Fall is all around us. The apples are ripe in See Canyon. Pumpkins and gourds decorate the front porch. Gold, dry leaves flutter tranquilly to the ground. Autumn brings seasons to the forefront. But of course, seasons have been directing us all year long. Without even realizing it, seasons tell us when we go on vacation, get married, wear tank tops, eat soup and gather for the holidays.
They also dramatically impact our mental health. When days are longer, we feel happier and more alert. We have more energy and increased cognitive abilities. When daylight dwindles, were more apt to feel disgruntled. Depression rates climb.
Seasons are so basic to our existence that weve even imbued them with profound symbolism. Not only do seasons represent the cycles of human development, theyre 24-hour day: We wake up in the spring, achieve greatest productivity during summer, settle down in autumn and sleep during the winter.
Unfortunately, seasons have taken a back seat in modern culture. Technology allows us to eat cantaloupes in December and stay up all hours of the night. We can have children when were past childbearing years. We can return to college at any age.
Many folks even resent the notion of seasons. They feel confined by an external force that guides them in ways they dont like. These people spend thousands of dollars trying to look younger. They engage in physical activities that harm their joints, then complain bitterly when theyre in pain.
But seasons are non-negotiable. Just as the exact time of sunrise is beyond our control, so is the stage of our life. Nothing we do will change it. We can accept whats happening and make choices that support health and productivity. Or we can rage against the seasonal machine, feeling angry and miserable, trying to be something that we arent.
This doesnt mean we shouldnt live each moment to its fullest. Or that we should stop seeking new challenges and goals. Rather, it means honoring and accepting all seasons to their fullest so we can celebrate what each stage brings.
HOW TO HONOR THE SEASONS
Eat seasonal foods. Look for items that are local and fresh. Shopping farmers markets helps you learn whats at its peak. Your culinary awareness will get you into the seasonal groove. Your whole body will smile and thank you.
Use seasonal decorations. They can be modest or lavish. They can be store bought or handpicked. Seasonally sprucing up your life space puts you in sync with the calendar and expresses, This is where I am.
Notice changes in your environment. Seasonal changes are always taking place. Sometimes theyre subtle, like spiders spinning their webs. Other times they bowl you over, like flowering plum blossoms in February.
Identify your life stage. The answer might be obvious: Youre raising young children or recently widowed. It might be more complex: Youre starting over after a financial downturn and you have two kids at home. The key is to name your stage and accept it. Its where you are right now.
Recognize the benefits of your stage. Every season comes with its unique perks. Even if it wasnt what you wanted, theres a silver lining in there somewhere.
Tune in to your thoughts. Are you tickled to be where you are? Or are you feeling finished, washed up? Your internal dialogue is pivotal to your emotional state. Replace derogatory notions with constructive ones. Remind yourself that this stage is temporary. Yes, it too will change.
Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her, visit www.lindalewisgriffith.com .