent and helps to keep your positive vibration high. So often, we are simply working off today’s to-do list , focused on immediate goals and running at top speed. Taking the time to visualise a beautiful season ahead can shed light on important values and help us to see the big picture. Delight in the big picture and let it inspire you. Then, engineer backwards with an agile plan. You may find yourself with new priorities and a fresh outlook.
Start a meditation practice
Change begins within. And, a quiet mind is the catalyst for true change. Seemingly, nothing is simpler than sitting still, yet a meditation practice can elude even the most well-intentioned of us. But, if we look at meditation as a supportive tool, it can help us to see it in a new light. The practice is in the practice. There are countless styles of meditation and ways to practice. Find one that is right for you, and commit to it. Start gradually, build up, and see what happens over time. The benefits of meditation are vast. It increases grey matter in our brains, lowers cortisol, increases focus, reduces blood pressure, alleviates anxiety, tackles depression and insomnia and puts the body in a state of heightened healing. I mean, why wouldn’t you start? You can read more here.
Autumn energy clearing
The act of burning wood or herbs, also known as smudging, has been performed for centuries by healers across the globe. Thought to promote positive energy, smudging dissolves negativity through the intentional act of burning a natural fragrant substance. For this season, I favour Palo Santo, also known as holy wood, for its grounding and earthy scent. Watch the smoke rise and dissipate and send positive thoughts and energy with the rising smoke. The smoke represents a clearing and cleansing ally for the body, mind and spirit, repelling dense energies to make way for clear, fresh energies. Embrace the beautiful scent of the wood, and enjoy taking the time to honour and cleanse your space, clear stagnant emotions, set intentions, ground your body and lift your mood.
What rituals help you transition into the new season? I’d love to know. Please feel free to comment below.
On the Journal next week: My 3 day Autumnal Cleanse and Reset. Will you join me? Type “YES” in the comments.