Love It or Hate It—A Change of Seasons is Here

We are experiencing a change of seasons here in the Pacific North West. A few mornings ago, I saw the first sign, a covering of dew on grass that has been as dry as dust for five months. It’s a welcome change for the earth, since the trees and gardens have been craving moisture.

We humans too, can’t help but react. There’s a mild feeling of excitement as we anticipate the events that arrive with winter—more connections with family and friends, more social events, indoor activities like cozying up to the fire, reading new books, going to movies, and of course, Christmas.

There’s also a feeling of sadness. Autumn has always been associated with nostalgia and regret. There’s something poignant about the drawing in of days, and the lengthening of nights. It seems we have more time to think and reflect.

I remember studying ‘To a Young Child‘ in an English class long ago, about the transiency of time, exemplified by the seasonal image of falling leaves. It was written in 1880 by Gerard Manley Hopkins in the archaic language of the era, the emotion resonating in spite of the rarified phrasing:

Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?

Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

It is said that in this poem, Hopkins is recognizing the loss of a child’s innocence, grieving for times past, and mourning his own mortality.

Like Hopkins, we come face to face with decay and change in autumn. Even when most days are sunny and warm, we can feel the cooler evenings, and see the changes in the landscape around us. We know that soon we will feel the full force of colder, wetter weather.

Many people suffer unrest and anxiety during the change of seasons. In some of us, our moods are negatively influenced by less daylight and colder weather. Older people may experience a dip in their immune system. They may dread the approaching time of discomfort that winter brings, and some may actually become ill with a cold.

In an article, Max D. Gray (OneHowTo) discusses seasonal affective disorder, emotional distress, depression, and the anxiety that some people suffer as the temperature drops, and dusk comes earlier. He suggests these symptoms are real, and if they persist, should be discussed with your doctor.

Another study, published in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, says that the functioning of our brain is significantly affected by the seasons.

For this research, 28 Belgian adults agreed to spend four-and-a-half days in a lab, completely sheltered from sunshine and the outside world. Their brains were then scanned while they completed two tasks—one requiring sustained attention, and another using their working memory.

The study showed that brain activity peaked on the attention tasks in the summer, while significantly less brain activity was required in the winter for these same tasks. On the memory task, the opposite was true—brain activity peaked in autumn and hit a low in spring.

So, it appears that the brain is more active in the summer when attention tasks are being performed, whereas in the fall, memory recall can be accomplished with less brain activity.

Dr. Gilles Vandewalle, the neuroscientist who led the study, says:

Even though we live in an artificial environment with light cycles that are no longer seasonal, we have the programming in our brains to respond to seasonality.

As well, some of us might be familiar with changes in metabolism as seasons change, resulting in weight gain during winter. It’s evident that the immune system, the activity of our genes, and even the way we perceive colors can be affected by seasonal change.

We may not like all of the effects that occur as a result of the shifting of the seasons. But change is inevitable. Seasons will change whether you are happy about it or not. You can choose to dread the oncoming winter season, or embrace it. Here are some reasons, suggested by Katherine Pilnick (Wallstreet Insanity), to welcome any seasonal change:

Change leads to Opportunities and Experiences
Change Leads To Progress.
Change Ensures Life Stays Interesting.
Change Ensures That Bad Situations Can’t Last Forever.
Change Documents The Passage Of Time
Change Is Inevitable.

I like Katherine Pilnick’s take on seasonal change. I think I’ll go with her, and put Gerard Manley Hopkins back on the shelf!

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22 Responses to Love It or Hate It—A Change of Seasons is Here

  1. Barry Dym says:

    A lovely invocation of the changing season. I, for one, have always adored autumn. I love the brisk air and I love the colors. Paradoxically, autumn has always seemed a time of renewal. I’m back from vacation, with vows and anticipations of a better year. Who knows how it will feel in retirement, when there is greater continuity in my activity.

    • Still the Lucky Few says:

      A time of renewal! Well, that’s a different spin, but when you think about it, it makes sense. After all, nature allows everything to die back before it can regrow. And I hope you have a GREAT year!

  2. Mary says:

    I felt depression set in as autumn approached. Living in Florida as a child, I loved our family vacations to the Smokies in the fall. Then I married and my husband and I use to go to New England in the fall. It was glorious! Then we moved to NC for seasonal change.
    But now my husband has been gone four years and I moved back to Florida a year ago to get away from the gloom of winter that fall always signaled and was worsened by his death.
    Florida is almost always sunny and bright and there’s really no Fall and a wonderful winter….no gloom, no snow or ice. It was something I had to do and I know it’s not for everyone.

    • Still the Lucky Few says:

      I’m glad it agrees with you, Mary. Some of us, though, as I mention in this article, welcome a change of seasons…I know I do. Possibly, for me, it has to do with having a small garden to care for, and the relief I get when the rainy season comes! Thanks for your thoughts.

  3. What an interesting compilation of scientific research findings and poetry to help discuss the changing seasons! I like the way you draw on a variety of sources to make your points in this article. You reminded me about the loss of daylight and its consequences. I need to find my personal SAD preventing light box so I can start using it.

