Today is the first day of fall, which is my favorite season. There are many reasons that I love fall. Cooler temperatures. Vibrant colors of the leaves. Halloween and Thanksgiving celebrations. Football.
Practicing healthy habits knows no season, though. As we welcome this autumn season, let’s not fall into unhealthy routines that undermine our wellness efforts. Here are nine habits to practice for better emotional health this fall and beyond:
- Create healthy boundaries. All relationships require healthy boundaries. When boundaries are undefined or unhealthy, they can cause a negative impact on our emotional health. Define and maintain appropriate boundaries, and if someone continuously violates our boundaries, we may need to limit our contact with this repeat offender or end the relationship altogether.
- Delay immediate gratification. Whether our goal is to earn an A in a class this semester, train for, and complete, a 5k race for charity, or meet a fourth quarter goal at work, it is important not allow impulses for immediate gratification to distract us from our long-term goals. For example, it may be tempting to skip morning workouts to sleep in, which may feel good in the moment, but it may also leave us unprepared for the 5k race. Remember to focus on the overall goal, not what feels good in the moment.
- Enjoy your own company. Being alone is not the same as being lonely. We need time to ourselves to rest and regroup without distractions. Fall is a great time to slow down and simply be.
- Adapt to change. The seasons provide us with excellent examples of how to adapt to change, all in due time. The arrival of fall ushers in the changing colors of the leaves, the leaves eventually falling from the trees, the days getting shorter, and the temperatures falling. These seasonal changes remind us that life is a series of changes, and when we learn to expect changes and to work with, not against, them, we feel less stressed, anxious, and overwhelmed.
- Deal with discomfort effectively. Discomfort, like change, is a natural, inevitable part of life. Reminding ourselves that discomfort is temporary and allowing ourselves to feel the discomfort can help us to move through it with greater ease than when we resist it. Utilizing our support system, being present in the moment, journaling, and practicing self-care are some of the ways to effectively deal with discomfort.
- Love yourself and others. There is great wisdom and truth in the old saying that it is better to give than to receive. Prioritizing our emotional health is one of the most loving acts we can do, because when we love ourselves, we are better able to love others. When we show our love for others through our words and actions, we give their emotional health a boost, as well as ours. This fall offers opportunities to establish a mindfulness and meditation practice to identify what we love about ourselves and to look for ways to express our love for others. We can volunteer for a cause, perform random acts of kindness, and express our appreciation for people who are in our lives.
- Tend to physical health needs. Our mind and body do not operate as separate entities. They are a dynamic duo, and they impact one another. What we eat and drink, how often we move, and the amount of sleep we get impact how we feel physically and emotionally. This fall, take advantage of the cooler temperatures to move workouts outdoors, indulge in seasonal fruits and vegetables, drink plenty of water, and use the shorter days to relax in the evening and to get more sleep. As the year winds down, schedule physical, dental, and vision exams, devise healthy eating strategies that allow you to enjoy holiday dishes and treats in moderation, and try new ways to be physically active, such as hiking, trail running, an outdoor boot camp, and practicing yoga in nature.
- Honor your word. Whether it is a promise we make to ourselves or to another person, we need to honor our word. While there may be times when something unexpected happens or we need to change course, which prevents us from keeping our promise, this should be the exception, not the rule. There is something to be said for being reliable and dependable.
- Be proactive. We cannot control everything happens to us, but we can control how we respond and react. When we can take a deep breath, identify real and possible challenges, and devise contingency plans for how to address obstacles, we help to protect our emotional health.
No matter the season, it always is the right time to take action to improve our emotional health. We don’t need to make sweeping changes, as we can start with one thing to implement and build on that, starting on this first day of fall.
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