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Why Getting Cozy for Fall Is Actually Great for Your Mental Health

Last weekend, my wife and I did something we've never done in the 10 years we've been together. We decorated our house for fall.


There are pumpkin spice candles in every room, cornstalks artfully arranged on our front porch, mums, a cozy new chair by the fireplace, a lovely autumnal flower arrangement on the desk, and a freshly updated tea and coffee station in the kitchen.


If you've been feeling drawn to candles, pillows, and throw blankets lately, I have great news for you. Getting all comfy-cozy for fall is actually great for your mental health!


This "nesting" behavior helps you create a sense of control during what might otherwise be a difficult transition into the holiday season.

In fact, attending to your physical environment mindfully is a form of self-care that actually works, regardless of the season. It builds confidence in your ability to make change in your life, creates a safe haven you can return to in times of stress or anxiety, gives you powerful moments of authentic joy, and delivers a lovely dopamine boost that you can leverage to get important tasks done.


That delicious sense of control—when applied more broadly to your life and your circumstances—is referred to in psychology circles as "agency."


Agency is the understanding that you have the freedom to make your own choices in life, and that your choices and actions meaningfully impact the world around you.


A strong sense of agency is an important indicator of mental health.


If you feel like you’re in control of your life, you’re likely to experience greater subjective wellbeing (i.e., happiness and satisfaction in life). You’re also less likely to experience symptoms of anxiety and depression.


At work, a strong sense of agency is associated with an enhanced sense of purpose and deeper engagement with your work.


Folks who’ve experienced high-control families, relationships, or religions are often disadvantaged when it comes to agency. Inherent to these power dynamics is the belief that individuals—especially women and children—are not and should not be capable of making independent decisions, and that they don’t have the power to change their own lives for the better.

As a result, if you’ve been subject to this kind of dynamic, you might struggle to feel in control of your life, even long after you’ve left the harmful environment.

If, years later, you find yourself working for someone who strips you of your autonomy or in a relationship with someone who likes to make decisions for you, your already fragile sense of agency is likely to crumble. If you manage to convince yourself to leave (no small feat under these circumstances), you’re likely to continue to struggle with feelings of helplessness long after you’ve found another role or relationship.

The great news:


You can establish a strong sense of agency, regardless of your background.


It just takes time, intention, and, ideally, the support of a trusted therapist or coach.


Here are three ways to begin rebuilding a lost sense of agency:


  1. Practice making decisions and mindfully observing outcomes.

  2. Lean into the impacts of your actions—even small ones. All day, every day, you are making meaningful change in the world around you.

  3. Take action toward a goal and reap the psychological benefits of progress.


When approached mindfully, simple activities like decorating your own space, tracking progress toward an objective, or even just choosing what’s for dinner can—over time—lay the foundation for not just positive change, but major transformation.


Need some support with this? A 30-minute free consultation is a great way to explore some ideas and see if I might be the right coach for you.


 


Photo of Kelly Judd, life coach for women, a white woman with dark hair and large tortoiseshell glasses, slightly smiling at the camera

Hi, I'm Kelly. 👋 I help you make hard decisions and do hard things. Like you, I spent decades putting others' needs before my own. After almost 20 years of leadership roles and a lifetime’s worth of plot twists in my personal life, I made the empowering decision to seek greater meaning and purpose in my work, helping others to reconnect with their authentic selves and discover the joy, peace, and clarity that comes with finally identifying and prioritizing your own needs.


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