Meaning-making is a powerful tool to enhance mental health and wellbeing. While useful year-round, turning inward and creating personal meaning in your life is especially effective in late autumn. Intentionally caring for our mental health in November allows us to enjoy the month and the changes it brings. Doing so can prepare us for the holiday season that begins this month, and it can even stave off seasonal depression (seasonal affective disorder, SAD). Among the many things that can boost wellbeing is taking time to reflect and engage in personal meaning-making.
Meaning-Making in November: Is it Possible?
November. One word evokes many thoughts and feelings. Not everyone embraces the coming of this month. In part, November:
- Brings significant changes in natural lighting, with fewer hours of daylight (low light is linked to seasonal depression)
- Means increased stress of the rapidly approaching holidays (for some, this season is painful; for others, it’s positive–either way, it’s stressful)
- Cold, wet weather (depending on where you live)
These and other not-so-pleasant aspects of November can decrease our sense of wellbeing and negatively impact mental health. Many people report feeling irritable, stressed, anxious, depressed, lethargic, unmotivated. Some experience a desire to hibernate (for people, this is called isolation). The month itself can be a mental health challenge.
Like every other aspect of life, November is neither all good nor all bad. It has it’s challenges, sure, but it has its positives, too. Among them:
- The transitions outside are beautiful. Colors change. Branches empty gradually, creating unique shapes to trees and bushes.
- Planning for Thanksgiving (in the US) can be exciting and festive. For those whose memories are fond, reminiscing warms from within to chase away the chill of the air.
- Sights and smells make it easy to be mindfully grounded in the present, which induces calm and contentment.
Given all that November is, meaning-making is indeed possible. You can cultivate it’s richness to create personal meaning that will carry you through this month and far beyond.
Engage in Meaning-Making to Brighten Your Life
One of the necessary components of a quality life is the sense of purpose and meaning. A meaningful life is a rich life, fulfilling and significant. Having a well-defined purpose empowers you to transcend obstacles and thrive despite struggles. Meaning means that, while you still face difficulties, you move forward and experience wellbeing anyway.
Meaning-making involves intentional reflection to craft just what it is that, to you, comprises a life worth living. November is an ideal time to reflect. As the light lessens outside and you spend increasing amounts of time indoors, you can seize the opportunity for pondering what will give your life meaning right now.
Four Ways to Create Meaning, Purpose, and Fulfillment
- Ritual enhances the act of meaning-making. Perhaps in the darkness of the evening you might sit quietly with a cup of hot tea or cider. Light a candle. Breathe slowly and deeply while you are mindful of the moment. Feel your feet planted firmly on the floor, watch the dancing flame of the candle and enjoy the shadows cast upon the wall. Use this time to simply be, and feel stress and anxiety leave your mind and body. The ritual itself can bring its own meaning. It can also prepare your mind to journal or otherwise explore what gives you a sense of purpose.
- Cultivate those things that will bring fulfillment in this current season. Create a plan to do more of the things you value. Think in terms of little things (or one little thing) you can do each day to deepen your sense of purpose. These actions go far in reducing mental health challenges and replacing them with wellbeing and a belief in a quality life.
- Appreciating beauty can give the month of November a glow that outshines the drab that begins to settle in. Shift the way you look at things by going on a photo scavenger hunt. Look for beauty in the ordinary, life among the “dying” foliage. (One of November’s secret delights is that things aren’t dead but are only going dormant. Look for buds already forming on branches.)
- Decide what’s important for your rapidly approaching holiday season. How do you want this time to be? How do you want yourself to be? What can you do to make it happen and create the truly meaningful holidays you’d like to have?
With some reflection on what’s important to you and a new perspective on November, you can boost your mental health and embrace all of November: Enjoy the positives and rise above the negatives. Meaning-making can make all the difference in a quality life.