We have an invitation to reset and renew with every change of the season. However seemingly small this transition may feel and whatever physical ritual is required to move us into this new headspace (i.e., updating drawers and closets, physically redecorating our life and workspace, taking a vacation, etc.), the “emotional reset button” hidden in this opportunity is also a gift. There is tremendous power in pausing and recognizing such transitions for what they truly offer us as human beings– nature’s permission to let go, to realign, to begin again, to hope, and to aspire.
One of the most prized caveats of being a university professor is that every semester in university life offers the gift of a natural reset. Each term offers a clean slate with new course offerings, new students, new syllabi and new opportunities, and a clean grade book ready for seizing. This transition in academia is highly visible as the physical change that accompanies this shift is very evident. K-12 educators also feel this way at the beginning of every school year. Students and families share in this transition as well as the excitement, anticipation, and preparation for a new beginning is heightened.
The shift from summer to fall is probably the most heightened annual change for educators and non-educators alike. The long days of summers with their lax and seductive tempo, the shorter work days and flex hours, family outings to beautiful destinations all contribute to highly pronounced transition when this period comes to an end and routines resume in the fall. And although everything points to the need to physically recalibrate and reset, how many of us pause to embrace the opportunity for the renewal that lies within? And even more importantly, how many times a year to we give ourselves permission to welcome a subtle new start? Gratefully, nature provides us this natural pause with every change of the season.
So, why should self-renewal be high on our radar like seasonal shopping, medical checkups, and other implicit markings on our mental agendas? Simple. Adults and children alike need such reminders that change is manifest and that with this passage of time comes the opportunity to discover the world in a new way, to pursue an adventure of the heart, to get unstuck from anything that no longer serves us, to risk, and to grow.
There is tremendous hope in new beginnings, whether change is subtle and natural (like the changing of seasons) or more pronounced (like a new job or promotion, getting married, relocating, going back to school). And what psychological science tells us about hope is that hope is a protagonist for mental wellness. In fact, the lack of hope, or feelings of hopelessness, is a hallmark feature of clinical depression in both adults and children. Hence, increasing opportunities for hopefulness and mindfully embracing the change and growth afforded by transitions (big and small) can provide a reset in both mind and heart.
The buzz of modern life often precludes us from pausing to celebrate the psychological benefits of such new beginnings. We swiftly plan for and try to faithfully meet the physical shifts required to honor this change. Isn’t it time that we challenge ourselves to honor the psychological shifts as well? The result of recognizing this call: a renewed, more hopeful self. And certainly the children of today would benefit from such a practice in the lives of the adults who nurture, raise, and educate them.
How exactly do we call into awareness the transitions don’t manifest with high visible change? The start of the season can remind and assist us. Feel free to try the following with every change of the season:
- Mindfully reflect on the past 3 months. Take time to recall the events, happenings, successes, and disappointments of the past season. Review any journal entries, posts, and photos from this period of time. What have you learned? How have you grown? What are you grateful for? Take stock of the passage of time and in your contributions and experiences of the period.
- Celebrate. Plan something creative or joyful that will honor the closure of the period (season) and open the psychological door for a new beginning.
- Make a short list. Make a short list of 1-2 activities, adventures, or items that you wish to try over the next three months that is solely for the purposes of helping you grow, expand, or release.
- Execute. Explore and try one of the items above. Sign up for tennis lessons, learn that new language, take up yoga or mindfulness, try kickboxing, etc. Allow yourself to take on something that is life-bearing and thus renewing for you.
- Chronicle.Keep a journal, photo journal, or planner/agenda (they sell great motivational/inspirational ones that include room for brief reflections) that allows you to capture and celebrate important moments and discoveries.
- Affirm. Self-affirmations help center and ground us throughout our day. They are positive short phrases that are infused with hope that promote positive thinking. Save them to your phone. Repeat them to yourself. Buy them in art form and display them in your home or office.
- Rinse and Repeat. In three months from now, as we enter the new (holiday) season, repeat steps 1-6.
Self-renewal is a hope-inducing gift that we can give to ourselves. It calls for us to mindfully attend to and reflect on of the happenings of a designated period of time and the psychological recognition of an impending shift and new opportunity. These “resets” are not solely reserved for back to school season, the change of the New Year, an election period, or any socially-infused event that heightens our awareness for change. And although we are not confined to nature’s four seasons for engaging in such a renewal mindset– thankfully for us, nature has a rhythmic way of reminding us to slow down and do so. Hello, Fall!