September is the beginning of the dark season; the nights are drawing in and there is the first breath of autumn in the air. It is a time of transition, as summer fades into autumn’s gold; yet it is also a time of fresh starts and new beginnings. The new academic year starts this month, as does the new agricultural year, with farmers completing the harvest and preparing the ground for the next cycle of growth.
I have always loved autumn and winter. To me they are seasons full of bright golden colours and silver sparkle; of long dark nights where I can work quietly at home in my study, writing columns and so on for publishers. I am aware, however, that some people actually dread this time of year.
Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a condition that is brought about by the loss of sunlight during the darker half of the year. Lots of people suffer with it and it tends to kick in from September onwards, until spring. Its symptoms include a feeling of lethargy, low mood and depression, and a lack of interest in things you used to enjoy. These symptoms can be alleviated by getting outside as much as possible, and making the most of the daylight that is available. I ask my clients to reflect on what they once loved about the autumn when they were children. Frequently, they relate tales of bonfire night with their parents, or back-to-school family rituals. I encourage them to do something this autumn that they once enjoyed as children. Go to a bonfire or light one in your own garden. Consider signing up for a night class and learning something new. Go to a farmer’s market or go apple picking. Take a country walk or visit a local forest – Sherwood Forest is a wonderful spectacle in autumn and well worth a visit.
Of course, it isn’t always possible to go gallivanting through a medieval forest, so if you are more of an indoor type, think about how you can make your home more inviting, throughout the darker months, when you will be spending more time indoors. Create nesting rituals that you can look forward to each autumn, such as buying autumnal fragranced candles and bath products; have a set of throws and cushions that you only bring out for the colder months; stock the kitchen cupboards with seasonal autumnal treats such as gingerbread men, gingerbread latte, spiced apple pie and cider. Arrange to swap books and DVDs with friends, so that you have something to occupy you in the longer evenings, or take up a new craft.
The Danes and Norwegians have a word to describe this kind of cosy nesting – they call it Hygge, which is a time for getting snuggly in the darker months, enjoying time at home and wrapping up well to go outside for walks and bonfires. Hygge is all about hot drinks, baking berry and apply pies, crafting, candles, great novels, discussions, comfy clothes, toasting marshmallows, bonfires and kicking through crisp golden leaves. It is a feeling of deep contentment. They know how to celebrate the season!
Take a leaf out of their book and ward off Seasonal Affective Disorder by creating a warm, welcoming Hygge retreat for you and your loved ones this autumn. Sit down and make plans, listing things to do outside on finer days, and things to do indoors when the rain is pounding against the windows and the leaves are swirling in the wind. Be mindful of the moment, stay in the here and now and enjoy all that the dark season has to offer.
Marie Bruce x
Marie Bruce Dip. T. C. is a qualified psychotherapist and a best-selling self-help author. Here she offers simple tools used by therapists to help clients and readers improve their mental well-being. Marie’s books are available on Amazon UK, in digital and print formats.