by Chantal Bufe
We all know that spring and fall are times of transition, from one season to the next, preparing us for either the full bloom of summer or the quiet reflection of winter.
Or at least, we used to know.
Nowadays, modern technology and travel allow us to escape nature's cyclical rhythm to climates far away and locations that quickly make us forget the coming season's changing altogether. We depart for a while and are often disappointed by our (cold) reality once we return.
A form of escapism, if you will. Which, someone once told me, can be fatal to our health: while we may whisk our bodies away to places immune to seasons, we do not allow our minds enough time to deal with this 'interruption' of our natural flow.' This creates a change in consciousness which, in turn, affects our biological rhythms (and there are four: the circadian, the diurnal, the ultradian, and the infradian).
So, with our minds quieted, we are no longer mindful, no longer fully attune to signs our bodies (or minds) are sending us. We become oblivious to (adverse) symptoms and no longer notice any departures from normal function or feeling, leading to unstable health - both physically or mentally - in the long run.
This theory took me some time to understand, let alone accept. I, for one, love to travel, and when given the opportunity, I will gladly escape (yes, escape) to milder lands to quench my soul's thirst for warmth, recharge my batteries, boost my Vitamin D.
But somehow, this hypothesis stuck with me. Throughout the years, it never ceased to pop into my head every time I felt a seasonal change, reminding me to be mindful of and sensible to the fact that (some form of) transition was upon me.
Over the years, I have created a ritual of some sort: on the first day when I can feel a seasonal change upon me, I will stop for a mindful minute to acknowledge and welcome the new season and get myself ready for whatever is to come. A preparation, if you will. (When living in CA, where the climate is mostly mild throughout the year and you can feel seasonal changes only subtly, it required extra attention not to miss this moment).
You see, most of us already do something like this - only in the physical sense.
Taking cues from the outside world, we decorate our homes with tulips and daffodils in the spring, arrange sunflowers in summer, collect and display chestnuts and pumpkins in fall, and flood our homes with red or white poinsettias in winter.
For seasonal produce, we reach for kiwis, and apricots in spring, buy blackberries and watermelons in summer, serve figs and cauliflower in fall, and are soothed by beets and turnips in winter.
Regarding our bodies, we do our best to exercise more and get more hours of sleep in the fall when the days begin to shorten. We aim to boost our immune system by eating the right food and staying hydrated.
Rightfully, we pay close attention to nourishing our bodies (our senses) when seasonal change is looming, which is essential (during spring and summer, suicidal rates, for instance, are said to be highest while the transition from winter to spring sees a peak in anxiety and depression rates).
But how do we complement our physical efforts and better nurture our minds, souls, and spirits at the same time?
Mindful senses. When you let your senses interact and play with the environment, you will be so much richer for it. There is nothing like noticing the color of yellow croci leaning their heads towards the sun in spring or the intoxicating smell of sweet alyssum in summer. Or the feeling of breathing in that first cold rush of crisp fall air as if it was the first real breath you have taken in months. Or when you can't help but marvel at the uniqueness of each snowflake on your palm. You are using your senses, but you are feeling with your mind.
Gratitude. I know, I know, this seems obvious, but a new perspective always helps. Appreciating the rain - whether as nourishment for our soil or a sensory experience for our little ones - helps shift a negative attitude towards a positive outlook. When we practice gratitude, our mind is stimulated by the dopamine and serotonin that our brain releases. We feel happier. And that's a fact.
Relax. Next time you are feeling cold, try and notice what your body is doing. If you are anything like me, you will catch yourself clenching your jaw or hunching your back (a protective reflex that has left me with post strains on my muscles and joints in my shoulders many times). Once you relax (and mind and body accept the temperature), you will notice how you will begin to experience the weather differently.
Let go. To maintain healthy mental wellbeing, we must let go of the old and embrace the new. Ideally, we should be doing this every day. And while we may forget to follow this (frequently very challenging) mantra, the seasons' changing offers another beautiful opportunity to do just that. When we let go of past painful experiences or people, we can focus on the present moment while our minds can regulate our feelings more effectively. We start to see life more clearly, which, in turn, makes us feel safer and content.
As I am writing this, travel is (once again) more restricted, and many of us will find ourselves confined to our home, slowing down - whether we like it or not. But wherever you may be in the world, escaping a season or indulging in it, try and remember to nourish both your body and your mind with some of the tips I have given you or with whatever soothes your soul. You deserve physical and mental health to fully accept, embrace, and enjoy all that is given to us.
After all, how lucky are we to "live in a world where there are Octobers"?
(Photo: Jacob Owens/ Unsplash)