How to reset your routine for autumn
Reboot mind and body with these quick and easy ways to switch up your day for optimal wellbeing
The transition from summer to autumn is a great time to reassess, reset and reboot. If you've been thinking of implementing some good new habits, there is no time like now – it makes sense to bolster your health before the onset of winter. Below, there are expert tips on how to bring mindfulness, yoga and meditation into your everyday routine, even if those things don't usually appeal. We've also included tips on how to improve your sleep which affects every aspect of your health and wellbeing.
‘Since school, the onset of autumn has signified a fresh start, so it’s a wonderful time to shake things up a bit,’ explains lifestyle and business coach Nicola Wilkes. ‘Seeing the leaves change colour and shed also acts as a visual reminder to do the same for ourselves – it’s the natural order of things. As we start to spend more time indoors again, our focus shifts internally, allowing us to reflect on what’s working, what’s not and how we can make the rest of the year count. I call it the final push.’
Self-care is key, so don’t be afraid to give yourself permission to slow down and tend to your emotional and physical wellbeing. That might mean switching some of your home HIIT workouts for more mindful, restorative practices like breathwork, yin yoga or tai chi. ‘One of the great gifts of yoga is how it has taught me to be sensitive to the cycles of the seasons,’ says Naomi Annand, author of Yoga: A Manual For Life and founder of Yoga on the Lane. ‘The practice is a cycle: it reminds me that nothing is fixed. For me, autumn is about grounding practices such as restorative yoga and meditation. I find if I listen to my body and respond kindly in autumn, my system is ready for winter.’
Making little switch-ups to your day-to-day routine can make a big difference to your overall health, mood and wellbeing over time. See if you can work just one or two of your favourite ideas from the list below into your daily diary – it takes time to build healthy habits, so patience and persistence will be key. Once they’ve become part of your regular routine, you can pick another one to add in. ‘Setting yourself a micro-intention is a great way to build a good habit,’ says Naomi. ‘Start small and manageable and let it develop over time.’
(Re)set your alarm
Here’s one idea we can all get on board with: waking up a little later. While jumping out of bed for an early morning workout is all well and good, if you’re more likely to hit the snooze button than bust out those star jumps, an early morning alarm call could be counterproductive. ‘It may seem a good idea to give yourself another ten minutes in bed, but it isn’t actually doing you any good – you may even feel more sluggish for doing this,’ explains sleep expert Mark Cropley, professor of health psychology at the University of Surrey and author of The Off Switch. ‘Shun the temptation to hit the snooze button and set your alarm later to reclaim these valuable minutes for sleep.’
Daylight alarm clocks can help to regulate your sleep and wake cycles, boosting mood, energy and productivity by waking you up with a gentle simulated sunrise, so you start the day feeling refreshed and revitalised.
When you do roll out of bed, it’s well worth taking just a couple of minutes to breathe, re-centre and reconnect mind and body before you begin your day. ‘Having a mindful breathing practice can greatly reduce stress and anxiety,’ says Naomi. ‘Sit for two minutes every day, and always congratulate yourself for doing a little.’
‘This exercise is a super-simple, quick and easy form of instant meditation that can be done in almost any situation:
- First, take a few moments to settle into your body. Make sure you’re comfortable.
- Take a few clearing breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth with a steady exhale.
- Bring your awareness to your breath and find a circular rhythm of breathing: in and pause, out and pause.
- As you breathe, you will notice a length of breath emerging that comes naturally and feels full without effort. The speed of the cycle doesn’t matter: you can count to two, three or four on each inhale and exhale.
- As you inhale count to your number and as you exhale count down the same. This will give you a lovely sense of your breath and your energy as equal push and pull.’
Make your lunch break count
Whether you’re in the office or WFH, when deadlines are approaching and the fridge (or coffee machine) is in easy reach, it can be tempting to resort to lunch al desko. But taking the time to rest, digest and move is key. ‘Take regular breaks and never skip lunch,’ says Mark. ‘This will help to stop your brain becoming over-aroused, which can hinder sleep later on.’
Exercise is a great way to give yourself a mental midday break – getting out for a 15-minute walk, nipping to the gym for a lunchtime yoga class or streaming a home workout could all help reduce stress and fatigue and increase productivity. Time of the essence? If you’re at home or have access to a private space where you won’t be disturbed, taking five minutes to simply lie down could be the answer.
‘Put your legs up the wall, breathe in and ask yourself what you would like to welcome into your body,’ Naomi suggests. ‘As you exhale, ask yourself what you’d like to release. After five minutes, roll onto your side, pause and come to sit. Jot down any insights and thoughts and set the intention to do the same thing again tomorrow.’
Upgrade your afternoon cuppa
Many of us rely on caffeine to see us through the post-lunch slump, but according to Mark, even moderate amounts can affect our sleep quality. ‘You may consider yourself one of those lucky people who can drink coffee all day and even during the evening and still sleep well, but this may signal that your body has become addicted to caffeine,’ he explains. ‘Tea, coffee, cola and even chocolate contain a significant amount of caffeine, which can increase arousal and lead to poor sleep, especially when ingested close to bedtime.’
Fermented tea drinks like kombucha (try the Equinox range at Waitrose) tend to contain less caffeine, and are also packed with beneficial natural probiotics, antioxidants, electrolytes and enzymes. Prefer a hot cuppa? Make a delicious Ayurvedic-inspired golden tea with warming turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom and black pepper. Ancient + Brave’s vegan-friendly Inspired Collagyn for Brain blend also contains the super-herb ashwagandha, which can help to reduce stress and anxiety.
Turn down the lights... and grab a pen
As most of us will know from experience, when it comes to wellbeing, a decent night’s sleep is key. And the key to a decent night’s sleep? Developing a consistent routine. ‘You don’t need to be too rigid, but maintaining a consistent sleep and wake time will help your body to adapt and prepare itself for sleep,’ says Mark. ‘Many people find they naturally sleep better during the longer autumn nights, but dimming the lights half an hour before you go to bed can help. Over time, this will train your mind to anticipate sleep.’ Many daylight alarm clocks offer a sunset fading option to help you drift off.
‘Try not to engage with your smartphone, tablet or laptop in the last hour before going to bed,’ he adds. ‘The backlight can suppress the production of melatonin, resulting in delayed sleep onset.’ Put your phone on airplane mode and grab a good book – or pick up a notepad and use the time to give journaling a go. ‘It’s a great way to relieve stress, connect with your thoughts, unlock the subconscious and create powerful new goals, routines and aspirations,’ says Nicola. ‘Curl up on the sofa with a blanket, hardback journal and a nice pen. Wherever your happy place is, journal there!’
‘Five minutes or an hour can be equally productive,’ she adds. ‘The process is all about becoming more in tune with yourself, so pay attention to how it feels. In time, you’ll develop a wonderfully personalised journaling practice that supports you and your visions. Many people enjoy a period of quiet reflection at the end of the day, but I also love to journal first thing in the morning – try both options and go with what feels natural.’