I don’t know about you, but every September I start to feel that unmistakable chill in the air that signals the onset of fall and I start organizing — my inbox, my closets, my life, my day-to-day schedules. Unlike any other change in seasons, the switch from summer to fall brings a sense, at least for me, of anticipation and relief at getting back to some sort of routine.
I’d be lying, though, if I didn’t tell you that part of me is sad to say good-bye to the long, carefree, and relaxing, days of summer. But the other half of me is looking forward to getting back to a sense of structure in my days. This feeling probably dates back to being in school, when the slight temperature drop meant heading back to the classroom.
But I’ve found that recognizing and tapping into this innate feeling now as adults can help stoke our motivation to make changes we’ve always wanted, in any area of our lives. In fact, I’ve always been a big believer that fall, rather than January, is the best time to initiate resolutions. New Year’s is forced upon us in the dead of winter, after indulgent holidays where our waistlines and our credit cards (not to mention our energy!) are maxed out. It’s just plain depressing—and definitely not conducive to sticking to any kind of life-changing plan! (It’s no wonder then that almost 90 percent of New Year’s Resolutions fail within three months!)
So with that in mind, I’ve put together some tips on how to take advantage of the changing season to set the foundation for good habits that will last long into the winter — and well beyond. These are the ones that have worked for me.
1) Take steps to change just one thing in your life that’s not making you happy. Fall has always been a time for me of changes: jobs starting or ending; new projects beginning; etc. And now, in looking back, I’m wondering if I was tapping into this inner need for seasonal change. Maybe? But if you’re miserable at your job, polish up your resume and vow to apply for at least one new job every week until the holidays. If it’s your significant other who’s making you unhappy, start therapy together or finally decide to go your separate ways. If you’ve always wanted to go back to school, sign up for a class (even if it doesn’t start until spring). Whatever that personal renovation you want to make is, now’s the time to take the steps toward making your life better.
2) Get on a regular exercise regimen. There’s simply no better time than now. With the weather still beautiful, this is the time to mix up your gym routine (or join a gym if you don’t belong) with some outdoor activities like biking, hiking, and/or walking and running. It’s not so cold that you want to stay snuggled in your bed in the morning — and not so hot that you want to park yourself in front of the air conditioner. Even if you can’t find time to fit in an actual workout outdoors, take your lunch break to head out for a walk — or make it a point to walk after dinner — even if it’s just down the street and back. Getting back on track now with your exercise, and doing at least 3 to 4 days per week, will help you stay on course come the darker days of winter. It will also help prevent that all-too-common, and frustrating, winter weight gain. Plus, study after study shows that exercising regularly keeps you healthy, and a regular routine come winter will help you avoid getting frequent colds and the flu.
3) Make it a point to get your fill of fruits and veggies now. One of the easiest things you can do to improve your health is to eat more fruits and vegetables: Experts tell us to eat anywhere from 5 to 9 servings of disease-fighting fruits and veggies a day. If you’ve found this hard (who hasn’t?), this is the season to make some headway. Fall’s bounty of fruits and vegetables (apples, pears, squash, Swiss chard, sweet potatoes, beets, grapes, cranberries…) provides enough options for even the pickiest eaters and can be found at any of your local farmer’s markets. (Grocery store produce just doesn’t cut it in taste and flavor, particularly at this time of year!) And break out of your rut: vow to try at least one new fruit or veggie per week; you may find something new to love!
What can help: the Locavore app (available free on iTunes), which automatically detects which state you’re in and tells you what produce is in season. It also lists farmer’s markets near you. Epicurious.com also offers a Seasonal Ingredient Map that tells you what’s available in your area—and includes yummy recipes.
4) Clean out your closets … and then some. Switching out your clothes is a common rite of passage when the seasons change, but this past year I took it a step further. I purged! I finally got rid of the clothes that I never wore, that made me feel fat or just plain unattractive, and that I bought in a rush and never really loved. And I also got rid of the when-I-lose-that-10 pounds-I’ll-wear-this clothing. There’s nothing more de-motivating that seeing that item (or items) every time you open your closet and knowing you haven’t reached your goal yet!
This purging made a huge difference in my closet and drawers: they weren’t overstuffed, I was able to easily find outfits that fit and that I loved (what a concept!), and I was less stressed overall when getting dressed in the morning. Try it — you’ll find that it not only de-clutters your clothes, it also de-clutters your mind.
5) Book all your necessary doctor’s appointments now. The mammogram, your yearly physical, your dental check-up, whatever visits you’ll need, get them on the schedule now — even if you’re not going to the doctor until January. But one of the most important doctor’s visits to book now: a skin check with your dermatologist. I’m still amazed how many people don’t do this: after any exposure in the sun, it’s a good idea to have your moles checked. Melanoma is the deadliest skin cancer but also one of the most preventable when caught early. So many people skip this visit (I’m still in the process of convincing my sister it’s necessary), but the consequences of doing so could literally be life threatening.
Whatever you decide to do — follow one of these tips, follow all, or create your own to-do list — best of luck! You’ll find that even making one small change will put you in better spirits come the long, cold winter ahead.