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9 cozy (and eco-friendly) ways to slow down and savor the season

Autumn is such a beautiful season; the awe-inspiring colors of nature, the seasonal decorations and celebrations, everything smells like pumpkins and apples and spices, and things feel so cozy. Family time feels closer, sweaters feel warmer, and for some reason, with much of the year behind us, the anxiety eases a bit. It's so important to take the time to savor the small moments like a breath of fresh, crisp air, the first bite of your mom's famous apple pie, or simply throwing a football around with a friend. These moments, while seemingly small, are what give life hygge: "(pronounced hue-guh not hoo-gah) is a Danish word used when acknowledging a feeling or moment, whether alone or with friends, at home or out, ordinary or extraordinary as cozy, charming or special."

Hygge is one of those things that you think you understand, but until you've experienced it, you really don't. The concept of Hygge goes hand-in-hand with joy and consciousness, and it's different for everyone. You might prefer hiking or horseback riding to fluffy pillows and candles, and that's perfectly fine. Hygge is that feeling of warmth, peace, and comfort that comes over you when you're surrounded by love, inspiration, joy, and for me, hope. For me, it's a balance between comfort and inspiration. It's a conscious knowing that I've done enough, have enough, and most importantly am enough, while still feeling hope and positivity towards the future.

While all the slowing down, hygge, and delicious food can make this season many people's favorite time of year, , it's also when kids go back to school and vacations, BBQ's, bonfires, and beach days come to an end. Those affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder and people with chronic pain (affected by the cold) brace themselves for another long winter. Schedules get packed with school activities, work projects need to get wrapped up, and Holiday gatherings take over our calendars. Before we know it, our todo list has outgrown our will to complete it.

Fall can also be a season full of waste speaking from both a monatary and material standpoint. Halloween costumes made primarily from synthetics (aka: plastic that will last 400-1000 years in a landfill) are purchased for one-night wear, plastic candy wrappers are everywhere, and gatherings produce a ton of single-use plastic waste in the form of disposable cups, cutlery, and more. According to this acticle published by the Guardian about the scary amount of plastic waste produced by Halloween, alone, "(the) Equivalent of 83m plastic bottles in often throwaway outfits sold by leading retailers."

Enjoying Fall is a challenge for me every single year, but each year I get better at it. I owe it to myself, and all who depend on me, to take care of my mental and physical health, and that means doing less, embracing my imperfections, enforcing personal boundaries, and making a real, conscious effort to slow down, make space, and enjoy myself; all while doing my best to use eco-friendly methods). Why? Because we all deserve a chance to relax and savor this beautiful season sans guilt, overwhelm, and survival mode.

Here are fifteen cozy and sustainable ways to slow down and savor the season. I've provided plenty of links to fact-check and dig deeper into any of the suggestions on this list.

  1. put on a cozy instrumental playlist

    When it comes to setting the mood, there's no better way than with music. Spotify's Cozy Acoustic Morning playlistis a great wake-up playlist to help get you out from under those comfy blankets, and Spotify's Sweater Weather Instrumentals is a great companion to your afternoon coffee or if you've got some reading or writing to do.

  2. have a pajama day...for no reason whatsoever

    I grew up in a family where as soon as we got home, we all threw on our pjs. I seriously love pjs. Some people say they have to get dressed to get any work done working from home, but I can do anything in my pajamas. I'm wearing them as I write this, in fact. Throw on Hocus Pocus or It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, a hot tea, and some fuzzy slippers, and you're all set.

  3. make your home smell like fall with homemade potpourri

    You can use anything from pine cones to fruit that's about to go bad to pantry staples like nuts and herbs to make stovetop potpourri. You can even use your slowcooker to make potpourri. There is usually a recipe floating around the internet for basically any leftover or odds and ends you find around your house or yard, just do a quick google. I love doing this the day before big holidays while I'm prepping things in the kitchen. The best part is, once you get the hang of it and learn which scents you like, the possbilities are endless. It's my favorite way to use up kitchen supplies that are about to go bad. Once you're done with it, most potpourris can just go down the garbage disposal, which helps make that smell better too.

