Seasonal mindfulness – taking time out to reflect on this time of year
The season is changing, we are moving from summer and towards autumn. This time of year evokes a particular set of feelings and I have noticed myself talking about this recently with friends, colleagues and clients. We started to call this ‘seasonal mindfulness’ – as it describes taking some time to reflect on how we are and where we are, as the season changes, developing an awareness and paying attention to ourselves as the year moves round.
These are some ideas and prompts for a ‘seasonal mindfulness’ practice:
- Take time to be outside - sitting in the garden or walking in a wild place close to where you live or work.
- Notice the light – some of the brightness of summer has passed and it is beginning to get dark a little earlier in the evening. Notice the colours and textures around you - there are small changes in the trees; fruits and berries on the bushes along side roads and paths. Notice the sounds of traffic in the distance, children shouting, people talking or birdsong.
- There are many small changes around us as we move towards a change of season. What do you notice around you?
- Try to be in the moment, using your senses to be fully present. This only has to be for a short time - a few times sitting out or taking a walk during the coming week.
Although mindfulness encourages bringing your awareness to the present moment - it may also be helpful to take some time to reflect upon the immediate and distant past and the future as part of a seasonal practice.
This time of year is often associated with the start of something new, this maybe connected to the start of the new school year - which is an embedded memory for many of us.
- What are the feelings that this time of year evokes for you? Are these familiar feelings, is there a pattern for you associated to this season or has something changed this year?
- Take some time to think, to write or to talk with someone about this.
- For many of us there will have been some kind of summer break - which is often preceded by a sense of excitement and a feeling of anticipation that leads into summer.
- Is this true for you – did you have a break over the summer, do you feel rested? What memories do you have that will sustain you in the coming winter months? Gather postcards, photos, small objects - to make a collage which captures something of your experiences this summer.
- If you didn’t have a break, can you plan some time out or some time away?
The end of summer may represent a loss of freedom, things are sometimes quieter, people are away, there is a slower pace to life – there may be a sense of freedom from some of the structures (timetables and work schedules) that hold our lives in place. Did you enjoy that freedom? But there may also be a feeling of sadness, of not having had our expectations of summer met and needing to turn again to the business of our world.
- How does it feel to you as you, your family and colleagues return to work or education?
- Are there major changes at this time of year for your family, partner or children - leaving to go to away or to start a new chapter in their life?
- What is changing and what is it you need as we move to a new season?
A new season may evoke feelings of wanting to make changes, to start something new for you. You may make a decision to change something in your life that has been troubling you for some time.
- It may be helpful to take some time out to think about what is important to you - are there changes you want to bring about?
- Are there people, projects or goals you want to give time to?
Consider meeting with a counsellor to help you explore your feelings and to think through the changes you want to make. It can be really valuable to talk to someone who will just listen without giving advice. Give your self-space to hear yourself speak aloud with another person. A counsellor can help you to explore how you are feeling and find clarity about what is important to you right now.
For many people the summer represents a time to rest and play - it may now feel like it’s time to get back to work and fall into the rhythm of the year as we move towards autumn and winter. Seasonal mindfulness can help us make the transitions that are needed as we move through the year.
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About Juliet McDonnell
I am a UKCP registered counsellor and psychotherapist working in private practice in south east London and Guildford. I work with clients who are experiencing change and transition of all kinds - including life changes and navigating seasonal changes.