The science behind the seasonal shift

Published 11 September, 2017

Internationally acclaimed psychologist and author, Professor Geoff Beattie, has worked with us to identify the 18th September as the date when the seasonal shift from summer to autumn really begins. He’s analysed a host of external factors, from weather to TV, nature and time pressures to product the Autumn Outlook Algorithm; here, he looks at the reasons why the transition into Autumn and Winter can be so tough.

The transition between seasons can have a major effect on our psychological state, including our mood and our patterns of thinking. The combination of these factors can undeniably lead to changes to our behaviour; from what we reach for to eat and drink, to our motivation to exercise, which, for many, can result in an increase in weight during the cooler months. In fact, new research has found that on average we Brits will gain five pounds during the cooler months!

In meteorological terms, autumn begins, of course, on September 1st, while, on the other hand, astronomers date the start of the new season on the basis of the autumnal equinox which occurs on the 22nd September. However, neither of these dates necessarily correspond with our psychological thoughts and feeling that autumn is now starting. So, the question is, when does summer end and autumn begin in terms of how we think and feel?

That’s why we have created the ‘Autumn Outlook Algorithm’, which is based on thirteen individual external factors that may influence how we feel about whether autumn has begun: weather, nature, light, societal timetables, food, TV, clothing, media, behaviour, mood, exercise, outdoor and time pressures.

From this, working with the team at Weight Watchers, I have identified that the 18th September is the date when we can expect the seasonal shift to begin to impact Brits’ mindset… and bodies.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom, while temperatures dropping, nights drawing in and a natural psychological shift may be unavoidable, you are very much still in control of your own healthy lifestyle. You really can enjoy and embrace the best bits of the season and avoid the pitfalls!

Throughout the autumn months, the experts at Weight Watchers will be updating this Guide to Owning Autumn, which has been designed to equip you with tips, tricks, motivation and support. Here are three of my very own top tips to help you mindfully prepare for the seasonal shift:

1. Stay committed to your summer habits

You were likely eating more vegetables and a wider range of fresher foods, as well as getting out and about more in the summer months – that doesn’t need to change! Set goals and make a promise to yourself to stay committed to those healthy habits for another month or even three months. Not only will you feel better now, but it will make the January resolutions easier if you stay on track now.

2. Take time for yourself

Busy schedules, especially for those bombarded by back to school extra-curricular activities, can take its toll – and quickly our health can take a backseat. So, set aside just 5 minutes a day for you to clear your mind – it may be first thing in the morning before the kids are up, or even at 2pm as that afternoon slump hits. A habit as simple as stepping away from the computer or phone in a quiet place and having a sip of water or warm drink can completely refresh you and make you more productive.

3. There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad preparation

 It’s easy to fall into the habit of staying cosied up on the coach in front of the TV when the weather gets a bit cooler or wet, but instead kick-start those endorphins doing by bracing the colder weather and exercising outside. Prepare yourself by investing in a good waterproof and layer up – you’ll feel great for it. A hot bath or shower and that cosy couch will be there when you get back!