Seasonal Mood Shifts: 3 Ways to Stay Grounded This Fall

For many the season of autumn is difficult. Depending on where you live, it’s full of things dying, leaves falling, colder weather, darker days, and a general sense of ending. In addition, to the messiness of leaves and seeds flying around, it gets blustery which can be hard on our nervous systems.

According to Esienberg et al. (2010), the changing of seasons and sunlight decreases shifts the dopamine systems. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter that helps us feel pleasure. When the seasonal changes shift our ability to feel pleasure we have to make sure to find ways to bring pleasure into our lives.

The change in seasons can be tough on our physical systems and impact our mental health. Here are some ways to make sure you are staying on track as we move through fall and into the chilly, crisp winter season. 

  1. Get Your Schedule Figured Out: 

If you are like a lot of people you’ll probably feel a little off your routines as we transition from the lazy long days of summer in the northern hemisphere to the short, cooler, darker days of fall and winter. This is a time of returning to schedules and getting “recommitted” after the fun of summer. Make sure you spend some time each day planning. This skill gets missed by many but is very important if you want to reach your goals. You must spend time planning. Not planning is planning to fail at your goal. 

Not only do you need dedicated time each day to plan your day/end your day and prepare for tomorrow, you also need time each week to review the week and set the next week up for success. 

Prioritize this simple step and watch your world shift from frazzled and chaotic to structured and manageable. The trick here is to make sure you are setting aside some dedicated time. Get out your calendar of choice (I love my Commit30 planner and journal) and write in 10 minutes at the start and end of each day for daily review and 30 minutes to an hour for weekly review. This is must have time, so make sure you are picking times you can commit to. 

During this time your job is to review your schedule, make shifts, and take things off that do not need to be done after all. It is also a time for you to rate your day. I like using a 1-10 scale. At the end of each day, I pick a number between 1 – it sucked and 10 – it was amazing. At the end of each week I average the daily numbers to get a weekly rating. This allows me to see if I am living my priorities and feeling effective. Just like my children’s report card, I’m looking for a B or better (8/10 or 80%). Anything lower than that means I need to make some adjustments. Maybe I just had an off day or maybe the review shows I am focused on things that do not bring me enough joy to sustain my day. This simple scale allows me to quickly adjust my life to make sure my focus is aligned with what I want to be doing. 

Note: The daily rating is a gut check. Do not overthink it or you’ll justify what is not working. It is a quick check-in and the first number that pops up is it. Sometimes I make a note regarding the number – why is it high or low to help me in my weekly review. 

2) Watch Your Consumption Habits and Mind Your Reactions: 

I feel like I talk about this sort of thing all the time … what you put into your system is what you will get out. I work with so many people in my office who are feeling low energy or angry and do not see the connection to the things they are eating, how they are sleeping, or what they are watching on TV. So many are disconnected from the direct effects our consumption has on us. 

It is a great skill of the body … the ability to adapt and conserve energy to be effective … or just survive. The body gets good at figuring out what you are consuming and then adapting. This fall pay attention to what you are eating, listening to, watching, and who you allow in your space. Notice how you feel after you engage with these things. Do they uplift you, inspire you, or deplete you? If it is depleted you feel, it is time for a detox. Take a break from the news, turn off the angry or discriminatory music, unhealthy/unsupportive food choices, and get away from the toxic person in the office as quickly as possible. 

Make sure you are getting enough healthy food. Typically this time of year we begin to crave heavier, richer foods to help us “warm” from the inside out. Notice if you begin to overeat or are turning to sugary foods for additional fuel. These are signs that you are distracted from your body and need to pay attention to the shift in personal needs.

As we begin to crave the heavier, rich foods it is important to pay attention to amounts. We can eat a whole big plate of lettuce in the summer’s need for cooler foods, but try a whole big plate of pasta and cheese and watch yourself grow – in the wrong directions. Follow the seasonal foods. Opt for organic and local when you can and make sure you are using enough fats, proteins, and carbohydrates for your individuality. Need healthy choices for the upcoming holidays? Read more here.

