Autumn equinox: why should we give a shit

Written by Felicity Thistlethwaite

Felicity Thistlethwaite is the executive editor digital at Stylist.

The autumn equinox is here, but should we be using this time for reflection or is that all a load of nonsense? 

Today is officially the autumn equinox: the date in the astronomical calendar when the season changes. Our minds turn to falling leaves, pumpkin spice lattes, and cosying up with new books. But is there anything more to the equinox? We’re split, here at Stylist HQ. There’s a handful of ‘equinox believers’ who embrace the feeling of change that comes with a new season, and then there’s a handful of sceptics who question why there’s so much pressure on us to change (especially in the middle of a pandemic). 

So after great debate, we turned to Kirsty Gallagher, a Sunday Times bestselling author who is also a moon mentor, soul alignment and transformation coach, yoga teacher, meditation teacher and founder of Lunar Living. “The autumn equinox is all about harvesting and is a great time to be thankful for and enjoy reaping what you have sown over the summer,” she tells us. “Today is the day that both day and night are equal length, meaning it is the ideal time to restore balance in your own life. How is your work/home life balance? Do you too often find yourself saying yes to things when you really mean no or doing things you think you should but don’t really want to?

“This is also the perfect time to set some intentions for what you would like to see happen in your life over this magical season, what do you want this new season to bring for you? There is HUGE power in intentions, so set one! By the next symbolic day of change (the Winter Solstice on the 21st December,) where do you want to be in life?”

Reading this aloud to our office sceptics was an interesting exercise. “Why should we feel the pressure to change?” was a commonly asked question. Another was about whether we had anything to really celebrate this year, with a long, dark winter of uncertainty ahead of us. So we decided to put our sceptical questions to Gallagher in the hope of understanding more about why it means so much to her, and possibly finding a middle ground. 

Why should I care about the autumn equinox, isn’t it just all nonsense?

KG: Not at all. Even if you don’t want to believe in too much of the woo, the turn of the seasons gives us a great opportunity to check in with where we are in our lives and whether we are heading in the direction of where we want to go. I mean, can you believe it’s just over three months to the end of the year already? How often do you get to the end of the year in the blink of an eye and realise that you didn’t do half of the things you set out to do at the start of the year? So then comes the panic of new year’s resolutions and the promises that this year it will definitely be different! 

Checking in with the turn of the seasons helps keep us on track, and we can take inspiration from nature all around us. So for example, the autumn equinox helps us to shed and release– making sure we’re not always holding onto things that are no longer working or staying stuck in the past.

Why is now the perfect time for change and reflection, according to the autumn equinox rules? Who says this?

KG: It’s nature who sets the rules for the turn of the season, and we only have to look around us to see the change and reflection taking place. Everywhere the trees are starting to change colour into beautiful reds, oranges, yellows and golds and actively lose their leaves, inspiring you to do the same in your life. 

It’s a wonderful time to reflect over not only the past year but also over your life to see what you have been holding onto, what has been draining your resources and what needs to be let go of and finally released so that you can move into autumnal new beginnings. As the day and night are equal length on the equinox it gives you the chance to catch up with yourself once again and find balance in your life before we move into a new season.

Why is there so much pressure for change?

KG: I’m not sure that there is. I think many people are afraid of change and avoid it, never making changes even when they know they should. That’s why things like using the turn of seasons or lunar cycles hold so much power as they encourage you to look at your life and at what is or isn’t working on a regular basis.

It’s easy to immerse yourself in being busy and avoiding the obvious, pretending that everything is ok. But it’s in these honest moments of reflection and pausing to check in with where you are that you get to face the truth and gain the courage to begin to make necessary life changes.

What would you say to someone who says: I’m just trying to get through these days, I don’t want to have to think about harvesting myself and setting intentions?

KG: I’d say that if you are ‘getting through the days’ in a happy way and you are living and loving your life to the full, keep going. But life is about way more than just getting through and perhaps harvesting and setting intentions can help you to live a more intentional and happy life if you feel like there just may be something more to life. 

Just give it a try. What harm can a few hours out of your life do to maybe find more happiness and meaning? Intention setting is so, so powerful as it gives your life direction, meaning and purpose and something to aim for and focus on.What would you say to someone who says: Why does every season come with me needing to shed some layers and embrace being a new and better version of myself?

KG: I’d say bring on the transformation. No, seriously I feel like these seasonal changes are simply opportunities to look at yourself and life and where you can make meaningful improvements that take you towards more happiness or fulfilment. It can certainly feel like in the beginning there are so many things that need change or attention, but in all honesty, you’ve likely just been getting through life for a long time without ever pausing to see if it’s making you happy.

The more you check in and work with these seasonal shifts and changes the less overall changes need to be made over time, often just a little realignment to get you back on track.

What would you say to someone who says: I usually feel really happy and cosy heading into autumn as it’s an exciting time of the year for me, especially with my birthday and Christmas on the horizon. But this year, I’m dreading autumn because it’s just WFH in the darkness and not being able to go out for walks when it’s dark.

KG: I understand that this year has been so challenging for so many of us in so many ways, but it’s important to still find the positives. It will still be your birthday and still be Christmas, if a little bit different this year.

Focus on all that you still have to look forward to. Autumn is a beautiful time to get outside as much as possible in that crispy air with all the colours so can you maybe get outside every day on your lunch break or alter your WFH hours a little so that you take a little time off in the afternoon to get outside and work an bit later into the evening when it’s dark? And find that cosiness in your home, make sure you’re all snuggled up when you’re working (in your favourite slouchy clothes, you can’t do that in the office can you?!) Have regular check-ins with family any friends, even if that’s online and put things into your daily routine that make you feel happy. 

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