The leaves are changing colors. The days grow cooler. Daylight fades. Prime time network shows come back for a new season. Flannel shirts and scarves get moved to the front of the closet and back-to-school supplies are everywhere. Autumn has arrived!
What is it about fall that makes us feel like taking stock and starting over? "Human beings are part of the natural world and are deeply influenced by the cycles of nature," says Steven Ross, yoga, meditation and mindfulness teacher at Miraval Resort in Austin, Texas.
"Fall is a time for shedding the old ways and turning inwards to our awareness," Ross says. "Your own shedding could be old habits, cravings, behaviors and even lifelong patterns." So if you're ready for a fall reset, follow these five steps.
1. Check in on Your Resolutions
Though New Year's resolutions get most of the attention, fall is a great time to check on your goals, see how they're coming along and change course as needed. If something has worked out, up the ante and set a new goal. If it tanked in the first week, reassess to see if it's still a goal you want to achieve, then set the bar for something more attainable.
Some resolutions fail because they are too ambitious. Other times it's because you haven't set yourself up for success. But ultimately, resolutions fail for one simple reason: "Change is hard," says Jonathan Raskin, professor of psychology and counselor education at State University of New York at New Paltz. (And don't we all know that firsthand!)
The best way to get past a failed resolution, Dr. Raskin says, is to follow the advice of psychologist and philosopher William James, who said, "Act how you want to feel."
"If your resolution is that you want to be a more sociable person, don't wait until you feel social to go out and socialize; go out and socialize, regardless of whether you feel like it, because — according to James — our feelings follow our actions." A resolution is about making a commitment to act, he says, even when you don't feel motivated.
2. Set Small Goals
Whether your resolution is personal or professional, shoot for small, measurable goals and challenges. Break your resolution down into mini tasks and celebrate each milestone to stay on track. Your little victories will leave you inspired and ready to take on new challenges and resolutions come New Year's Eve.
For example, pledging to "work out more" is a big, vague goal that leaves a lot open to interpretation, making it harder to keep. So instead, "aim for a minimum of 20 minutes of intentional activity every day, all at once or sprinkled throughout your day," says Shannon Shearn, certified personal trainer and founder of Savage Wellness, an online healthy life coaching business and virtual gym for moms.
"Short, simple workouts you can do anywhere, done consistently, will add up to huge results in strength and health," she says. "You'll get fitter and healthier (and slimmer!) without even having to take extra time out of your days and weeks to do it."
3. Try Something New
Another reason fall is a good time to set resolutions in motion is that so many things start this time of year: gym classes, courses at local colleges, clubs and even cultural event calendars. Check local organizations and online classes to discover new ways to honor your commitment to your new — or renewed — resolutions.
If your goal is workout-related, you're in luck, says Jolene Ballard, a nationally certified group fitness instructor and celebrity personal trainer. Beginning a new activity packs a double punch, as your brain and your muscles have to work harder when you practice a new skill. "If you learn something new in autumn, by next summer, you'll have mastered the skill — and you'll burn more calories doing it."
4. Add Mindfulness to Your List
Adding a resolution to be more mindful can help you keep your other resolutions as well. Ross suggests reflecting and writing about your aspirations and goals as well as what causes you suffering, what habits you want to change and what behaviors can be improved.
"Write and print a vision statement of what you want to become: healthy, happy etc., then keep it out in the open where you can be inspired by it." While you've probably heard the "write it down," advice before, there's a reason for that — it really does work! And the more detailed you can make it, the better.
5. Make It Stick
As you reboot your resolutions, Ross suggests tending to your resolutions on a daily basis until they become engrained in your routine. You've heard it said that it takes 30 days to build a new habit, but that can vary depending on your willpower, enthusiasm and commitment level.
"Tend to your new habit daily until it's strong enough to survive on its own," Ross says, warning about the power of your bad habits. "Never underestimate your bad habits; these are like weeds and will come back again and again."