By Anne-Marie Botek, AgingCare.com Editor
Fall is officially upon us.
The days are getting shorter, the leaves are beginning to turn, and coffee shops have begun to churn out their much-anticipated pumpkin-flavored drinks by the bucketful.
But there’s more to this seasonal shift than the traditions of children returning to school and the start of football season.
Underneath the surface of datebooks filled with holiday schedules and appointments, runs a deeper current of meaning and emotion that’s unique to each individual person.
It is this nearly-imperceptible undercurrent that’s responsible for giving a young child fits of excitement when they walk outside and smell snow in the air, or for pricking your eyes with tears as you attempt to emulate your grandmother’s legendary stuffing recipe on the first Thanksgiving after her passing.
Psychiatrist John Sharp, M.D., Harvard medical professor and author of “The Emotional Calendar: Understanding Seasonal Influences and Milestones to Become Happier, More Fulfilled and in Control of Your Life,” has a name for this connection between season and sentiment—the “emotional calendar.”
Exploring the bond between emotions and events
Everyone has their own emotional calendar that influences how they feel about and approach certain times of the year.
How a person anticipates and interprets seasons and the important events they contain is based on how their life experiences sync up with important events. Sharp says how a person feels depends on their individual experiences with a particular season or date.
For example, if your child was born on a snowy night, then you may look forward to the first snowfall of the season with the same feelings of happiness that you felt when you welcomed your son or daughter into the world. Conversely, if your holidays are typically packed with stress-filled family gatherings, you may feel the urge to run for the hills as soon as the first few bars of “Jingle Bells,” begin to play in the stores.
The idea that there’s a connection between certain times of the year and a person’s emotional state may seem like a no-brainer. The power of the emotional calendar concept lies in its ability to draw awareness to these often overlooked connections.
The concept of the emotional calendar shouldn’t be confused with seasonal affective disorder (SAD)—a form of depression that typically strikes people during the winter months.
According to the National Institutes of Health, people suffering from this disorder typically find that certain times of the year provoke symptoms of fatigue, social withdrawal, loss of happiness and hopelessness.