    • Still the Lucky Few says:

      Which reminds me…I received one as a gift for my birthday, and tucked it away. So, I’ll need to find it, and start using it.

  4. Janis says:

    We don’t have obvious change of seasons where I live, which, to me, is a good thing. Since I have lived here my whole life, though, I’ve learned to see the subtle changes all around me. When I was young and stupidly spent way too much time exposing my body to the sun, I loved summer the most (of course it also meant being out of school). Now, spring and fall – and maybe especially fall – are my favorite seasons.

  5. what gets on my wick – is the dam clocks changing – twice a year either forwards or backwards. Right now it’s just been Spring forward [I’m in Sth Hemisphere] and I’m still not with the right timeframe for evening meal…

    our seasons don’t seem be the same anymore either – spring is supposed to be new growth, but so many of our trees are still locked in Autumn (fall) model; the weather swings about so much, we had really nice early summer weather [about 6 wks ago] since then it’s been swinging back to winter quite often..

    about the only thing I feel blessed about with the rain/wet stuff is that our aging city water tanks will be fill and keep the ever growing population happy in the summer… which hopefully will mean “no water restrictions”

    and as for which season I like best – they all have the good, the bad, the ugly 🙂 so best in my case to just go with the flow

    • Still the Lucky Few says:

      Good attitude, Cathy! I used to get all in a twist when seasons were late, or weren’t typical, but I’m ‘going with the flow’ these days too!

  6. Clive says:

    An interesting piece, Diane. I’m not sure if it’s my imagination playing tricks but the change of seasons seems less pronounced than when I was a child. I recall winters being harsher than now, with much more snow. Maybe that’s the climate change effect! Having said that, autumn has always been my favourite – the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.

    • Still the Lucky Few says:

      No one has improved on Keats’ memorable description of Autumn, Clive! I think climate change has flattened out the seasons, but our memories are so subjective, that it’s hard to tell. We had the ‘truest’ summer in our part of the world this year, and I think we are headed for a ‘real winter’ here as well. I always enjoy your comments, Clive!

  7. Derrick John Knight says:

    Fascinating article

  8. Rummuser says:

    I am not one to undergo mood change during change of seasons. Something very unusual however, is happening in my patch of green. The monsoon should have left a month ago but has not and we are having excess rain fall this year. It is causing all sorts of problems for our agriculture sector. Urban areas too are getting affected as post monsoon repairs are not taking place.

    Climate change?

    • Still the Lucky Few says:

      Hopefully that is a one-time phenomena, Rummuser! You didn’t indicate flooding, which I hope doesn’t result from the prolonged rain. When the seasons don’t behave as we expect them to, people also suffer, in anxiety and discomfort.

  9. aunt beulah says:

    Ah, a post from you which doesn’t open my mind to new thoughts but addresses something I’ve given much reflection to : seasonal changes. I love them. I can’t imagine life without them. I’ve lived my life with seasons; I find each rewarding; I anticipate their changing first felt in tiny ways and then in a crescendo as the world bursts into bloom in spring, slides into the long casual days of summer, flares into crisp days of gold and orange in the fall, then presents the dramatic weather and vistas that make my home a haven of comfort and my thoughts more reflective in winter. Thanks for reminding me of my love for four seasons.

    • Still the Lucky Few says:

      “…flares into crisp days of gold and orange in the fall”…You never disappoint in illuminating a situation with your creative prose! Thanks for the imagery!

  10. joared says:

    Having grown up and lived a number of adult years in “snow country”with winters bringing below zero temperatures, I can understand why some people might experience fall in a negative manner, but not me! The research you cite is interesting, so maybe my reaction is in the minority. I’ve never experienced SAD and have found the heavy darkened sky days of snow or clouds filled with rain awesome contrasts to the sun’s oppression. (I’m a redhead, so a little sun goes a long way and is best avoided when high in the sky).

    Fall was my favorite season with the truly beautiful visual changes that occurred bringing me such emotional pleasure. I awaited each fall in anticipation of whether or not we would be treated to an “Indian Summer”. We were leaving the past behind, moving into a time for renewal before we burst into spring. Living now in Southern California as I have for many years, the season I miss the most is still fall — even though nature offers less seasonal differentiation here — unless I go to the mountains where there are yellows in fall’s leaves, but maples golden reds with their colorful varying shades are missing.

    • Still the Lucky Few says:

      Fall seems to be a favorite time for many readers! Seeing it as a time for renewal is refreshing. When I lived on the prairies, an area where seasons are more pronounced than they are here on the coast, I especially loved fall, even though I knew we were in for some bitter winters!

  11. I thought I had commented, but apparently not. Fall is still my favorite season, and I mostly like winter too. It’s a reflective time for me, and for the most part it isn’t very harsh here.

    • Still the Lucky Few says:

      I agree with Fall being a reflective time, Jean. Shortened days and cooler weather seems to encourage that!

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