By Katrien Maes, Ayurvedic therapist
Autumn is dry, rough, windy, changing, erratic, cool, … As the external environment changes during this season, your internal environment can experience the same type of changes: dry skin, crackly joints, windy bowels, cold body or cold extremities, negative thoughts and worrying …
Applying the Ayurvedic principle that opposite actions create balance, you can maintain balance during autumn by emphasising lifestyle and food choices that are grounding, stabilising, warming, moisturising and softening.
Here are 8 tips to make this ‘autumn balancing’ more concrete in your daily life. They are based on a mix of mindfulness and ayurvedic insights.
- Follow a regular routine: A regular daily structure is very useful to reduce over-action in your head, especially in autumn. Next to work and the ‘must do’s’, see if you can schedule time for self-care, good meals and enough sleep. Maybe you can practise a “calendar meditation”? Print out your calendar of the week or take your paper agenda and sit down with it in front of you. Close your eyes and do a short meditation, just focusing on your breath for a few minutes. Open your eyes again and look at your agenda: What do you notice coming up? Any feelings of stress or pressure? Go over the different activities and mindfully consider what is necessary to do, and what you might skip. Try to liberate as much as you can, even if this causes some anxiety. Ask yourself: how do I really need to spend my time right now?
- Adapt your diet: Eat seasonal foods that are warm, moist, unctuous, sweet and soft. Focus on cooked meals, savoury soups and stews; cooked (not overcooked) vegetables, proteins and fruits, sweet grains such as oat to make a warm breakfast. Include healthy fats in your diet, increase the amount of oil when preparing your meals. Use warming and grounding herbs and spices such as fresh ginger, cardamom, cumin, black pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, curry powder, … Avoid cold and dry food such as toast, dairy, raw food.
- Eat mindfully: Be mindful while eating, eat slowly and consciously, in a peaceful environment or in silence. Perhaps you can bring some gratitude to your food. Gratitude is something we can consciously develop, and it has many mental and physical benefits. Can you be grateful for the fact that you have enough to eat? For all the people who put in effort, so you could enjoy this meal? For the people you are having the meal with? Can you be grateful for the nourishment that you get by eating this food?
- Stay warm: Sip plenty of warm beverages throughout the day, for example herbal teas and water with fresh ginger, to increase the digestive fire and immunity. Reduce coffee as it induces dryness, mental action and exhaustion. Avoid cold and fizzy drinks. Wear clothing that is soft and warm. Especially keep your head, neck and feet warm. Try to avoid air conditioning or wind on your upper body muscles.
- Seek silence. Schedule some moments of silence, alone or by joining a meditation, yoga, tai chi or mindfulness group or activity. Ancient mind-body practices such as yoga and Tai Chi produce more energy than they consume. By practising you will feel calm, invigorated and clear-headed. Schedule some time for meditation each day so it becomes part of your daily routine. If you want to learn how to meditate check out our calendar for upcoming activities.
- Go outside. Spend quiet time in nature, go for a walk in the woods or at the seaside. Try a “savouring walk”: mindfully take in the beautiful colours you see, the perfume of autumn, the sound of walking through the leaves, … Allow yourself to really enjoy and appreciate the beautiful things you notice.
- Perform a daily self-massage. Heat a bit of sesame oil and massage gently your feet before going to sleep. This reduces the action in your head and promotes sleep. Or go for a regular body-head massage to get rid of emotional and/or physical tension and to align your mind with your body. You can find out more about Katrien Maes and her massages on my website:www.katrienmaes.com.
- Reflect on letting go. Autumn is the season in which the old dies to make place for the new. Maybe you can take a moment to reflect on what you need to let go off, which thinking patterns or habits are no longer useful? Write down what comes up and be kind to yourself in this process. There’s no need to push yourself to create new habits, or to be hard on yourself because of the old ones. Simply take your time to slowly let go. Then start thinking of what you want to let come in instead. What is nourishing, helpful and wise for you to be more aligned with your purpose and helps you maintain a good energy level?
We wish you a very healthy, insightful and nourishing autumn!
P.S. Here is a free 10-minute meditation by the lead tracher of our teacher training programme, Jake Dartington, inviting you to tune into your body and breath.