The first day of fall is more than a seasonal change; it’s an opportunity to embrace self-care through nature.
After a scorching summer, some of us might be thrilled for fall, while others may dread the colder, shorter days ahead. No matter your preference, September 22 is the Autumn Equinox—a time to re-discover the autumn season and refresh your mental well-being.
What Exactly Is the Autumn Equinox?
When the sun is directly over the equator, the length of day and night are at equilibrium in the Northern Hemisphere, creating the Autumn Equinox. Or, as the ancient Druids called it, “Alban Elfed.” For centuries, this has been a time to relish in previous hard work and prepare for the coming winter. The Druids lived thousands of years ago, but their belief system—connections to nature through art, philosophy, and spirituality—is growing in popularity again. It offers a sense of solace in a world that can sometimes feel divorced from the natural environment.
“You reap what you sow” is the theme of the Autumn Equinox. But we don’t have to be a farmer or Druid to honor this tradition. We can create habits and set goals that foster the positive changes we’d like to see in our lives now and over the coming year. Embracing the Autumn Equinox can deepen our connections to nature and strengthen our sense of self. It’s more than an observance; it’s an opportunity to plant seeds of change and grow well-being in our lives. As Author F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.”
Schedules often pick up in September. Students return to school, sports start again, and the holidays suddenly seem like they’re just around the corner. With mounting obligations, it’s easy to fall into the cycle of "I should…" self-talk. But this way of thinking makes us more prone to anxiety and depression. Nature models for us ways to find balance in the ebb and flow of the seasons and light, understanding that all living things have their time to rest and reset.
Self-Care With Seasonality
Humans are all affected by seasonality—our bodies, moods, and sleep are influenced by changes in the weather. When we spend too much time on screens or worrying about to-do lists, it’s easy to forget how remarkably sensitive we are to the rhythm of nature. Harvests, changing leaves, and cooler weather ushers in health and wellness opportunities that build our sense of place and self.
Good mental health is about feeling whole, and Humantold believes that a connection to the natural world can help facilitate clarity and calm. Everyone can’t routinely escape the city for the lush forests of the Adirondacks or the shores of Maine, but simply visiting a local orchard or community garden can be highly beneficial.
Planting Seeds of Growth
Autumn-Equinox-themed self-care tips are a lens to look through as fall arrives and winter approaches. Self-care is a practice, not a finish line—don’t let it turn into another anxiety-inducing box to check or something you think you should do. We focus on seasonal connections to nature because research continues to prove just how much we truly need the outdoors. For those of us that aren’t ‘fall people,’ that’s ok. This advice can fit any schedule, lifestyle, and palate.
- Explore classic fall recipes: Many recipes at this time of year focus on hearty vegetables. These are nutritious, and healthy food is good for mental health, too. Learning new ways to cook these vegetables is something you can share with friends and family.
- Learn new ways to connect with nature: Many of us have a go-to outdoor activity, whether it’s running or going to a neighborhood park. Try something you’ve never done before. Novelty boosts mood, especially when you’re outside getting fresh air. Or, simply getting more houseplants can improve quality of life, too.
- Spend more time outside: Taking lunch or coffee in a park is pleasant now that the summer heat is almost gone. The changing leaves add an extra layer of beauty to everything. Plus, sunlight triggers the production of vitamin D, as well as boosting serotonin levels; both necessary feel-good hormones. And you can get them for free by stepping outside into the sun! So, with shorter days on the way, enjoy it when you can.
- Create healthy routines: Routines make it easier to prioritize self-care, so that attention to mental health is a part of your daily life, not an afterthought. As the holidays approach and schedules fill, this is even more important. Try to incorporate a little nature, even if it’s just a walk down a tree-lined street.
Learning to show yourself the empathy you deserve can keep you grounded in healthy habits. From the Covid-19 pandemic to natural disasters, we're reminded that our health is not isolated from the natural world. We depend on each other and on the earth to live vibrant, healthy lives. Learning to show yourself and the planet the empathy and compassion you would a friend can keep you grounded in healthy habits.
Mind, Body, and Nature
Ecopsychology focuses on the link between our natural environment and mental health—blending ecology and psychology. Its popularity blossomed in recent years due to its success in treating anxiety and depression.
Bill Plotkin is an author and advocate for ecopsychology. His books explore how healthy relationships with nature are essential for a healthy relationship with ourselves. Time in solitude away from cities, work, and technology allows us to distill and process the chaos of modern society. If you're interested in learning more about infusing nature into your self-care, check out his books here.
“Given that the human soul is the very core of our human nature, we might note that, when we are guided by soul, we are guided by nature. Both soul and greater nature do guide us in our individual development, whether or not we ask for this guidance.”
Changing Life and Leaves
Humantold is passionate about supporting you to make the Autumn Equinox an empowering experience. We can all find parallels between ourselves and this annual transition of the seasons. When we see leaves change and fall, we witness beauty giving way to transparency.
In seeking out the natural beauty of autumn, we give ourselves the chance to distill all that’s going on in our lives. It can be a cherished time to better understand what’s happening internally. Nature as a conduit for self-care is a practice that we share with you in the hope that the season yields a healthy, happy, and productive year for you. Happy Alban Elfed!