I was talking with a friend and colleague recently and found the conversation moving toward back-to-school preparation (for her children) and fall schedule (for us both). Here we were in mid-July, both just back from our respective summer beach vacations and already – in our minds and in our words – summer was over and the fall to-do lists and calendars were getting filled.
I found myself thinking about summers of childhood and asking… outside of a nice vacation with family, what had I done to enjoy the summer? Like I would have as a kid?
Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with planning. Planning helps to ensure that we’re making time for those things that are important in our lives. Planning helps to prepare for those things and that preparation can help us and help those we love.
But in our constantly connected world, it’s easy to rush through one busy day after another… one season to another… without truly pausing to feel or experience our lives. We’re programmed to get things done so efficiently – and to expect instant gratification – that we often in our hurried, scheduled pace accept poor substitutes for those things that really fill us up. Hungry? Pick up a quick sandwich or smoothie to go. Need to connect with someone? Send a text, no time for a phone conversation. If we keep such a schedule year-over-year, we can easily lose touch with what those things that fill us up really are.
And then we wonder why there is a longing for something better or different. Because this busy, hurried, distracted version of ourselves can take us away from who we truly are, what we are feeling and, most of all, what is important to us and makes this precious life worth living.
I know how much of a challenge these seemingly simple things can be. I live about 20 miles from the ocean and have had summers where I didn’t manage to even set foot on the beach, much less jump in the water. As a business owner, the to-do list almost always seems longer than there is time in the day. There are always new projects and opportunities to consider. And then there’s finding time for personal priorities – mine include regular exercise, meditation and connecting socially with friends and family. When the calendar’s already full, it’s easy to be hard on myself when I schedule an hour for a task and then it actually takes three hours to wrap up.
If you find your summer going by more quickly than you’d like, here are 8 simple ways to slow down and savor it like a kid:
- Wake up with the sun and take a walk around your neighborhood. Or go to a favorite spot to watch the sun rise.
- Go to the beach or the pool. Don’t just say I’d like to get to the pool next weekend – actually do it, get in the water and then enjoy a book or magazine while drying off in the sun.
- Take an entire day to just lay around and read a book. If a day feels like too much to start, give yourself the afternoon (guilt-free).
- Go to the movies. With a friend. At the theatre. Check out that summer blockbuster that you’ve been wanting to see but decided you’d wait for it on Netflix.
- Go to your local farmer’s market one Saturday morning and then have a picnic lunch with the fresh summertime bounty.
- Get out on the water. Go sailing or if you don’t have easy access to a boat, schedule a kayaking adventure on the river with a local tour company.
- Ride your bike to dinner one evening or go for an early morning run outside.
- Take a digital vacation for a day. No email, no web browsing, no social media.
Here’s why it’s not just a nice idea but is truly important to pause and to play. In recreation, we RE-create. This is where we can find energy to begin anew. Even if it’s just waking up well-rested and clear-headed to start the day. When we are able to push pause and truly take time to relax, to do nothing but read a book or just stare at the sky, we are rejuvenating ourselves in a deeper way. We create space for creativity, for new ideas, for deeper connection. We also create space to notice and be aware of those needs and longings we may have been ignoring for too long.
Sometimes with space we get a breakthrough on a project or a challenge that has stumped us until we were able to step away from it. And sometimes, yes, space can also be a little uncomfortable. At those times, it often feels easier to fill it, to distract ourselves. We have become accustomed to our mental chatter and often to physical clutter and constant interruption as well.
Slowing down and finding time for solitude also grounds us and allows us to connect with ourselves. Stillness allows us to look at our lives, to listen with and to the messages of our hearts and not just our heads. In a world where more and more is coming at us every day, some of our energy is constantly spent trying to filter through the noise. This is when that stillness, that grounding becomes even more important… but also easier to overlook. It is through connection with ourselves that we are then able to more authentically connect with another. It is through connection with ourselves that we are able to bring creativity and fresh energy to our work. It is through connection with ourselves that we can choose to live from a more authentic place.
We are surrounded these days by the possibility of instant gratification. We are taught in subtle and not-so-subtle ways to want and to expect to fill up time in our days. Most of us have an abundance of apps, to-dos and digital distractions available at any moment. The next time you have a few free minutes in your day and find yourself reaching for your smartphone, I encourage you to pause and consider: is it really satisfying your needs or responding to something important – or is it possibly a way of filling the next empty space?
With August upon us, another summer is about to come and go. Have you gotten out and enjoyed yours? What are your favorite ways to savor summer?