Chill of fall

Seasons change. This is part of riding on the third rock from the sun, and the degree of change depends on your specific locale on the rock.

I grew up in New England, but I lived in central Florida for a year. The seasons down south are very different than northern seasons. Much less cold, much more heat, more sun, more humidity. I missed northeast seasonality while I lived in the southeast. Change in weather is accompanied with a shift in feelings for me, physical but also emotional. I am writing this in early September, and the morning temps are in the 40s in Connecticut. The contrast to last week’s heat and humidity is quite drastic. I can feel my mind and body shifting to thoughts and feelings of fall. I’m becoming a little different on the inside because I feel the new inputs from the outside.

We are products of our environment. If you use your bedroom for sleep, then you will more than likely sleep when you get into bed. But if you use your bed for surfing the web before you go to sleep, your brain will be anticipating stimulation through dopamine hits of social media browsing, shopping, and memes. It’s no surprise that you can’t fall asleep if your bed is associated with high mental activity. The setting of your bed directs your behavior and thoughts.

Autumn is the time of year where I feel a strengthened bond to the earth. The air is getting drier and cooler. The fall cues are triggering warm feelings. I love to be outside at this time of year. Hiking in the woods and enjoying the foliage is enriching. The feeling is like a warming of the soul, a final appreciation of the year before we go into the cold season. The environment is the trigger for a different set of thoughts and feelings in me. I know the future months have cold weather in store, so I like to try to enjoy the last days of the year that are on the warmer side.

Like it or not, the immmediate surroundings in which we exist have a huge impact on our thoughts and emotions. We enjoy going back to a special place to feel the same feeling that we had when we went there originally. That’s why we like to return. We want to recapture the original feeling.

If you are in a hostile work environment, your thoughts and feelings will tend to match the level of hostility. Yes, you can set an example for your coworkers in that situation, and come in smiling and chipper, but without active vigilance throughout the day, your mood will start to match the surrounding moods.

What should you do if the environment is not helping with your mood, and you can’t get out of the environment? Reset your triggers. Guard your thoughts. The stimulus of being in that place needs to be directed to a different response. This can be trained but it takes time and effort. Some would suggest that you move to a new location or avoid the environment altogether. This is sometimes feasible, but often not. And the trigger/response loop that is in your brain may not be as location-dependent as you might think. You will take that learned response with you to the next location. The triggers might still exist in the location in other forms. Without decoupling the trigger from the response, moving could be a huge waste of time.

Mindfulness can help you to recognize your triggers and responses. It can help you to observe your thoughts and feelings more objectively, instead of losing control. It can save you from moving to a new place to try and escape your own brain. It can save you from yourself.

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