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Emerald Bay in Lake Tahoe during sunrise.

Autumn Awareness

In the Sierra, autumn can be a time to reflect on cultivating daily grounding practices to prepare for winter, just as we gather wood and winterize our homes. It can be a challenging time as shorter days approach with the transition back to standard time. Luckily, there are many biological and environmental factors that can be tailored to support your biological clock's adjustment to the time change.

Our exposure to light during this time, as light exposure can either inhibit or initiate the release of the sleep-inducing substance melatonin. Creating morning and evening routines, and making lifestyle choices around light exposure can help embrace the shorter days and ease setting back the clock. 

Rise and Restore

Create an energizing morning ritual with morning light exposure for 20 minutes. Include some morning physical activity when possible, and eat a healthy breakfast. Diffusing essential oils like lavender, peppermint, orange, lemon or bergamot can be re-vitalizing and boost your mood.

Make space in your day to appreciate the present moment and create gratitude. For example, take a break to get outside for a quick walk or enjoy the sun midday. Or, create a habit of planning for the following day by taking a few moments in the evening to prepare. This can include supporting healthful habits around nutrition, regular exercise and in decreasing daily stress. 

Honor the Harvest

Be inspired to try new, nourishing recipes by including foods of the season. For instance, pumpkins which are loaded with fiber, magnesium, vitamins A, B6, E, and folate can be used for a variety of foods such as, breads, soup and pies. Pumpkin seeds are a great source of magnesium and make a great seasonal snack. Consider trying an acorn or butternut squash soup recipe this season. And don’t forget apples – they are one of the best fast foods and loaded with vitamin C and fiber.

Close the Day with Gratitude

As the day draws to an end, dim the lights in your home a few hours before bed to support melatonin production. Avoid the use of electronic devices prior to bed or use blue light reduction on your devices as this inhibits the release of melatonin. Consider ending the day with a warm bath, journaling, meditating or practicing evening yoga. Quiet your body by avoiding caffeine, alcohol or sugary foods at the end of the day. Remember to maintain a regular sleep-wake schedule, even on the weekends, and keep your bedroom cool, but not cold – around 68 degrees.

Take pause to appreciate by journaling on “Three Good Things” and consider your part in why you may had these positive experiences. Taking notice to the positivity in your life can cultivate optimism and peace of mind.

As the leaves fall to the ground, I encourage you to embrace the season as an opportunity to explore the development of healthy winter habits and maybe even “turn over a new leaf” through the process.


Amy Smith, FNP, is an Integrative Medicine practitioner at the Barton Center for Orthopedics & Wellness, helping patients integrate conventional and alternative treatments into their medical care. Visit BartonOrthopedicsAndWellness.com/Integrative to learn more.