Living with the seasons is the most natural way of living out there. In fact, we’d argue that it’s human (animal) nature to live with the seasons. However, most people have fallen away from seasonal living and no longer remember what it means.
In this post, we’ll help you remember what seasonal living really means to help you embrace its full benefits including:
- Improved mental health
- Feeling more grounded and present
- Improved physical health
- A healthier relationship with work and rest
- A playful curiosity about life and nature
- Slowing down from the fast pace of life
- Living intentionally according to your values
What is seasonal living?
Simply put, seasonal living means to live with the seasons. What does that really mean?
Seasonal living means you:
- Live slightly differently during each season of the year
- Eat different foods and meals depending on freshness
- Take advantage of the shift in energy to either grow or rest
- Notice the small changes of life, like flowers starting to bloom or trees losing their leaves
- Adjust your daily tasks throughout the course of the year
I would argue that seasonal living is the natural cycle of life.
Historically, most people either live in a hunting and gathering cycle or an agrarian lifestyle.
Many of our ancestors lived subsistence lifestyles, raising just enough to feed their families and likely to trade among their community.
The work they performed changed throughout the seasons of the years and they learned to notice signs of the seasons changing as the weather literally affected their lives.
Cycles of Labor and Rest
Since the weather and daylight dictated their work, they naturally had seasons of labor and seasons of rest. Most people lived in close communities with extended family and neighbors. If they needed help, they could call on their community for support.
This sounds like an idealized past and it’s important to remember that many people lived painful short lives. The past wasn’t safe for many people and survival was never guaranteed.
Is seasonal living human nature?
With the rise of industrialization, we see a huge shift in people moving away from this subsistence model and into factories, stores, and other businesses.
With the advent of plumbing and electricity, workers could suddenly work like it was the summer all year long.
Now, it’s normal for people to be expected to work at a high level all year long.
With our phones, we’re more connected yet more isolated than ever before. Most of us do not spend much of our time outdoors.
I would argue that this model of constant work and the shift to working indoors is unnatural.
We need to remember our animal nature.
At this point, it’s hard for us to know what feels natural to us. We’re so conditioned to live a certain way that anything else seems counterculture.
Yet, we long for a simple lifestyle. We want to slow down. We want to enjoy the moments.
I have to believe that if animals and plants know how to change with the seasons, so do we.
Our bodies have not caught up with the modern world.
Our bodies still anticipate the life our ancestors had hundreds of years ago.
As someone who’s struggled with depression and anxiety my whole life, I believe that this disconnection from our true nature is at the core of this constant feeling of dis-ease.
If we can slow down and remember that we are animals and not just these incredible brains, we can start to learn the lessons of the natural world.
1. Mirror the environment around you.
One of the best things you can do is to observe.
Take a few moments outdoors and watch nature.
- What are the trees doing right now?
- What are the animals doing?
- Where are the plants in their life cycles?
- How much daylight is there?
- What does the temperature feel like?
These questions orient you to the world around you. Once you start noticing them, you see them again and again.
You eventually start to notice the changing of the seasons. This is called phenology.
If you can develop a practice of noticing the little changing between the seasons, you’ll be on a great path to living seasonally all the time.
2. Go outside.
This is the very best and most important thing you can do to live seasonally.
The longer you spend outside, the more your body remembers how to interpret nature.
You started to notice little shifts in the daylight and the sounds of the wind. Your body picks up cues about the world around you that you may not be ready to notice consciously.
When you can spend at least 15-30 minutes outside each day, your body can sink into the beauty of each season and strengthen its connection to the land.
3. Eat seasonal foods.
We often recommend eating seasonally for environmental reasons, but it’s also a great way to practice connecting with the seasons.
I ran a local farmers market for 4 years and in those years, I also started harvesting on local farms. It’s pretty normal to snack here and there as you harvest.
Eventually, I noticed that there were sometimes when I enjoyed a harvest more than other times. My body would crave the sweet and crunchy snap peas or long for a freshly dug carrot.
I believe that our appetites change with the seasons as a way to make sure we get enough nutrients and vitamins.
4. Bring nature inside.
I find that people still hold on to some of these practices, fortunately.
In the spring, we’re quick to display fresh flowers.
In the winter, many of us display Christmas trees, wreaths, or garlands.
Ask yourself how you can bring more nature into your home throughout the year.
- Make a dried orange slice garland around the holidays
- Dry bundles of herbs harvested in the summer
- Display dried lavender in a handmade basket or jar
- Store pinecones in a large jar
- Display pussy willows or branches in a sturdy bottle
5. Create rituals and traditions.
Many of us carry these rituals and traditions forward from the past, but we can also take some time to be intentional with this practice.
