As the clocks change and autumn doubles down, here are some tips for weathering (or even enjoying!) this wild season
Autumn can be beautiful, but every year I lose it to dread of winter and mourning for summer. It surely doesn’t have to be this way! If you are in the same boat, read on for tips that might make all the difference.
Get a new scarf
Charity shop is fine! There are vintage prints and woolly beauties waiting for you. Alternatively dig out your last-year scarves and give them a wash and iron, or a debobble in front of the telly, and fold them as if you just bought them. It’s a tiny mood-lifting celebration of colder weather.
Make the most of the light there is
The days before the clocks change are my worst of all as I dread leaving work in the dark next week. If you are fortunate enough to have some control over your work times consider starting an hour early and having a longer lunch break to soak in the light there is. The higher the sun is in the sky the better for you (see vitamin D below).
And if your hours are set make sure you get into the light for the break times you do have.
Encourage outdoor work time
Could any of your meetings take place outdoors? Perhaps if it’s not too windy you could swap a video call for a phone call and do it from the park?
If you have a team day, a one-to-one, or anything involving blue sky thinking – doing this from a footpath can encourage everyone to talk more freely, and be more imaginative. And the day will definitely be more memorable, whether blue sky is involved or not.
Greet autumn mindfully
If you see autumn as the beginning of the rubbish half of the year, and nothing more, have a go at looking at autumn mindfully. Every day is different at the moment – yesterday where I am the sun was really warm and the shadows were bitterly cold; today it’s damp and the air feels soft. Last month there were green spiky conkers on the ground, and the bristly sweet chestnuts fell a few weeks later. Go a little detour so you can rustle satisfyingly through fallen leaves. Or get out for a sunrise walk to see the morning sun come in at a slant. Notice the smells and sounds too.
Get the right kit
Make sure your shoes can withstand puddles, your umbrella isn’t skeletal, your hat is warm, and get waterproof trousers if need be. I recommend fleece-lined wellies (think farmer’s co-op rather than fashion brand to save a fortune). Does your jacket need re-waterproofing? It’s worth doing! And then put gloves in the pocket ready.
Could you be SAD?
Do you get depressed in winter, with sadness, lethargy, difficulty concentrating, low sex drive and constant craving of carbohydrates, and find it hard to get up in the morning? If this sounds like you, to the extent that it’s really affecting your life, you may have seasonally affective disorder.
This is not yet well understood, but it may be that the lack of sunshine affects production of the hormones melatonin and serotonin which regulate sleep, appetite and mood, and messes with your circadian rhythm – your internal body clock.
Time in the light, exercise, and talking therapies can help – start by going to the GP. Many people also swear by SAD lamps. These are large lights 10 times more intense than an ordinary household bulb, that can stimulate the brain into producing less melatonin.
Take vitamin D
There is very little vitamin D in our food, so we need it to be made in the skin by exposure to sunlight. Because of where the UK is on the globe we are short of ultra-violet B for most of the year, and a national diet and nutrition survey found nearly half of the population to be deficient. This disproportionately affects people with darker skin, which produces less vitamin D.
Vitamin D helps absorb calcium from the gut, and low calcium can cause all sorts of problems. Bones can suffer of course, and muscles too, but there are also findings that suggest low levels of vitamin D could be connected to cancer, MS, and heart and circulatory disease.
It’s recommended by the government that everyone in the UK takes a vitamin D supplement in autumn and winter. People with dark skin, people who don’t spend much time outside, or people who keep their skin covered when outside are advised to take it year-round.
And of course… walk purposefully!
Being outside is widely documented to help with all aspects of mood and wellbeing. But we have an additional endorphin bump to offer. If you walk a Slow Way you get the warm fuzziness of actually creating a national walking network with your very footsteps.That’s a nice feelgood philanthropic sort of thing to do with your limited daylight hours.
And more immediately, there is something very satisfying about walking a Slow Way, checking it out, reviewing it, seeing it show up on your dashboard, and on the progress map in a new colour.
Then there’s collecting snails (verified routes), filling in strategic gaps, getting messages back from people who walk your routes in the future, maybe making your own version of a route and uploading it if you fancy. Mentioning it on social media with the hashtag #slowways and getting messages from other people who know the route.
All of these things are high on dopamine hits – dopamine activates the reward pathway in the brain.
Which probably explains why our behind-the-scenes stats show that people who’ve walked three Slow Ways go on to walk many more – once you get started it can be hard to stop.
They feel so good! And that is just what you need for autumn.