Summer officially is behind us – autumn is here! It’s the season of harvest, as well as a time of transition. We see evidence of change everywhere we look, as days grow shorter and leaves turn from bright summer green to shades of yellow, orange and red. The change of the seasons also offers us an opportunity to change – for the better. Fall is an excellent time to introduce new healthy habits into our everyday lives.
Even small steps can lead to big improvements when you follow through and stick with positive changes. Here are four things you can start doing immediately to improve your health and wellness during the upcoming fall and winter months.
1. Make sleep a priority.
Autumn is the perfect time to start going to bed earlier and improving your nightly rest. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than a third of American adults are not getting enough sleep (defined as 7 or more hours per day).
To prioritize sleep, try practicing good “sleep hygiene.” What is sleep hygiene? Get to bed at the same time every evening, ideally by 10 p.m. Turn off all electronic devices at least one hour before bedtime. And follow the same general routine each evening to wind down.
Still can’t unwind? Botanicals such as valerian, California poppy and sshwagandha can support a healthy stress response and promote restorative sleep.† Restful sleep contributes to a positive mood, improves memory and even helps support a healthy inflammatory response in the body.† It allows you to recover physically, mentally and emotionally, so you’re ready to take on the next day.
2. Add warming foods and root vegetables to your diet.
As the seasons shift, it’s natural for our diets to shift. Many people crave comfort foods this time of year, and they find themselves slowly moving away from the fresh salads and lighter, healthier dishes of the summer months.
You can still satisfy cravings for warming comfort foods without going overboard. Choose hearty, in-season options, such as root vegetables (like carrots and beets) in soups, chilis or stews. This is also a good time to incorporate warming herbs, such as ginger and turmeric, into foods and beverages. Try this golden milk in place of coffee for a delightfully healthy autumn treat!
3. Exercise early in the day.
One of the best parts of summer is long, bright days that allow you to exercise outdoors until well into the evening, even after work. That freedom changes dramatically during the autumn months. When the days get shorter, our energy naturally wanes at the end of the day, making it harder get motivated to go the gym or outside for a run. Exercising first thing in the morning activates your metabolism and brightens your mood for the rest of the day.
4. Take a multivitamin to fill in nutrient gaps.
Nobody is perfect. Even with our best efforts to eat well, there will be inevitable gaps in our diets. Even if we did eat “perfectly,” there is evidence that shows declining nutrient composition of food over time. A study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition looked at changes in food composition for 43 garden crops from 1950 to 1999. As a group, the 43 foods that were studied showed declines in six areas: protein, calcium, potassium, iron, riboflavin and ascorbic acid.
Despite changes in the food composition, food is still always our first and best choice for vitamin and mineral intake; however, a multivitamin helps fill in the gaps.
During the fall months, we also may not have the same access to fresh fruits and vegetables as we did during summer when the farmers markets were open.
Convenience is a major factor in being able to consistently take a multivitamin, and that’s why one-a-day multis remain a popular choice. People who choose multis crafted with whole foods are more likely to take their multis consistently, because of the convenience they offer (you can take them any time of day, even on an empty stomach!).†
Article contributed by Erin Stokes, N.D., Medical Director at INNATE Response. Dr. Stokes received her naturopathic doctor degree from Bastyr University in 2001. Shortly afterwards she began to pursue her passion for educating others by teaching Western Pathology and Psychology of Healing at Southwest Acupuncture College in Boulder, Colo. She combines her experience as a naturopathic doctor with an extensive background in the natural retail industry, most recently providing naturopathic consultations at an integrative pharmacy for over six years. Her personal mission is to empower people with the inspiration and tools to change their lives, and she is a frequent radio show and podcast guest. Dr. Stokes is a registered Naturopathic Doctor in Colorado, and lives with her family in Boulder, Colo.
†These statements have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.
 Changes in USDA Food Composition Data for 43 Garden Crops, 1950 to 1999. Davis et al. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. Vol. 23, No. 6, 669–682 (2004)