Then make sure you are present and mindful while you eat. Eating mindfully helps us return to listening to our bodies and avoid overconsumption. These tips will help you feel reconnected to basic nurturing for yourself. Taking care of ourselves is important in feeling grounded and self-regulated (able to handle stressful situations). 

Although we cannot always control what we are exposed to, we are always in control of how we respond to it. It is your responsibility to manage your reactions to your environment. As we begin to notice what is going on around us, we will begin to see that what is happening outside is also happening inside. What I am internally experiencing will be reflected in my outer world. This is a powerful realization. The more you work with how you respond to things the more you will be able to shift your mood back toward the positive quickly and the less you will even have to deal with negativity. It just will not be showing up in your world.

Does this mean you are living in Lala land? No, it means you are better at filtering out what you do not want to pay attention to. According to Rohan et al. (2011), in the winter and fall people who are sensitive to the changing seasons tended to ruminate, have more automatic thoughts, and more dysfunctional thoughts related to light and dark. Your attention goes where you put it, so be careful what you give it to.

3) Make sure you move:

As we move into colder months and darker days in the northern hemisphere, it is easy to stop moving and get sedentary. Instead of heading for the couch or pulling the covers back over your head, make a plan, dedicate time, and commit to yourself. Have your workout clothes ready to go and appropriate for the season so you can change quickly into gear that keeps you warm while your move (if needed). Just knowing it is ready to go can help you get out of bed or avoid the after-work couch that likes to call your name. 

I know this video is about spring … but she discusses some good ideas we can use for fall, too.

For many, physical movement needs change with the seasons. You might find that running outside is really not an option for you or that the shifts to your schedule as school starts back up become overwhelming as you fit in carpooling duties again.

Shift your workouts to match your body during the winter months. You may find your workouts are more about strength and power than endurance and speed as the season change and energy around you gets heavier with the shift in light and temperatures. Follow what feels good and make sure you are working within both your training zones and your nervous system needs.

As in number 1 above, set your schedule, prioritize dedicated time, and commit to yourself. Make these “appointments” in your calendar non-negotiable. You might say I need to have 5 workouts a week, however, if you do not schedule them, you will find yourself trying to fit them all in on days 6 and 7. Schedule them and even if you have to maneuver your day, keep them on the same day to get them done, feel successful, and stay on track. Want some ideas for winter workouts? Read more here. 

Make sure to treat yourself to grounding bodywork to round out your physical practices. Maybe you want a massage or restorative yoga class. A lovely practice you can do at home is called Abhyanga or self-massage of the body with warm sesame oil. I love this practice in the fall and spring. It is very grounding during the windy shifts in the seasonal changes. Not to mention, the luxury of rubbing the body with warm oil, soaking in the warm tub, and then enjoying the softness of my skin for days. This is such a delicious practice for so many reasons and very helpful to keep my energy calm and focused.

As we move through the cooler seasons work to ground yourself within your own experiences. Notice how you feel as you structure your schedule, notice how external items impact your internal experience, and how your body feels as you move and eat according to its changing needs this fall. 

References:

Eisenberg, D. P., Kohn, P. D, Baller, E. B., Bronstein, J. A., Masdeu, J. C., and Berman, K. F. (2010). Seasonal Effects on Human Striatal Presynaptic Dopamine Synthesis. Journal of Neuroscience, 30 (44). 14691-14694. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1953-10.2010

Rohan, K. J., Nillni, Y. I., Mohan, J. N., Roecklein, K. A., Sitnikov, L., Hagga, D. A. F. (2011). Cognitive vulnerability in moderate, mild, and low seasonality. [Abstract]. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, (199)12. p 961–970. doi: 10.1097/NMD.0b013e3182392948. Retrieved from: https://tcsedsystem.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.tcsedsystem.idm.oclc.org/docview/917738676?accountid=34120


3 Ways Seniors Can Protect Their Health

Health is important at every age. Make sure you are paying attention to these 3 areas of your health. In addition to things like heart disease, cancer, and other diseases make sure you pay attention to your dental, vision, and getting enough physical exercise to stay as healthy as possible through the lifespan.

