Fall is a relatively new concept. While it may seem natural today to claim that a year is comprised of four seasons, fifteen hundred years ago that notion would have seemed absurd. During that time, Anglo-Saxons had just one season: winter. The year was defined by winter because the coming of winter represented the coming of a hardship or adversity so great that it metaphorically represented the year in its entirety. The Latin word for fall, autumn, was the last of today’s conventional four seasons to have a word made up to describe it. It appears for the first time in English in the late 14th century, and by the 18th century “fall” and “autumn” became the two accepted names for the third season of the year.
With the classification of the third season of the year being a time of transition between summer and winter came the potential for scientists, authors, and regular people to explore the concept of fall.
Science has proven that our bodies undergo strange changes during the transition from summer to fall. Aside from seasonal affective disorder (which is briefly discussed in the previous post), the human body undergoes five interesting changes during this time. First, people get chattier as the days get shorter. A study published in the journal PLOS One shows that researchers at the University of Newcastle found that during cold, wet weather conditions people typically spend more time talking to fewer people in phone conversations. People were found to be more likely to communicate with fewer social ties. Second, people start craving physical intimacy more. Research shows that people’s brains recognize that the changing seasons means they will soon get depressed, so their brains send out an extra boost of dopamine that causes an increase in romantic thoughts. Third, blood pressure rises slightly. As temperatures drop, blood vessels constrict in order to preserve heat, causing blood pressure to rise slightly. In fact, heart attack incidence increases up to 53 percent in the winter. If you suffer from high blood pressure, click here to read about ways to lower your blood pressure during the colder months. Fourth, people will become thirstier. During colder weather, people typically substitute water with other dehydrating drinks, like coffee and tea. This lack of water intake makes people thirstier, causes their skin and lips to dry out, and creates a sense of general lethargy. Check out this site for tips and tricks for beating the odds and staying hydrated during the winter. Fifth, people’s memory will sharpen. In a study published by the Journal of Experimental Psychology, researchers from the University of South Wales found that on a cloudy, rainy day, where people are put into bad moods by the weather, shoppers had the strongest recall of ten unusual impulse-buy items at a grocery store.
In addition to the changing of seasons being important to science, it has also been important in literature. Seasons typically symbolize different ideas in literature, with fall symbolizing ideas like ripeness, change, maturity, beauty, sadness, or preparing for an end of decline. Click here to read ten poems about fall.
Fall may seem like a depressing time with the impending doom of winter laying ahead, but don’t forget to go out and enjoy the last of the warm weather while it lasts!