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Summer Bliss

SUMMERTIME... AND THE LIVIN' IS EASY!
– George Gershwin (1898–1937)

During the warmer, longer, lazier days of summer, our thoughts turn to vacations, barbecues, deck furniture, gardens, and beaches. Life may feel less chaotic with a more laid back "school's out" attitude. Summer is the season to slow the pace a bit and absorb Vitamin D from a more outdoor lifestyle. We plan our vacations and look to summer for opportunities to renew our energy and get the most out of the warm weather.

The summer months can represent a season of growth and fulfillment. The smell of fresh cut grass, the explosion of colours, and the sound of chirping birds have the ability to affect our well-being. Every day that you awake to the sights and sounds of summer and have gratitude for your surroundings is a great reason to feel happy. I would like to dedicate this Summer Inspiration to the exploration of creating “true happiness.”

How many times have you asked yourself the question: "what is one of my life goals?" How many times have you answered "to be happy”, secretly questioning if it is even a realistic expectation. From my perspective, discovering inner fulfilment will present a great opportunity to cultivate feelings of contentment, joy, and serenity and create harmony in everything you do. The literature on “authentic happiness” indicate that the right to happiness and the ability to achieve it is within everybody.

I will begin with Dr. Andrew Weil’s definition of happiness. “I observe that many people seek happiness out there. They imagine it will come to them if they get a raise, a new car, a new lover, or something else they want but do not have. My own experience, repeated many times is the actual emotional reward of getting and having is usually much less that one imagined. Scientific evidence shows us that happiness must come from within, because reaching external goals often disappoints.”

Dr. Martin Seligman, states “It is important to distinguish your momentary happiness from your enduring level of happiness.” The backdrop of a vibrant summer sunrise or sunset present a great opportunity to sit back, relax, and unwind. The release of “feel good “hormones or endorphins may just brighten your day!

During my research, I became curious about the connection between summer weather and our happiness levels. What I found to be so amazing is that the weather is less important than you might believe. How interesting!  

What the analysis indicates is even though we think that the summer months bring us greater happiness, in reality we often complain how brutally hot the weather is. We tend to focus on the normal stressors of life that make it as difficult as during the winter months. A study done in 1998 by David Schkade  and  Daniel Kahneman  found that “in the depths of winter we imagine an idealised hot sunny day and focus on the differences, e.g. warmth rather than cold, and sunlight rather than cloud. In focussing on these differences we forget that a real-life hot summer day might include negative as well as positive features - such as having to go to work, child supervision, feeling too hot, and so on."

I will now present three strategies that act as a guide to help access inner contentment and happiness. The tips may appear small but will provide meaningful steps to help create a foundation of wellbeing.

  1. Physical Activities. 
    The warmer days invite us to take a break from the gym and challenge our muscles with outdoor activities such as  hiking, biking, swimming, tennis, golf, and gardening. Studies have shown that people who enjoy an active life tend to be happier, healthier, and live longer lives. A study was conducted by Dr. Claudia Kawas, during a 20 year period on 1900 seniors. Her data indicated that “about 45 minutes a day of physical activity seemed to help people live until their 90’s. It was beneficial to stay mentally, physically and socially active as long as possible.”  Consider joining a sports league and enjoy the physical exercise in a social setting.  
  2. The Emotional Wellbeing of Gardening.
    The research indicates that working in a garden or a natural setting where you breathe in the sights and sounds of nature can reduce stress and provide a harmonious space to relax, unwind, and reflect. The Journal of Health Psychology in 2012 “ shows that people who feel a connection to nature are indeed happier.” Clare Cooper Marcus, states that “ When you engage nature, you naturally stop thinking, obsessing and worrying. Your senses are awakened, which brings you into the present moment, and this has been shown to be very effective at reducing stress”. Planting a garden can provide a sense of accomplishment and also supply you with an abundance of tasty, nutritious, and in season fruits and vegetables. The food you grow will be fresh, healthy, and more economical.
  3. Mental Nutrition or The Practice of Mindfulness.
    To understand the concept of mindfulness, my suggestion is to sit in your favourite quiet place, be it in a hammock, under a tree, or by the water’s edge. Focus on what you’re sensing, the sights, the sounds, and the smells of the beauty that nature provides. Concentrate on your breathe. Take a few moments to breathe in the stillness. This is mindfulness. Jon Kabat-Zinn, defines “Mindfulness as paying attention in a particular way, on purpose in the present moment, and nonjudgementally. It’s about living your life as if it really mattered, moment by moment.” Practicing mindfulness, even for just a few weeks has been proven to increase positive emotions while reducing the effects of stress.

In conclusion, it is important to note that each of us is unique but what we all share in common is that we all deserve happiness. The last paragraph of the poem “The Journey” by Robert Hastings best summarizes what true happiness and fulfilment are:

“Relish the moment is a good motto. So stop pacing the aisles and counting the miles. Instead swim more rivers, climb more mountains, kiss more babies, count more stars. Laugh more and cry less. Go barefoot oftener. Ride more merry grounds. Watch more sunsets. Life must be lived as we go along!”

Please feel free to email me any of your successful Summertime strategies that keep your mind, body and spirit in balance and harmony over the upcoming months. You can reach me by clicking here or by using the contact form.

Happy Summer!

In health and wellness,