Guest Post: By Jason Lewis from www.StrongWell.org

Heart disease and cancer are the leading causes of death in people over 65, and quality of life and quality of care play a big part in how these serious medical concerns will impact you. That’s why seniors who want to live their healthiest life in their golden years need to understand the power —  and the limitations — of their healthcare plan. 

For example, Traditional Medicare won’t cover vision, dental and prescription medications, and it’s coverage of in-home care is limited. That’s why many seniors enroll in Medicare Advantage plans. Provided by private health insurance companies, Medicare Advantage gives seniors peace of mind with more comprehensive coverage. For example, these plans offer coverage for vision, dental, wellness programs, prescription drugs and fitness centers.  Let’s take a closer look at how this healthcare coverage can address common concerns for people 65 and older.

Dental Health Over 65

Doctors provide compelling evidence that links dental health to a plethora of other health concerns, from depression to heart disease. These rates and risks spike substantially for seniors, which is why many add this coverage to their traditional Medicare plan. For example, some medications have negative side effects for oral health, like dry mouth and even cavities. Gum disease is also a major concern for older adults. Since many people don’t feel pain or discomfort until gum disease is in its advanced stages, many seniors don’t realize they have it. The dental coverage in Medicare Advantage plans vary from annual cleanings to more comprehensive treatments, including reducing out-of-pocket expenses associated with partial and full dentures. If it’s been over a year since your last cleaning, you should find a dentist and schedule a checkup. 

Seniors and Vision Health

Eyesight is a common concern for seniors, as there are certain kinds of vision diseases and disorders that happen due to age. It’s natural for our vision to change as we age, so it’s natural for seniors to need vision care even though they may have spent the majority of their lives with healthy eyesight. Some common age-related vision conditions include presbyopia (difficulty focusing), cataracts (clouding of the lens), glaucoma (build up of fluid) and macular degeneration (leading cause of blindness in seniors). Medicare Advantage plans give seniors an opportunity to maintain their eye health and see specialists when something feels off, without having to worry about covering the full cost of an expensive procedure.

Fitness for Seniors

Physical activity is one of the leading ways seniors can positively impact their physical and mental health. And, the good news is, it’s never too late to start. If you have lived a relatively sedentary life, you may think that working out now won’t help much. But it’s time to think again. Exercise now can not only prevent major illness and injury, but in some cases it can even undo some of the damage caused in your younger years. There have been many documented cases of seniors being able to reverse their type 2 diabetes diagnosis just through diet and exercise. With Medicare Advantage plans, many seniors get access to Silver Sneakers programs, which are special fitness classes aimed at people 65 and over. You can also get free memberships to thousands of gyms and fitness centers across the country.

Medicare is so complex; it’s no wonder some seniors shy away from understanding it. Grateful even for basic coverage, they sign up for it but their interest stops there. And it’s not surprising — Medicare is confusing, complicated and challenging. But if you want to be in control of your physical and mental well-being, knowing what is (and isn’t covered) is exactly where you need to start. Knowing the gaps in your coverage can help you decide if you need more help. 

5 Ways to Expand Your Curiosity & Create an Interesting Life

Ever wonder why curiosity is so important in a healthy existence? It is because it is the key. It is the key that unlocks the experiences we have while helping us explore them without getting tipped over by them. It tempers us. It allows us to grow, to expand, and to solve problems. It is the piece we often miss and often do not allow ourselves proper accommodations for, yet it is the one piece that makes it all possible. Here are steps you can take to further develop your own curiosity and make it work for you.

Are you one of those people who says “I’m not that curious. It just does not have much value”? Well, think again. You might not be curious in the same way others are curious, however I bet if you looked around your life you would find things that interest you, that make you ask questions about how and why, or that spur you to think about other things. It might just be that you have not harnessed this little mechanism yet. Or maybe you’ve tried to use it and it takes off on you. Therefore you always feel like allowing any in, is a time warp. You might be one of those people, who if you were to slow down enough to allow your mind to wander with its own curiosity you start to feel all those emotions and have those thoughts you have been working really hard to pretend do not exist. That’s a lot of energy expended to keep yourself from feeling discomfort and therefore from engaging in the part of life that gives meaning, purpose, and makes it worth living. 

