The autumn season has a unique quality. As the days are getting shorter and darker, the senses are directed inwards and the awareness for the impermanence of all things reminds us to fully embrace each moment. Although some autumn days can still be pleasantly warm and sunny, there’s no denying that winter is coming sooner or later. At this time of year we may feel more isolated due to the fact that the decreasing temperatures confine us to the insides of our homes more often than we would like. Some people are prone to mood swings or even seasonal affective disorder (often called “winter blues”) .
As a proactive measure, here are 5 mindfulness practices for the autumn season that help you bring some balance and uplifting into your life.
1. Change your perspective.
When was the last time you walked through nature with your eyes wide open for all the little wonders the world has to offer? The daily hassle can make us blind for so many beautiful things, so it’s worth giving them more attention every once in a while.
Consciously observing the things around you and noticing the small details that are normally overlooked is a wonderful way to cultivate awareness that magic is indeed all around – you just have to look for it.
Re-develop your natural curiosity and see the world through the eyes of a child: let go of the labels you’ve been putting on things for years and instead try to percieve everything as if you were looking at it for the very first time. Go for a walk and pay attention to small details along the way. You can make a little attention-sharpening game out of it, like trying to spot everything that has the shape of a heart, or – if you’re familiar with the phenomenon of pareidolia – all the “faces” you can identify in common objects like a doorknob or curiously shaped woodholes in a tree. You will be surprised how special your surroundings will start to become once you look at them from a different perspective.
2. Practice soliloquy.
My favorite way of clearing my head and slowing down my thoughts is going for long walks. Walking is like a movement meditation for me. It’s ideal to sort things in my mind, and the aspect of movement helps me get the feeling that I am making progress even when the world outside comes to a rest and stagnation. And I like to talk to myself when walking, a practice called soliloquy.
Imagine you’re going for a walk with a close friend, except that this friend is yourself. Talk to your ‘friend’ as if you haven’t seen each other in a while: give a summary of where you stand in life, of what’s happening in all its different areas: job, health, family, love. Or alternatively pick just one area that feels worth to be addressed. The key is to identify the topics that occupy your thoughts most, and consciously become aware of how you deal with them. Let your imaginary friend be just a listener if you want, or imagine which questions he might ask you in your conversation.
You can practice your soliloquy silently in your mind or aloud. There is no reason to be ashamed of talking to yourself. In fact, it’s a recommended self-reflection practice used by many brilliant minds. Voicing your thoughts can help you see clearer and work out better which topics are most prominent in your mind, and it can be the first step towards materializing and manifesting your dreams.
3. Make a fall mandala.
Creating mandalas – circular ornaments that resemble natural energy lines – is a highly satisfying and rewarding mindfulness exercise. Instead of drawing or painting a mandala, try making one with natural objects this fall. Get out into nature and collect everything that catches your eye – colorful leaves, pretty stones, acorns, chestnuts, cones, seeds, flowers, or pieces of wood.
Choose a place that you like and feel connected to – or simply a spot that could use some good energy – to lay out your mandala. There are no rules as to how big or small, how elaborate or symmetric it should be. Just take your time and be mindful and creative. Think of it as your gratitude symbol for everything you have been given in the past year, and your natural lucky charm for the next phase in your life.
If you want to, snap a photo of your mandala when you’re finished to capture the good energy you put into your work. You can add the picture to your personal inspiration board (see below), as a tool for your meditation practice, or just as a beautiful memory of a happy moment. When you leave the place, leave the mandala there. You can be sure that it will bring a smile to the face of the next passer-by.
4. Honor the fruits of nature.
While many people see cooking as a daily chore or even a hassle that serves the sole purpose of getting something edible into your stomach, the process of preparing a meal can actually be a wonderful mindfulness exercise. Mindful cooking is not a new concept anymore. It slows you down and allows you to get in touch with nature’s power to nourish and nurture, and cultivate awareness for the fruits of nature – and there’s no better time to try it than the fall season.
Pumpkins, kale, nuts, dried berries – fall is rich with the most delicious and nutritious produce that had time to grow and ripe during the warm summer. If you have the chance, try not to buy your ingredients in the supermarket but get them directly from a farmer’s market or, if possible, right from the field, so they’re fresh and loaded with nutrients.
Set aside some time exclusively for preparing your meal. Choose a recipe that keeps you involved, instead of a one-pot dish that leaves you with nothing to do while it’s in the oven. Refrain from doing anything else while you cook: no checking emails in between, no posting pictures of the cooking process. Stay present and enjoy every aspect of the preparation: the cutting, the stirring, the mixing, the color of the ingredients, the smell that develops and changes with each item you add to the cooking pan. Be present with every step.
When your meal is ready, enjoy it with all your senses. Eat it as mindfully as you’ve cooked it. It’s amazing to experience what a different quality a meal can have when you fully delight yourself in it. I promise you, you will taste the love you put into it.
5. Snuggle up
It can be hard for people who love being outdoors and spending a lot of time in nature to be forced to spend more time inside as fall turns into winter. The approaching cold weather gives you the perfect opportunity to create yourself your own personal snuggle place right at your home. This can be a cozy corner on your sofa, a comfy armchair, or a little nook next to the window where you can set up a blanket and some colorful cushions. If you find absolutely no available corner, you can even design a space you can set up temporarily whenever you need it, for example a blanket castle like those kids like to build, decorated with fairy lights to channel your inner child. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as you associate it with well-being and emotional security.
Put your personal feel-good things nearby: a pretty jar filled with your favorite cookies, books you’ve always planned to read, incense, scented candles or an aroma oil diffuser, tarot cards, a coloring book or your knitwork. If you want to, you can create a vision board with your favorite photos, snippets, inspirational quotes and little keepsakes and pin it to the closest wall to inspire and uplift you whenever you look at it.
Visit your snuggle space whenever you’re in the mood for some self-care. Use it for your daily 10 minutes of meditation, to relax and unwind your head, or simply as a place you can retreat to whenever you want to escape from your daily routine and recharge your batteries.