While the official start to summer is still a few weeks away, with the coming and going of Memorial Day, it’s starting to feel more like it. Despite the possibility of heat and humidity, not many people will complain about the start of the season filled with time for the beach, barbeques and vacations.
But along with all of that fun, the summer is the perfect time to find a little “zen.” What does that mean? Well, if you’ve never gone to the beach and found a quiet spot to meditate, than you’re missing out. And, if the thought of that makes you laugh out loud, read on. There are lots of other ways to find a little “zen” or “mindfulness” without ever having to close your eyes.
- Make sure to take your vacation! Do you know that in 2011, American workers gave up $67 billion dollars in unused vacation time? Yes, it’s true (here’s the article in CNN Money with the stats). When we are constantly working, our mind doesn’t get a chance to disconnect. Since it’s only the beginning of the summer, look to the months ahead and book your time off.
- Spend as much time outdoors as you can. One of the best ways to connect to the present is to be outside. Whether it’s at the beach, running, hiking, sitting in the park, golf or any number of other ideas, being outside is one of the best ways to clear your mind, get present and relieve some of the tension of everyday life.
- Try something new that is best done in the summer. One of the best ways to feel alive is to try something new. I recently took up boxing and I can share that I while I feel like a total geek, I also feel empowered and enlivened by the feeling of newness I get when I box. There are lots of summer activities you can try like waterskiing, windsurfing, traveling to a new place or joining an outdoor sports league. Let yourself feel a little awkward, uncomfortable and like a beginner. It’s a sure way to feel alive.
- Try creative, fun, summer-like ways to meditate. If you’ve never tried meditation, this is the season (if there ever was a season to meditate). Meditation can be done by walking (hence the term “walking meditation"). This is great to try on the beach. Park your chair and take a walk in silence. Listen and feel for your breath as you walk, refrain from any talking or even looking at people as they pass. Instead, follow your footsteps and breath as you walk for at least 20 minutes. Other ideas to try: Go to the beach early, find a quiet place to sit. I like to kneel at the water’s edge. Close your eyes and take several deep breaths. Try to sit still for 10 minutes.
- Visit a farm and buy your dinner. Mindfulness can extend to what we eat and how. One of the best ways to introduce mindfulness to your meals is by choosing fresh foods right from the source and preparing them with attention and care. Visit a local farm, select some fresh produce and cook a meal that includes salad, vegetables and bread from a local farm. Close your eyes and say a word of thanks to the farmer before you dig in. Practicing gratitude is a wonderful mindfulness practice and has great effects on your health as well as your heart.
- Take your yoga practice outdoors. One of the great things about yoga is that you can do it anywhere. Take your mat to a park, a deck or just bring your body to the water edge for a little Downward Facing Dog. Being outside for practice will help you feel connected to your body and the outdoors. You’ll feel rejuvenated and alive when you’re done.
- Read a book that pushes you to explore yourself. Sure, you can read the hottest summer book out today or instead, you can use your reading time to push yourself outside your comfort zone to explore new habits, understand existing unhealthy habits or do some planning for the future you want to have. Sure, self-help books get a bad rap sometimes, but if you find a well-respected author and pick a meaningful topic to you, summer can be a great time to turn over a new leaf.
- Cut out some TV and start a journal. Whatever happened to journals? They went the way of Facebook and Pinterest. Drop a TV show each night and instead, take some time to write about your day. Focus on your feelings, your reactions, things you’d like to do differently. Set some goals, some intentions and dream. Without introspection, we’re creatures of habit, most of them reactions to what’s happening around us. Hold yourself accountable, start making connections between events and your reactions and make changes that create a healthier life.
- Make a photo collage of places you love. Because of Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram and of course, the popularity of SmartPhones, you can take a photo anywhere, anytime. Use these tools to create a photo diary of your summer. Take pictures of yourself doing active things, fun activities and visiting new places. When you’re stuck in a meeting or working late or just feeling down, use these photos as a way to remind yourself of fun times as well as an illustration of your strength.
- Set a challenging goal for yourself. Start training for a road race in late summer or drop a bad habit and set a reward date to acknowledge your achievement. Summer is a time to use fun distractions, like outdoor activities, to shift your focus from something holding you back to something more positive. It’s also a great time to train for something physical. Challenging yourself in this way is a wonderful way to feel empowered and connected to your body- an important mindfulness technique.
Whatever you do, don’t let summer slip by without making plans for your health and wellness. People always complain that the summer is too short so now’s the time to make a plan to make the most of it.