Curiosity does all those things and here is how. It is the element of your being that when allowed to be present in your daily life will give you options and choices that are on your path. These glimmers of what interests you helps you say yes to the things that are most helpful to your personal growth, that bring your gifts further into the world, that allow you to do work that brings you joy, and find people you resonate with most. It is the item in your perception of the world that helps you discern which direction is your path, and which one might belong to someone else. Thus helping you set better boundaries in your life. 

For many of us curiosity feels like a luxury. It feels like something we do not have time for, and can often feel like we are “doing nothing”. If we, like many in the USA, base our worth on our productivity, this leaves us in quite a conundrum. How can we allow for curiosity to take hold if we are “not being productive” with it. All of us had it at one point, but many of us were shamed, told it was childish, we weren’t creative, or that what we were curious about, was not valuable. This squashed our spirits and we became complacent that curiosity was for those “creative” types or the “inventors” who had something to contribute, but it was not for the masses. This was misguided societal norming. It created a group of people who are bored, do not know how to follow their own inspiration, and as a result often feel unmotivated to do things that could move their life in a direction perfect for them. 

So how do you retrain your curious brain and allow yourself to put more of it to work for you? Here are some ways to help you develop your own level of curiosity and use it to create the inspiration you need to be motivated to accomplish your personal goals. 

  1. Pay attention to colors. Even if you are not an artist, there are so many colors the human eye can see and each of us see them differently. Look around you and find a simple thing to study. Then really look at the colors on it. Is it a flat color? Does it have shades? Where are the different shades? Is there shape to the way the color flows on the object? What is the color like? Have you seen it before? Where? Do you know the name of the color? If not where could you find it? If you do, how do you think it got its name? What is the undertone of the color (yellow, blue, red)? Do you know what that is? If not where could you learn? Do you like the color? Why or why not? How does the color make you feel? If you had your choice what color would you color this object and why?
  2. Look at shapes. Everything in our world has form. See if you can find the shapes of the objects around you. Are they uniform? Odd? Big? Little? How does the shape contour? What does the shape of the object tell you about it (like a smooth round rock may have had a different experience than a sharp jagged one). Does the shape fit into its surroundings? Do you like the shape? Why or why not? How does the shape make you feel?
  3. Find the thing that does not belong. Remember this game as a kid? One of these things is not like the other … look around your environment and see if you can find an object or two that does not seem to fit. Maybe it is the color, shape, placement, etc that just seems to make it stand out and not fit into its surroundings. Why do you think it is there, like it is? Do you like it where it is? What does it add or contribute to? Can you discern its function from its placement? If you were to make up a story about why it is there, what would the story be about? How would you tell it? Would you use a soft voice, a loud one, a caring story, or something mean and evil? Why would you chose those things? There could be a million ways to tell the story.
  4. People watching is one of my favorites! In this one, go somewhere, where there are people and watch them. Just make sure you are not being the creepy one leering at people. Allow yourself some time and space to just watch at first. Notice any judgments that come up with curiosity about your own story and why that judgment serves you right now. Pay attention to themes that may arise from you personal judgments of another. Notice if the judgment you have of the other is also one you use on yourself. I am a storyteller by nature, so I really enjoy getting to tell some stories about the people I watch. I wonder where they are coming from, going, who they are with, why they have that look on their face, what purpose was their clothing choice about today, what are they hoping for, what are they working to achieve, etc. These are not stories to pick apart and put people down, just stories to inspire understanding of humanity and what bodies were built for. We come in so many shapes, sizes, colors, and preferences. It is pretty amazing how diverse we all are, yet so close in genetic makeup. I find that fascinating. 
  5. Another way to build your own curiosity is looking at beautiful things. Find magazines, view points, or places that you find beautiful and then ask yourself, what is it about this particular spot that you find so beautiful? Is it the color? Form? Function? The balance of the items around you? The odd things you find in this space? The people? The smells? Tastes? Things you can touch? Get to know what you find beautiful and why. Then make sure to spend time with your kind of beauty regularly. Is there a way for you to bring this beauty into your daily routine? Maybe through a picture, music, words, things you can touch like similar fabric? Foods you can learn to make so you can experience them more often? 

