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  • Isabelle Morley, PsyD

Are You Having the Summer You Wanted?

Don't let this season pass you by! Here's how to pause, reflect, and make sure you're having the summer you wanted.

Despite the longer days and many holidays, summer tends to fly by.

We look forward to it all year (especially those of us in New England) and have high expectations for how we'll feel or what we'll do during this season.

As a result, we're also vulnerable to feeling disappointed come September if we feel like we didn't do all the things we wanted to.

The good news is, there are ways to make sure you don't feel sad once summer turns into fall. Here's how.

Write Down What You Wanted

It's always a helpful strategy to write down what you're thinking so that you can see it in ink. Make a list of all the ideas and fantasies you had about what your summer would look like. Try to take the vague thought of "I'll have so much fun" and specify what that actually means to you.

Is it going to the beach every week? Enjoying dinner al fresco at a restaurant or in your backyard? Eating watermelon every single day (which I am currently doing)? Going out with friends for long walks, or camping with your partner somewhere new? Whatever you enjoy most about summer, write it down.

The thing is, it's hard to live the life you want if you haven't specified what the life looks like. A general sense of "being happy" or "spending time outside" is great, but humans do better with concrete, actionable, specific items. So turn "be happy" into "spend one day a week with a friend," and "spending time outside" can be "drink my coffee on my porch every morning."

The thing is, it's hard to live the life you want if you haven't figured out what the life looks like.

Now, Plan It

Summer weekends go by so quickly it's almost scary. There just aren't that many of them. So don't wait to do the things you love- find time in your summer and schedule them.

I know, it seems weird to make a date for when you'll get ice cream ("4pm on Saturday, July 30th- chocolate chip cookie dough") but if you don't actively plan for the things you care about, they're likely not to happen.

Pick your beach days and write them in your calendar. Utilize weekday nights and mornings for other activities you love.

Practice Mindfulness

The best way to not miss a great moment is to practice mindfulness. It's hard to enjoy a sunset if you're worrying about the email you forgot to send earlier that day. The way to soak up every minute of the season is: soak up every minute of the season!

Be present, wherever you are. Listen to the birds. Feel the warmth of the sun on your face. Savor the taste of popsicles and fruit salads. Sit and listen when the summer thunderstorm roll through. Put your phone down, turn off the tv and computer, and just be present in the sensory experience around you.

We miss out on a lot of our lives because we're distracted. Take time to hone the skill of mindfulness and you'll enjoy small moments, and each day, much more.

We miss out on a lot of our lives because we're distracted.

Set Reasonable Expectations

We put a lot of pressure on summer and it's only a few months of our life. We tend to imagine that we'll live our best, happiest lives during this time of year, and the better weather/increased flexibility does allow us to live more casually.

But even during the summer we experience work stress, bad news, fights with our partner, tantrums from our kids, depression, social anxiety, and so on.

Summer is not a cure all for life's woes, it's just a better setting in which we experience them.

Don't be upset if you're still struggling to get out of bed in the morning just because "it's summer and I should feel happier." Only people with Seasonal Affective Disorder feel a distinct boost in their mood now compared to the winter months.

Embrace the Impermanence

Summer doesn't last forever. If we cling to this time and spend every minute dreading when it ends, we won't enjoy it while it lasts.

Akin to mindfulness, accept the present moment for what it is and don't think too much about the past or future. You're here, now, and that's enough. The season will inevitably change, and you will have the opportunity to practice mindfulness when it does.

We can't stop time. It's one of the many disappointments that comes with being human. But we can savor time, and make sure it doesn't pass without our awareness.

If we cling to this time and spend every minute dreading when it ends, we won't enjoy it while it lasts.

Bonus Tips:

Eat all the watermelon.

Grow fresh herbs in your garden or even at your kitchen table.

Go birding!

Wake up early with the sunrise and start a new morning routine you can continue into the fall.

Take a half day and go to the beach when no one else will be there.

Make date nights a priority and try new activities together.

Take a real vacation, not just a long weekend.

Think about how you want to enjoy the fall and winter seasons, too.

And finally, just enjoy yourself. Tiny, insignificant moments can be absolutely wonderful if you fully take them in.


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