“O Autumn, laden with fruit, and stained
With the blood of the grape, pass not, but sit
Beneath my shady roof; there thou may’st rest,
And tune thy jolly voice to my fresh pipe;
And all the daughters of the year shall dance!
Sing now the lusty song of fruit and flowers.
- William Blake
There is something about the autumn which brings a great stillness to my spirit – as though I am returning home to myself from some long arduous journey, ready to put my feet up next to the fire and settle in. I find that my pace slows, my thoughts wander and life loses a bit of its normal urgency. And though I know that bare branches and the chill of winter are just round the bend, the glorious splendor of autumn seems such a feast for my senses to last me an entire lifetime, let alone the winter, and all I want to do is bask in it.
Autumn is the time of when the sun dwindles away and we enter the dark half of the year – life retreats into the womb of the earth and our energy too is harnessed inwards to a time of reflection and contemplation. Just as the trees shed their leaves to survive the harshness of winter, we too must let go of what has outlived it’s usefulness. But more importantly, we must come to find that which does nourish and sustain us – to recognize those things we require on a deep and spiritual level to survive. Making a list of all that you are grateful for is a perfect way to embrace the autumn. I find that simply by realizing and honoring what serves me, I automatically let go of that which does not.
Autumn is also the time to align your body to the change of season. The air is growing colder and drier, and if we fail to adjust our diet and habits properly, our body will do the same. Now is the time, before the frost falls heavy and the air grows permantly cold, to prepare your body for what lies ahead. Here’s what to do:
Favor warm, moistening cooking methods such as roasting, baking, steaming and stewing – now is not the time for salad and smoothies but for soups, stews, and casseroles.
Choose warm, moistening foods such as whole grains (brown rice, barley, oats, millet, quinoa), root vegetables, squashes, stewed fruits, spiced meats and small amounts of fermented foods and beverages to help digest all the heavy fall and winter foods.
Get out the warming spices – ginger, cayenne, cinnamon, cloves, etc – and add them to everything you eat and drink. Chai is the perfect daily drink.
Eat what the earth around you is providing – the plants are more wise and generous than we credit them for, and they tend to provide us with the nutrients we need when we need them. Squash and carrots, for example, are loaded with carotenoids that help our eyes to adjust to the diminishing light and bolster our immune systems.
Eat more fat! Keeping warm and moist in the winter requires that we consume more of this essential nutrient – as traditional cultures and all mammals rightly know. Fat not only helps to insulate us against the bitter cold of winter, but helps our cells to retain moisture and stay supple. Choosing the right type of fat is important – favor good quality fats that are high in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon and other cold water fish; pasture raised meat, eggs and dairy; walnuts, and flax seeds. Don’t be bashful about it either – omega 3′s help to reduce inflammation, improve cholesterol ratios, and reduce the risk of numerous diseases including cardiovascular disease and cancer. Your body and your skin will thank you for that extra slab of pasture raised butter!
Dress appropriately – wearing a hat and scarf on a cool day is nothing to be embarrassed about. Keeping your body warm helps to protect you from illness – what they call pernicious external forces in Traditional Chinese Medicine. In my mind, you are helping to protect your body from the stress of adapting to an extreme temperature change.
Supplement with Vitamin D as the sunlight fades. This sunshine vitamin is necessary for numerous physiological processes from immune function and bone strength to mood regulation – and most of us are deficient! Start with 2000 IU per day, or better yet – have your levels tested.
Lock moisture in with a daily oil massage. Sesame oil is good for dry skin, and coconut is best for red and irritated skin. In Ayurveda, the 4,000 year old medical system of India, oil massage is considered essential to a balanced, healthy life.
Get moving! It’s tempting to stay snuggled inside when the temperatures drop, but exercise will keep your blood moving and your body healthy. Good blood flow is essential for keeping your fingers and toes warm, your muscles relaxed, and your skin radiant and beautiful.
Lastly, go with the flow of autumn and not against it. Autumn is a time to slow down and move inwards – and people tend to get sick in the fall when they fight this movement. Take some time each day to attune yourself with that rhythm – go for a walk and savor the autumn leaves, take time to breath and be present with yourself. Never under estimate the immense power in being still!
May you have a happy, warm and deeply gratifying autumn! Savor it while it lasts…
The Teacup Chronicles is a seasonally minded blog about health and wellness, written by a clinical herbalist and self proclaimed kitchen witch. It contains herb-lore, delicious recipes, dietary suggestions and more to encourage vibrant health, balance and delight in every season. Grab a cup of tea, pull up a chair and join me in exploring just how gratifying and delicious cultivating good health can be.