The word autumn comes from the ancient Etruscan root aut- and has within it connotations of the passing of the year (Breyer, 1993). Here in our beautiful New England state of Connecticut, we experience many signposts in autumn that tell us the year is passing. We begin to see the leaves on the trees change color and fall, we begin to feel a chill in the early morning and early evening hours, and we see traditional holiday garb creep onto the shelves of our local shopping stores. In many ancient and historical cultures, and in some current cultures today, it was customary to greet the change of seasons with festivals, religious rituals, and communal harvest gatherings. In our busy modern day lives, we can miss out on the benefits of syncing our consciousness with our environment even as it gives us cues that it is time to stop and reflect. Fall is also the beginning of an academic year for many and the beginning of the end of the calendar year. What better time to do some self reflecting than at a time where the world around you is changing over to another season and the New Year is just a peek around the corner? Here are some self reflection prompts and exercises to do this October to generate some self reflection. These can be done alone, in a journal, or with loved ones.
Where are you with that resolution you made on January 1st 2016 or with that goal you promised you'd achieve this year? What steps have you taken to get there? What has gotten in your way? Will it be achieved by the time December 31st 2016 arrives? If you have achieved your goal or resolution what was the journey like? Do you feel like you thought you'd feel when you imagined achieving it?
Heading into the holiday season means a time where many of us get together with loved ones. This can be a time where we are reminded of loved ones we do not have anymore, and it can be a reminder of the pain that is connected to unhealthy relationships we've had in the past or currently have with family members. Knowing hard feelings and difficult interactions are coming up in the next few months, what do you want to do to better prepare yourself this year compared to last year? How do you want to celebrate holidays you traditionally participate in this year? Do you want to do what you've always done or is it time to do something different? What would make this holiday season truly enjoyable for you so you can participate in the holiday glee this year instead of being a scrooge?
If possible, take a stroll on one of Connecticut's many hiking trails. As you walk to the top focus on all of the major accomplishments and failures of the past year, consider new relationships formed, old relationships weakened or lost, and think of the ways in which you have grown or have not grown during these past months. When you get to the top, practice some mindfulness and think of who you are at this moment in time and where you are in your life. Consider what is important to you now and what a loved one would say about you today if they were describing you to a stranger. Take a few moments to focus on your beautiful surroundings and quiet your mind, listen to the breeze shake the leaves off the trees, take in the different smells, feel the chill in the air. On the way back down, think of where you are going in the immediate future, who you want to be, how you may want to grow, and what goal you want to focus on.
Start a new tradition and get some of your loved ones together for a harvest. Bake or cook seasonal food together or agree to come together for a harvest season potluck. Share in self reflection together and honor the passing of the year in a way where you can spend some time outdoors. Take the time to slow down with loved ones and look around at the beauty that surrounds you. Maybe visit a local farm ahead of time together to do some fruit picking.
Our daily demands make it difficult to find time for self reflection, but it is important to schedule it in just like it is important to schedule your routine medical appointments and time to do your taxes. If your mental and emotional well being never gets a tune up, then how can you be expected to keep running on full throttle? Take time this October to check in with yourself and you'll realize just how better able you are at returning to checking in on everything and everyone else.