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Making the Most of Autumn

By Jillian Hankins

Making the Most of Autumn

In Tennessee, the first day of autumn brings sunny, cool mornings  and leaves like confetti can be seen through the window almost constantly. An urge to cuddle on the couch with a cup of tea while watching When Harry Met Sally overcomes even the most fervent summer-enthusiast. Fall can be bittersweet, in that it serves as the transition from the bounty of summer to the barren landscape of winter. This change occurs subtly, but beautifully. Oranges, reds, foggy mornings, and golden sunshine trigger contemplative thoughts and a desire to burrow in. Energy surges away from the tree’s branches and down to the roots in the ground. The human body responds to these signals in a similar way. Autumn is a time of re-energizing and recharging after a busy season of trips, late nights, fireworks, sunburns, and ice cream. It is a time of abundance, harvest and gratitude, but it is also a time of restoration, thoughtfulness, and strengthening. With the landscape changing colors, why should we not change ours as well?

Small changes that can make a big impact this season:

1. EAT THE HARVEST: With so many luscious summer crops still available, now is the time to play with heartier preparations as the nights grow cooler. Rather than a fresh tomato salad, a roasted tomato soup with crusty bread will satisfy and warm the body. Use a bumper crop of zucchini to make zucchini bread and braise those hard squashes to mix with a bevy of fresh herbs that continue to thrive. Our appetites gravitate toward warming foods.

Action: Find a U-pick farm or farmers market and take part in the harvest.  Bring your fresh produce home and open up your favorite cookbook or food blog to find a nourishing recipe.

2. RESTORATIVE MOVEMENT: Kindness toward the body aids in times of transition. Focusing on restorative movement supports the immune system and eases the body into the stressful holiday season. I don’t give up on my other favorite forms of movement, such as running and strength training, but I put more emphasis on facilitating healing in my tired muscles!

Action: Find ten minutes daily to do a stretching routine and replace one hard workout a week with gentler activity, such as yoga, pilates, or walking.

3. CLEAN THE HEARTH: I love the image of a family gathering to share their lives and nourish their bodies at the hearth of the home. The modern day hearth is no longer limited to our kitchens, but extends to the living room, the office, the bedroom and even our cars. Be sure to cleanse these areas and make them as comfortable and enjoyable as possible. Making our homes a place full of love and coziness helps to dampen the loss of warm summer nights; as the weather cools we will likely find ourselves spending more time inside.

Action: Go through the house one room at a time, collecting items for donation that are not useful or beautiful. Reduce clutter and “noisy” spaces.

4. QUALITY TIME: Many spend the summer busy and on the move. These adventures feed our souls, but can wear our bodies down! Now is the time to remove a few social commitments from our calendars and leave margins to avoid the tendency to anticipate the future rather than reside in the present. Often, the most fulfilling moments are the unexpected ones found in the midst of the familiar.

Action: Enjoy a walk observing the almost constant color change in leaves or break out an old favorite board game to play with friends or family members.

5. CULTIVATE INDOOR HOBBIES: Please don't mistake this suggestion for a call to stay inside all season! Regular walks are part of a healthy routine, and while the weather remains amenable, spending leisure time on the porch sipping warm drinks is a relaxing way of getting fresh air.  Earlier sunsets and longer nights result in more time spent indoors, which provides the opportunity to explore new hobbies. We all love catching up on our favorite television shows, but fall is the perfect time to explore a new hobby. Earlier sunsets and longer nights result in more time spent indoors, which provides the opportunity to explore new hobbies after the warmth of summer takes its leave. Many resources are available to introduce crafts and skills to someone new to the practice of anything from watercolors and woodworking to book clubs and foreign language learning.

Action: Find a Skillshare class online, join a volunteer group, or visit your local library. Do whatever makes your heart sing!