Last night was the first time I heard the familiar yet nearly forgotten hiss and grumble of the heat in my apartment, as it was the first night cool enough for it to be turned on this season. It squashed my hopes of an Indian Summer (ok, my fingers are still crossed since my neighbor told me true Indian Summer is when it warms up after the first frost of the year, this is an unconfirmed fact but it does give me hope) and assured me that Fall has in fact arrived here in NYC. Anyone who lives in the Northeast knows the familiar controversy October often brings up. There are those like me that are sad to let go of the heat of summer and refuse to banish the sandals and tank tops to the back of the closet, and there are those that cannot wait to get out their boots and sweaters out at the first sign of a temperature drop (I suppose it also helps if you are into football). Regardless of which side of the issue you stand on, I think we all can agree that Fall is truly one of the most glorious times in the Northeast with the plentiful harvests, spectacular foliage, crisp air and various seasonal traditions to eagerly look forward to.
For anyone who lives in a temperate climate like the Northeast, the transition between the warmer and cooler months is a key time to alter your nutrition and lifestyle practices to align yourself with the seasons. Shifts in weather or temperature are often the most common times of the year that we get sick because we are not adequately prepared. When we are aligned with the changes in nature around us, we are more easefully able to maintain our optimal health and sense of harmony with our environment. Summer can be a time of excessiveness and heat, just walk the streets of NYC and you will notice there are more people out and about than you ever even imagined lived here. The excitement to get out of the house and do things often leads to unrestrained behavior in areas such as diet and rest, we can get out of a set fitness routine quite easily and we are traveling more (we all know that all self-control goes out the window while on vacation, it doesn’t count right?). Fall is a great time to quiet down, undo any setbacks experienced in the summer, to go inward, to replenish ourselves mind and body and to create a clearing inside and out after the craze of summer. In the cooler months we tend to favor more indoor and quiet activities and that is just what nature intended!
The following are my top five tips for shifting yourself into the fall season:
1. Get to the root of things – instead of looking for the imported tropical fruits and the out of season vegetables at the supermarket, look for what is local and in season in your area. As the weather cools our diet should be comprised of heavier foods, more protein and more fiber than in the warmer months. Enjoy root vegetables like beets and sweet potatoes, the many varieties of squash such as spaghetti and butternut, apples and whole grains. Eating seasonally and locally aligns our bodies with our current climate, making us less susceptible to illness, it supports your local farmers and reduces the damage to the environment caused by transporting food from so far away. Tropical fruits, such as pineapples, grow in tropical regions because it is hot there and they are cooling to the body, which is needed in that climate. Squash and root vegetables grow in the Fall in temperate climates because they are warming to the body and give us the essential nutrients we need to keep us healthy for the season.
2. Heat things up – decrease the amount of raw foods you eat and increase the amount of cooked foods. It can be hard to get excited for a nice warm bowl of steel cut oats in the blistering heat of August but it does hit the spot on a crisp October morning. Switch up your cooking to incorporate more warming preparations for your meals. Fall is a great time to introduce warm breakfast porridges, soups, stews, baked vegetables and slow cooked meals straight from the oven. Get out your teapot and enjoy a nice warm cup of your favorite tea while you curl up on the couch with a good book or a favorite movie. Use warmth to relax and nurture yourself – light candles, take a warm bath, burn essential oils, use a hot water bottle or snuggle up with a loved one in bed.
3. Get moving – renew your fitness regime, try something new or get back to an old forgotten favorite. It is very easy to talk yourself into staying on the couch when the weather is cool but make sure you keep moving through all seasons. Pick the form of exercise which suites how you are feeling in this transitional time and be sure to notice how that may vary from day to day. If you are feeling cold and sluggish, try something energizing and warming like a dance or spin class. If you are feeling anxious and scattered, try something calming and centering like Yoga or Tai Chi. It is important to keep your exercise routine varied, interesting and customized to your personal fitness goals and abilities.
4. Hit the books – take a class and learn something new. As September sets in I always get that hankering to dust off my backpack and go to school. Maybe I am mentally programmed from going to school every September until my early twenties, but there is no denying that fall is great time to get back to learning. As adults this can take on so many interesting forms – learn a language, hone your sewing skills, learn a new craft, join a book club, take a continuing education class at your local university or college or embark on a more in depth stuff of a passion of yours such as yoga, meditation, dancing or cooking. It can also be a great way to bond with friends and stay out there and in the mix with other people, fighting off the cold weather blues or feelings of isolation that winter can bring.
5. Fall cleaning – who said that springtime is the season for cleaning? Use the change in seasons to reorganize yourself – clean out the closets, pantry and refrigerator, rearrange the bookshelves, furniture or office and prepare your home for the weather and events coming in the fall and winter. Take on new indoor projects such as home repairs, repainting, organizing photographs or redecorating. I love to switch up simple things like bedding, table linens and towels each season so keep the colors and patterns around me that match the time of the year.