15 Oct Preparing for Autumn with Positive Thinking
How many times over the last few weeks have you heard people complaining about the dropping temperature? As the leaves start to change colors and drift away from their branches, conversations often include observations on the shifting seasons. Some people look forward to the fall, while others dread the impending chill. Have you noticed the mood that typically accompanies complaints about the cold? Or the emotion that immediately follows?
Most often, negative interpretations and attributions are related to negative thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. That complaint about the leaves falling can have an adverse effect on your emotional well being, leaving you feeling glum and pessimistic about the coming months. A case of the seasonal blues can sometimes spiral into a more serious case of Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD (quite the accurate acronym).
Fortunately, the same spiral effect on mood can work in the opposite direction. By shifting your focus toward the positive aspects of autumn and your favorite parts of winter, you can counterbalance the seasonal October slump.
A recent study from the University of Vermont* found that cognitive behavioral therapy tailored for SAD was more effective than the traditional light therapies that have been used to treat SAD. Learning to identify unhelpful or extreme patterns in one’s thinking and challenging them is one CBT technique that can be used to address seasonal depression. Rephrasing thoughts such as “I hate the cold” to “I prefer summer to autumn,” or “I won’t leave my house in winter” to “It’s really hard for me to do things in winter, and if I make a plan and try my best I can do it,” can help shift your thoughts away from all-or-nothing thinking.
Focus your thoughts and attention on the things that you do enjoy about the season, whether it’s apple-picking, pumpkin spice lattes, or cozying up next to a warm fireplace, and you will start to notice a increase in positive emotion. Continue healthy habits such as eating nutritious meals, getting a good night’s sleep, and regular exercise to keep your body and mind from hibernating until spring. Lastly, remind yourself that the cycle of seasons will continue and before you know it, you will be back in your flip-flops soaking up the rays of summer.
* Outcomes One and Two Winters Following Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy or Light Therapy for Seasonal Affective Disorder – Kelly J. Rohan, Jonah Meyerhoff, Sheau-Yan Ho, Maggie Evans, Teodor T. Postolache, and Pamela M. Vacek in the American Journal of Psychiatry 2016 173:3, 244-251
Authored by: Joshua Polonsky, MS