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Create autumn resolutions to discover more everyday joy

I placed the kettle on the stovetop this morning and made some hot tea. It’s the first morning I’ve done that in weeks. The cool autumn air is here. Plants are withering from the first frosts of autumn. And all the cars and RVs racing into Yellowstone National Park have been replaced by one lone yellow school bus, navigating down the meandering highway.

If you’re like me, it’s a refreshing change to see the gentle transition after a full (and very hot!) summer. I feel like there’s finally time to pause and sip a cup of tea. This time of year, we’re allowing ourselves to exhale. Whenever I have a cup of tea, I feel this intrinsic need to journal. The beauty of combining tea and journals is soothing. It’s a lullaby to our busy minds, urging us to pause, reflect, and feel gratitude.

It is no surprise that autumn is the season when we most count our blessings. We start gathering around the table for more meals. We have ritualistic traditions—Thanksgiving, football, crunching leaves, bringing home pumpkins—to savor with the people who bring us joy.

Back in 1949, Katharine Elizabeth Fite wrote in Good Housekeeping, “What we need in autumn is an emotional or spiritual shot in the arm.” She urged her readers to start a new September tradition: create personal and positive resolutions this month. Don’t wait until January, she argues. That’s when you are “worn out in spirit, body, and pocketbook, and have no real urge to do anything but rest.”

There’s a lot of pressure behind New Year’s Resolutions. Just thinking about them makes me exhausted, because maybe, instead of a resolution to check off a daily to-do task or drop a certain number of pounds, we should be making our resolutions be all about pleasure, joy, and gratitude.

“Why don’t we make the effort that would provide something new in our lives?  Why don’t we do again some of the things that we used to enjoy?” Fite asked. An autumn resolution is something simple like journaling about what makes you happy, inviting friends over for dinner, setting aside time for things you enjoy doing with other people, or just slowing down a little. (I enjoy this journal by myself and want to keep this journal with my son.)

This approach to resolutions is already feeling better, isn’t it? No one else has to know about your autumn intentions, either! They’re a little secret we can each carry in our chest pockets, folded against our hearts in order to craft a richer life, instead of comparing and competing with one another and ourselves come January 1, when we really just need the silence to unwind.


Photo by Katie Clemons

To craft your autumn resolution, pick up a journal or take a walk as you think about these questions:

  1. What could I add to my life this season to bring me more pleasure?
  2. What could I take away from my life so that I feel more pleasure and joy this season?
  3. Is there anything I can add to my life this season to experience more gratitude?
  4. Can I take anything out of my life this season in order to feel more gratitude?

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  1. Katie B.

    I love the thought of September resolutions. There’s something about autumn that feels like it’s a fresh start. Maybe it’s the respite from the long, hot summer as you mentioned. Maybe it’s having quiet days now that the kids are back in school. When we were young we’d head back to school ourselves, full of hope and plans for how we’d be and succeed over the next academic year. Perhaps as adults we still need that same structure? Regardless, I’m adopting this habit now. Thanks!

  2. Alissa

    I appreciate this reminder to pause and take stock in autumn. For me, so much of this season is about restarting – getting kids back on the school routine, adding activities, scheduling meetings and events, and trying to find a new rhythm in a busier family routine.

    I am tempted to think about this season as carving out the blocks on a calendar, planning the carpool, getting the boxes ready to check. Instead, I can look at the restart of routine as an invitation to think about what lovely habits should be incorporated into my days. I’m finding joy in a new yoga class and want to make that a priority. Autumn is a great time to do that!

    I also have friends that set a family intention for each school year. They’ve created a lovely poster for their kitchen with their family phrase for the year. Some years, the intention is schoolwork focused, but more often than not, it’s about a family value that they want to cultivate… “Remember your inner strength.” “We can do hard things.” “Put others first.” “Take the high road.” etc. I’ve been pondering doing the same for our family.

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