Ah, Fall. Pumpkin spice lattes. Changing leaves. Crisp November mornings. Pumpkin spice lattes. Warm mulled apple cider. Black Friday sales on Halloween. Did I mention pumpkin spice lattes?
Seriously, most of us enjoy this time of year, for various reasons. The changing season might be one of the few changes we actively look forward to and participate in. And November in particular brings with it reminders to be thankful for what we have.
For some, though, Fall isn’t such a great time. Maybe we’re in the Fall of our lives, and the leaves falling from the trees reminds us unpleasantly of our own mortality or of loved ones gone. Maybe this year we’re having trouble with gratitude because life has hit us below the belt. The shorter days wreak havoc with our biochemistry, or the advertising makes us feel guilty about not being able to get the perfect gifts to give or about broken relationships.
Even though we know an attitude of gratitude is important for our mental health, it can be really difficult to find much less maintain when life changes in ways we find difficult. And this time of year can make us feel worse when we can’t feel grateful.
It might be helpful to look for gratitude in unexpected places. It might be helpful to notice where others are grateful and borrow, if you will, their attitude and be happy for them. It might be helpful to focus on some simple things, or to remember that change is inevitable (like death and taxes) and what is happening now is only temporary. But if all else fails, be gentle and understanding with yourself. Beating yourself up won’t help at all.
Know that, if you can’t approach this time of year with a happy heart, you’re not alone. And that it’s ok.
(If you find that your mood is terrible more days than not, that it’s affecting your relationships and daily life, or your mood feels out of control or even hopeless, please reach out for professional help, just as you would for a bad cough or injury (or know you should, anyway).)