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The Psychology of Autumn: How Seasonal Changes Affect Your Mood

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Published 02/11/2023
by Laura Clipson
The arrival of autumn brings significant changes to the world around us, maybe more than any other season. The air grows cooler, the days are shorter, trees change colour and begin to lose their leaves, and the air becomes thick with anticipation for the upcoming festive season. Perhaps this is why autumn evokes such strong feelings and emotions in some people; on one side of the scale, there are people who look forward to the coming of autumn, to cosy jumpers and scented candles, whereas on the other side there are those who dread the looming dark nights and gloomy mornings that autumn inevitably brings.

In this blog post we’ll explore the reasons why autumn has such an effect on our moods.
There are many things we associate with autumn - pumpkins and pumpkin spice flavoured treats; the reds, oranges and golds of falling leaves; the crisp air as cooler weather arrives; the arrival of darker mornings; the necessity of digging out our “big coats”, hats and scarves; the excitement of Halloween and Bonfire Night. The return of these markers of the changing seasons can trigger a sense of nostalgia in us, as we remember childhoods spent eating toffee apples and crunching through fallen leaves.

Natural light
As autumn arrives, the days grow shorter and the amount of natural sunlight we see during the day decreases. This can have an effect on our circadian rhythms and our mood. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a kind of depression which is most likely to occur in the winter months due to lack of sunlight. It can cause fatigue, irritability, and feelings of sadness. To try to combat this, you can try to spend more time outdoors during daylight hours, and it’s also recommended to take vitamin D supplements throughout the winter months.

Return of routine
During the summer holidays, when the kids are off school and many people go on holiday, our routines tend to disappear. Autumn brings a return to our normal routines, as the kids go back to school and people are back at work. This provides a sense of structure and predictability which can be comforting to some. Autumn can also be seen as a time for fresh starts, as people start at a new school, head off to college or university.

Autumn provides a stunning tapestry of colour as the trees begin to shed their leaves. This reminds us of the impermanence of life, and the beauty that can be found in change. Spending time in nature is a fantastic way to improve mental health, especially during autumn amongst the changing colours of the trees and falling leaves.

Festive season
Autumn heralds the arrival of the festive season, with Halloween, Bonfire Night and the run up to Christmas, amongst other cultural holidays. These events encourage social gatherings with family and friends. Social connections are important for mental well-being, and are great for our overall mood. Participating in the festivities also gives us something to look forward to.
Autumn encourages us to cherish our memories, to find beauty in transformation, and to nurture our social connections. Nostalgia, changes in natural light, routine, changes in the world around us, and social connections all contribute to the way we experience this season. While some may find autumn’s melancholic aspects challenging, others may revel in its unique beauty. Understanding the psychology of autumn can help us navigate its ups and downs and make the most of this transformative season for our mental well-being.

Thank you for reading.

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