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7 Ways To Care For Your Mental Health This Autumn

As October is fast approaching, the warm days of summer are coming to their end. Everything about the world is changing, but one thing that stands out the most is the sombre and uninviting weather that’s becoming more common. The days get shorter and colder and rain, clouds and fog replace the sun in the sky.

Seasonal changes can be harsh on your wellbeing.

If you’re feeling particularly vulnerable to the changes of this season – especially when it comes to your mental health – then you’re not alone.

The holidays are over and it’s time for us to return to the routine of school, work and home. But the weather and atmosphere around us makes us feel low-spirited, tired, demotivated and bored. It’s difficult to get out of bed on a dark, rainy morning.

But fear not! While autumn can be a difficult time for most of us, it can easily be turned around into an opportunity to nurture your mental health – the season for the soul, as it’s often referred to.

Allow yourself to slow down.

Look, you’re not alone. As we’ve already established, this gloomy weather can make just about anybody feel a little more lazy than usual. It feels like there’s literally less energy in our bodies.

When we look to nature, we see that everything is beginning to slow down, preparing for winter. Many animals and birds leave for warmer climates while others get ready to hibernate. Most insects die and the first frost signals the end of growing season for plants. Nights get longer and there’s a general sense of stillness around us.

For the next few months, nature reminds us to preserve our strength and energy and to take it easy. After a busy summer, now is the time to relax and find refuge in the warmth and comfort of your home.

· Be mindful. We tend to live inside of our heads a lot. Life often moves around us at a fast rate and we miss it by not paying attention. It can feel good to be present and really appreciate the moment you’re in – it really makes the time go slower. Try to incorporate mindfulness into everyday tasks like cooking, eating and walking to work. Do this by simply focusing on your senses.

· Do less. When your to-do list is overflowing and making you stressed, it’s difficult to slow down. Spread out any big tasks across the week, so that you can move through each day with more ease. Don’t overwork yourself and focus on doing one thing at a time.

Practice ‘hygge’.

Hygge is a Danish word and a way of life meaning ‘the art of cosiness and creating intimacy’. Living a hygge life means surrounding yourself with comfort and warmth, creating a cosy atmosphere and indulging in life’s simple luxuries. The Danish people, who practice hygge at home, school and work, see it as a path to ultimate happiness. But you don’t need to go overboard to truly experience the positive effects of this lovely practice.

Simply devoting a day each week to hygge can do wonders for your mental health and wellbeing, as it’s a simple way to self-soothe both physically and mentally. It’s all about feeling relaxed, snuggly and warm.

Here’s what you can do on your hygge day:

· Mark one day of the week as the day you devote to hygge, e.g. Sunday. Performing hygge regularly will help you see lasting effects, give you something to look forward to each week and allow you to unwind.

· On the day, keep your to-do list minimal. Absolutely no stressful or tedious tasks. It’s okay if the only thing you do today is wake up, let your favourite soup simmer for a few hours while you indulge in your hobby. Then, go on a walk or read a book by the window, looking out at the pouring rain. Simplicity above everything.

· If you have a family to look after, spend the day on a fun outing together. Hygge is all about bonding and heart-warming interactions. When you get back home, don’t forget to give some time to yourself – take a bath or sit in the garden with a warm cup of tea.

· Set the right atmosphere and surround yourself with light. Candles are a must for this. They present themselves wonderfully on a windowsill against the darkening landscape outside.

· Indulge and relax. Choose simple luxuries like taking a long, steaming bath, cooking your favourite meal and watching your favourite tv show.

Let go of what’s no longer serving you.

If there’s one thing you can learn from nature during this time of the year, it’s that letting go is a beautiful thing. As the trees gracefully let go of dead leaves, think about what you’d like to be rid of in your own life.

· Declutter your home. Our minds don’t tend to agree with clutter. It stresses us out. Dedicate one day this month to go through all your belongings and decide which things no longer make you feel good.

· Declutter your summer wardrobe.

· Declutter your mind. Are there any behaviours, dysfunctional patterns or limiting beliefs you’d like to get rid of? Now’s the perfect time to work on yourself.

· Forgive. Let go of old grudges to finally regain peace and clarity. Learn how to forgive here -

Eat more colours.

During autumn it’s particularly important to remember that the mind and body are connected. What affects one can affect the other. Having a healthy body is connected to a positive mindset and mood. However, the changing weather means that we’re naturally more vulnerable to colds and flus, which means that we have to take extra precautions to stay healthy.

Autumn is a season of harvest and changing colours. It’s the perfect time to nourish your body with seasonal, nutritious foods.

· Prepare home-made, vegetable broth that’s rich in taste and healthy nutrients. Cook it from cold water and let it simmer for a few hours on low heat (this way, all the nutrients can escape into the water). Drink it alone or add it to soups and sauces.

· Embrace a more plant-based diet and eat more seasonal veggies this autumn. Prepare a vegetable stew, a spicy pumpkin curry, sweet potato fries or stuffed aubergines. Ideas are endless.

· Experiment with healthful, warming spices like ginger, turmeric and cumin.

· Try different herbal tea combos to warm you up, such as cinnamon and apple or lemon and ginger.

Spend more time outdoors.

On weekends, make the effort to step out of the house and make the most of the few bright hours of the day. During the shorter days of autumn, it’s easy for us to get lost in our everyday routines and forget what a bright and colourful time it can be. Take your family out to the nearest park, breathe in the brisk air and observe as nature turns to the colours of light.

Reconnect with friends and family.

Stuck indoors on a rainy day? Treat this as an opportunity to tend to and nurture your closest relationships. For example,

· Invite your loved ones over and bond over a warm dinner and some mulled cider

· Order your favourite takeout and play some board games

· Bake something together

· Watch a horror movie together in the spirit of Halloween

· Nurture your relationships with those that live further away from you and can’t easily visit. Clear your to-do list for the afternoon and schedule a long, on-camera call with them to catch up. You can still bond over dinner and a glass of wine, even if you’re hundreds of miles away.

Get excited about it.

Allocating a few autumn-themed activities to random days in your calendar can give you something nice to look forward to each week or month, rather than have you waiting for the season to be over. Here’s a few ideas to put you in a more celebratory mood:

· Visit a local pumpkin patch

· Have a pumpkin carving session

· Wax colourful leaves to preserve them and use them for some DIY house décor

· Go shopping for a cosy autumn wardrobe – a sweater and fuzzy socks are a must

· Bake cinnamon cookies

· Make mulled cider

· Go mushroom hunting in the local forest

· Attend a harvest festival near you

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