  4. enjoy creamy, delicious oat milk in your coffee and desserts

    Adding oat milk to coffee and desserts makes everything delicious, creamy, and fills my heart and tummy with happiness, especially as a lactose-intolerant person with nut allergies. Oats are an amazing food and crop. They require very little water, don't require harmful chemicals, and can actually be used to improve soil conditions and as a natural herbicide for other plants.. Almonds (and therefore, almond milk) take ridiculous amounts of water to produce and harms bees. As most people know now, dairy milk has an insanely high carbon footprint, and our delicious coconut milk is being used to exploit workers in the Philipines. Oat milk tastes delicious, especially in coffee, and is basically the Captain America of the milk world.

  5. learn to make something with your own two hands

    Whether it's knitting or wood-working, there are plenty of free resources to teach you how to do it sustianably; usually, it's all in the materials you use. Buy enough supplies to get started, and see if you like it before shelling out the big bucks, or better yet, use things you already have. Old t-shirts, sheets, etc. can be very useful when experimenting. By learning how to create something, you don't just learn how something works, you learn how to express yourself, give the analytical part of your brain time to rest, learn to release self-judgement, and get the meditation-like benefits of making something with your own two, very capable, hands.

  6. light a wooden wick soy candle

    If you've never experienced a wooden wick candle, you need to. They last longer and make a beautiful but very soft crackling noise as they burn. My favorite wooden wick candle is Botanical Collection No. 4 from Simply Curated. I don't know why, but it smells like my childhood. Soy wax burns much cleaner (since it's plant-based) than paraffin, which is a refined gasoline by-product. A hemp, wood, or organic cotton wick is better (environmentally and safety-wise) than cotton as well.

  7. bring more plants into your home

    Spring isn't the only time of year for this. Many amazing plants such as goldenrod (beware anyone with allergies), Amaranthus, Dahlias, and of course, Sunflowers are some of the most popular flowers for Fall gardens and arrangements that are indoor-friendly. Make sure to look up what's safe to have around kids and pets first though. And no matter what the plant, learning about plants will only help to up your green-game. Having plant-babies inside that I see every day has not only livened up the decor, but taught me to respect both the robustness and fragility of plant life wherever I go.

  8. take a bath and escape

    Whatever your preference for baths, milk, oat, fizz, bubbles, do it. And do it for as long as you'd like. Water getting cold? Add more. As far as sustainability goes, just try to limit the number of baths and us sustainable products. My rule is no more than 1 per week, but make it count, and don't skip it. Add music, bubbles or salt, scent, candles, a book, and a do-not-disturb sign. Give yourself permission to let go, breathe deeply, and escape. it's natural to need to escape, so if you're feeling guilty or worried about your kids, remember that you deserve time for yourself, and when you get it, you're a better mom, sister, daughter, wife, than without it.

  9. watch a heartwarming movie or show and just cry

    This may not sound like much fun, but sometimes our feelings get so bottled up, especially with this time of year being so busy, that we forget we need to let them out, and emotional movies for some reason are a great way to release them when we may not have the know-how of a therapist or counselor. You're a pressure-cooker that can't hold it all in forever, and even though we may forget or not notice, things build up over time; things like emotions, frustrations, disappointments, anticipation, etc. And we all know what happens when pressure builds up over time and doesn't get released; it explodes. Virgin River on Netflix is a great one (although may be triggering for anyone who has experienced the loss of a child), and as the Holidays approach, the Hallmark-style movies will be everywhere.

When life gets crazy, remember that you deserve to take a breath, slow down, and savor the present moment. I hope these ideas give you a jumping off point to keep things intentional and filled with joy because without those, life is just passing us by, and that's no fun. Sometimes it really does help to say, "I give myself permission to slow the heck down and enjoy myself today." Happy Autumn, everyone!