One thing I love to do to honor seasonal changes is to recognize the equinoxes and solstices.
Add them to your calendar and on those days, just remind yourself that the earth is in the next phase of its revolution around the sun.
Take time to set intentions for each season.
- How do you want to be more present for this season?
- How will the natural world change around you during this season?
If you can visualize how the season will change, it helps to notice those little changes.
6. Honor the seasons of the year.
Here are some easy practices and suggestions to help you enjoy and celebrate each season!
This is the time of year to celebrate life and new beginnings. Look for buds, blossoms, and bees. There’s nothing quite like when the apple and cherry blossoms bloom.
Notice the birdsong and new life. Watch for more daylight as the season continues.
Notice if your mood or energy level shifts. Many of us feel happier or more positive at the first signs of spring as they remind us of hope and rebirth.
Plant a garden to get in on the excitement of waiting for things to grow.
This is the longest day of the year. The year is in full swing with so much daylight. Every plant is growing and working on either flowering or producing fruit.
Notice how your energy shifts. You may feel like you have more energy this time of year, even with a long to-do list of things to tackle.
Try to find as much time to be outside as you can. Rest when it’s too hot.
Be sure to plant seeds for the fall, either literally or figuratively. Set in motion the things you’d like to enjoy in the next season.
This is the harvest season. Many plants are done ripening and you’ll be able to enjoy storage crops like winter squash and sweet potatoes. Make some apple butter. Bake a fall dessert.
Try to enjoy the crossover between summer and autumn as much as possible; this is such an abundant time of year. Try to save some food or dry some plants from the summer.
Start layering up. Make your house really cozy with beeswax candles and warm blankets.
Be more intentional about being outside as it’s easy to stay inside to stay warm.
Make a plan for the projects or rest you want during winter.
This is the longest night of the year. This is a great time to celebrate the darkness of life.
Take time to reflect on your year and set an intention for the new year. Be comfortable with solitude, darkness, and the unknown. I love to make candles on the solstice as I’m ushering in the light during the dark.
Rest and sleep as much as possible. Give yourself a chance to be lazy and lounge around. If you’re extra sleepy, allow yourself to go to bed earlier.
Try to get outside as much as possible or park yourself by a good window. Write a letter or send a message to someone you miss. Pick up a craft or a hobby to while away your time inside. Plan your garden for the spring.
This isn’t a time of nothing: this is a time for allowing what is to come to begin to unfold. Be patient. Go slow.
7. Remind yourself that being constantly on is abnormal.
When you switch to a seasonal approach to life, it becomes easier and easier to notice how unnatural our way of life is.
We are supposed to be 100% on 100% of the time.
Plants and animals never live like this, yet we are expected to.
If you notice yourself feeling stressed or anxious, I recommend reminding yourself that you’re trying to get a natural being to live an unnatural life.
I often try to remember that my body expects to be living the life of a medieval peasant. It’s doing its very best, but it just doesn’t know how to handle all of the things coming at it all the time.
Of course, you feel out of balance working a full-time job and/or raising a family. It’s only normal to feel overwhelmed living in a world that expects you to live like it’s summer every month of the year.
Living with the seasons can be a great way to support your mental health because you’re rooting yourself in the world. You’re noticing the cycles of nature, you’re eating with the seasons, and you’re getting outside.
It’s been a huge help for me in regulating my depression and anxiety, but it doesn’t take care of everything.
I had to change my whole life, leaving a career I loved, to find a lifestyle that didn’t cause my body to be in a constant state of panic.
Seasonal living is a daily practice.
No matter how old you are or where you live, you can always switch to living with the seasons. Even if you fall off the wagon for years, you can always come back to it at any time.
All it takes is a little quiet reflection.
Because living with the seasons slows you down so much, it’s a natural way to shift to a slow living way of life.
When you can slow down…everything becomes easier. Living seasonally helped me get out of my cycle of stress and panic and start living more intentionally.
Letting go of control
One of my favorite lessons from my years of helping on farms is that the plant will take as long as it needs to take.
You can try to control the conditions of the plant as much as possible and hurry it up with high tunnels or grow lights, but ultimately, it can’t be rushed.
It’s so frustrating to have to wait when you want to keep going, but it’s a great reminder to slow down.
When I switch out of the “go faster” and “do it right now” speed of contemporary life, I remember that all that really exists is the present moment.
You have to stop controlling everything and just let life go at its own pace. It’s much, much more enjoyable when you go with it instead of fighting against it.
What’s your favorite sign of the changing of seasons?
Do you have any cues you look for to indicate where you are in the seasons? Noticing these sorts of indicators can become a special ritual in their own right and I’d love to see if your favorite signs match mine! What’s your favorite season?
Share your thoughts in the comments below!