Autumn is the season to build mindfulness and resilience

Like it or not, fall is here. Soon, the weather will get colder, the leaves will die, and the nights will last longer than the days. The outdoor pools are closed and holidays are coming. One more year to die; that’s just the way it goes.

At least, that’s how autumn is often used – as a time of aging and decay. The poet Percy Bysshe Shelley compared the fallen leaves of autumn to the corpses in the grave. William Shakespeare called it “The second self of death, “When youth burns to ashes. More recently, it’s time to admit it existential fear.

For many of those struggling with seasonal depression during the winter months, fall is when their symptoms begin to appear. A few small studies even suggest that if you’re a “ruminant” or deeply preoccupied with your thoughts, in the fall you might more at risk of depression in winter. Changing the clock in the fall is related to depressive episodes (changing them back in spring does not). It’s no wonder the season is packed with celebrations to try to keep our spirits up.

Psychologists say that the feelings that often come up in the fall stem from our discomfort with change, and anxiety and uncertainty about what that change will bring. The sadness we feel is a form of grief, mourning for the lost sunlight, the pleasant summer, and the verdant trees that pervade the warm weather.

But it’s not all bad. Autumn also brings bright bright days, splashes of pumpkin color and warm sweaters. Somewhere in the rustling leaves, the rustling flames, and the chilly air, you can find a sense of possibility, even electricity.

And all of this — anxiety, promises, and even contemplation — makes it the ideal season to build resilience and practice mindfulness.

For Jelena Kecmanovic, founder of the Arlington Institute of Behavioral Therapy/DC, fall is reminiscent of exploring the mountains near her home in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, where she spent the first 20 years of her life, in one of the country’s most prosperous eras. But in the 1990s, she was forced to flee during a bloody four-year siege of her city.

Today, she is an expert in resilience, a concept that focuses on adaptability to life experience challenge. Dr Kecmanovic describes fall as a season where we can work to accept uncertainty – embracing the feeling of insecurity we can have when we leave our warm-weather routine.

Psychologists have found that the thought of change, the end of one thing, the beginning of another and, yes, perhaps our own death, creates a lot of anxiety. . Some of us struggle with “uncertainty intolerability,” as the experts call it, more than others. This trend is was first named in the 1990s by a group of Canadian psychologists and has since been identified as risk factors for poor mental health.

“A large number of studies have shown that intolerance to suffering, discomfort, impermanence, to uncertainty, predicts bad long-term outcomes,” says Dr. Kecmanovic.

But it is unacceptable that uncertainty is a part of being human; Everyone has it to some degree. And it can change. One way to build tolerance is to focus on it—nourishing uncertainty rather than running away from it.

Kelly Wilson, professor of psychology emeritus at the University of Mississippi and co-developer of a method known as acceptance and commitment therapy, says: “Avoiding suffering creates suffering, which encourages people to suffer. the person stops denying or grappling with unpleasant emotions, and instead accepts them. Dr Kecmanovic said: “The feeling of enjoyment can also come from experiencing something new or uncertain, which in turn builds resilience.

Relying on uncertainty means setting aside routines and planning, which Dr. Kecmanovic calls “the cushion that makes us feel in control.” Cycle through a neighborhood you’ve never been to without a map. Hit the road on one of these long fall nights to find somewhere dark enough for stargazing. Go for a walk on a rainy day.

You might get lost, get wet, or not be able to see any stars. You may feel uncomfortable or like you are wasting your time. But those little moments of uncertainty, says Dr. Kecmanovic, will build contact, tolerance for and maybe even appreciation for those times when you don’t know what lies ahead and feel out of control. control.

“It’s the opposite of ‘I have a guarantee of how it will turn out in the next half hour or the next day or next year,'” she said. “It was like, in this moment I’m alive. And that’s enough. “

There are also quieter ways to interact with the changing seasons. Another strategy experts suggest for alleviating seasonal anxiety is to step back and simply observe the world around you. For example, sit quietly on a park bench and watch a tree drop its leaves.

Dr. Kecmanovic says that bringing larger themes of nature and purpose into the quiet moments of meditation can help ease your anxious feelings about short-term uncertainty and bring it into play. a wider viewing angle.

For Jana Long, co-founder of the Alliance of Black Yoga Teachers in Baltimore, fall is a time for samyama, a concept in yoga that refers, among other things, to the practice of meditation that observes an object. image and become enamored with it. Sometimes Miss Long looks at the grass after the last mowing of the year and spends time thinking about what that means for the plants. Other times, she says, she checks out the roses in her garden that need pruning before winter — imagine what they need and how they will change.

She says that in times like these, it’s important to stop thinking, analyzing, or internally chatting about work, trouble, or even whatever you’re witnessing. A teacher once showed her this idea by placing a glass of water on the table. He begins by saying that he has seen the glasses.

“And then he went on to talk about how the mind changes: ‘I like the glasses.’ See, now that’s something else. And then ‘I want the glass.’ It was something else,” she said. And he continued: It’s an ugly glass, I’ll take the glasses, and so on. “But you can just understand glass? That is samyama practice. “

This case attention has been shown repeatedly to reduce stress and enhance happiness. It can Boost your workouthelp you focus at work and cope with an uncertain world. For some people, the practice of mindfulness can change the way they see their life in a different way. For most of us, it’s simply a useful tool for finding a sense of peace when we need it.

It’s also perfect for a cool fall day, when the end of the year is approaching and the world around you is turning.

“For me, it’s also about harvesting what happened during the year,” says Larry Ward, a meditation teacher and founder of the Lotus Institute in Pataskala, Ohio. “What has this summer brought to you and your life? What has this spring brought you? “

“Harvest” means the reserve of the year (or years) after you. And to do this, you must collect memories without judgment or self-loathing. For example, Dr. Wilson, University of Mississippi, said he acted poorly the last time he saw his brother before he passed away. But instead of pushing that memory away, he keeps it as part of that relationship.

“I keep the thorn to hold the rose,” he said.

Autumn will probably always leave behind some whisper of decay and death to humans. But embracing that sadness is important.

If you’re always trying to hide from difficult feelings, you can also cut off “love and abundance and sweetness,” says Dr. “Life is like this: sweet and sad, poured from the same jar in equal quantities. “

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