There are many way to expand our curiosity to make life more magical. Today, work on finding all the places in your life you are still curious. 

Total Body Blast

Get your sweat on with this explosive power based workout.

To plan your workouts think about doing something focused 3-6 times a week and taking 1-3 days of what’s called active rest (clean house, walk the golf course, go for a hike, take the dog for a long walk, do squats throughout the day – link it to every time you go to the bathroom for example.

This movement is important for recovery and allows your body to do something active for fun, wellness, blood flow to the sore spots from your focused workout, etc. This keeps the body oriented toward energy flow and movement.

Making sure to get a weekend workout in is a great way to make sure your active rest days are not consecutive. Consecutive days off can make it harder to return to your focused workouts on Monday.

Workout Basics and Warm Up

Make sure to warm up. Spend 5-10minutes doing easy movement, stretching, and allow the muscles you are going to work to “wake up”. Work to include all the big joints and major muscle groups. It’s a great time to get your music right, your shoes tightened or loosened, or make sure you hair is out of your way. By fixing these things now, you are more likely to stay focused on the work portion.

When you complete the round, give yourself a pat on the back, a fist pump, something that celebrates your accomplishment. This is a big deal for helping habits stick, and helps you be realistic about all the hard work you are doing.

If you are unclear about a movement, look it up (Check out my YouTube Tutorials Here). There are lots of resources online that allow you to make sure you have good form. Always work up to adding weight or making a movement less stable. Good form comes first.

The Workout

Do each set 3 times through with a 1 minute break after each set. Do each exercise in each set for 1 minute, no breaks in between. Set your workout space up so you can easily move quickly through each exercise in the set. On your break shift space/equipment and grab a quick drink of water.

  • Squat with diagonal arm lift
  • Elbows thrusts up diagonally and thrust sharply to the back body with core rotation
  • Super slow squats with toe lifts at the bottom and onto toes at the top. Arms reach to floor at the bottom and lift up over head at the top.
  • Mountain climbers
  • 180s – squat jumps while rotating in air 180 degrees before landing
  • Lateral “walking” pushups
  • 4 – square jumps – jump forward and back into 4 quadrants of a square
  • Bear crawl forward and back
  • Single leg lunge on the right side with kick through back to front
  • Frog jumps
  • Single leg lunge on the left side with kick through back to front
  • Table top plank lift with side plank rotation alternate sides

Finish Strong

YOU DID IT!! Now that you have finished the “work” portion, it is time for flexibility training. Spend some time stretching all the muscles you worked – in this workout, it’s full body so give all your major muscles a good stretch. Then grab a good post workout snack. Together these get your muscles ready for tomorrow’s movement and make sure you are ready to meet your goals.

Words of Caution …

Please make sure to follow your body. Do not push through pain. Discomfort/Challenge are different than pain. We want to challenge ourselves we do not want to hurt ourselves. Find the level that is right for you and move at that level. Make sure to choose weight and stances that support your body style – if you have to use the wall to do your push ups do that, if you need a chair or a bench use those. Make sure you are doing what you need to do for your body type and current personal level of fitness.

As always have a fun living in your body today!

Even When It Is Hard Commit To Yourself First

We cannot escape entering into our goals without our social structure we find ourselves in. So even when the office mates bring cookies or your partner wants pizza every night or your kids won’t eat healthy options right now … commit to you first. Make sure to take the small steps to reach your goals right now. Lives are built on the small steps done every day with consistency.

#healthfromtheinsideout #mindovermatter #fitnesspsychologist