I love summer. I can't help it. Some mornings, when I'm up and out early, I catch a whiff of early morning sun, and my limbic system goes into overdrive. I feel like a 10-year-old kid again, waiting for the bus to pick me up and take me to the summer-camp place of no work, no worries and big sloppy scoops of chocolate ice cream dripping down my one and only chin.
Sing along now: Summertime, summertime, sum-sum-summertime. If Spring is about New Growth, then Summer is the season for Pure Pleasure, for letting loose and finding time to play, to enjoy, and definitely time to stop worrying about how you look in a swimsuit.
Here's a list of eight things you might try this summer to help you feel healthier, happier and - my new favorite expression - more conscious.
- Set one summertime goal. Take a moment to decide on one sports & fitness goal to work on all summer. This is so motivating! Learn to racewalk? Improve your backhand? Do a headstand in the middle of the room? Run a half-marathon this fall? The choice is yours, but don't delay. Write your goal down by the end of today, and think about how, exactly, you're going to make it happen. Lessons? Strength training? Prayer?
- Get greener. This summer, take three action steps toward making your lifestyle greener, simpler, and kinder to the planet. Declare a no-car day and use your bike instead? Switch out your toxic cleaning chemicals for the more benign kind? Support your local farmer's markets by buying organic foods grown nearby? Moving toward a healthier lifestyle involves one step at a time. Going-Green steps count double.
- Take your vacation. It's been widely reported that Americans take the least amount of vacation of any civilized nation. This is crazy. Some say it's pathological. I'm too busy. What will my customers/colleagues think? I don't have the money. All of these are lame and unacceptable excuses. Just Say Yes to all of your vacation time. Go outside, start having fun and see what happens. As in puddings, the proof is in the doing.
- Try one new sport. Is this too much to ask? This summer, dare to do what you've been dreaming about. Is it hang gliding? Rock climbing? Scuba diving? Even if you just take a single lesson, stop procrastinating and do it!
- Go meatless. This summer, decide to eat vegetarian for one or two days a week. There are many different kinds of vegetarianism - with or without dairy, eggs, creme puffs -- but if this is all new to you, just go meatless. No red meat, no chicken, no fish, nothing with a mother. Meatless Monday has a nice ring to it. And a very nice feel. Less meat and more fruits and vegetables is the way to go. But you know that already, right?
- Give something back. Exercising gratitude is great training for a healthy lifestyle, so find a worthy cause and volunteer. Clean up a river. Help build affordable housing. Make a difference in the life of a child who can't read. Doing good will make you feel good. This is the summer to prove that to yourself, once and for all.
- Spend time in nature. Get out of town, and go to a place where the mountains peak, where the rivers run, where the air is so fresh and the view so breathtaking you just want to cry. It doesn't have to be exotic or expensive to work its magic. It's not what you see in Nature, but how you see it that makes a difference. Slow down. Let go of expectations. Just witness. Report back if you make contact with aliens.
- Have an adventure. Adventures come in all shapes and sizes, but one thing they all have in common is that they present you with a bit of a challenge, physical and mental. A good outdoor adventure -- Bike trip? Camping out in the woods? Rafting down a river? - will nudge you into nature and the unknown, and from there unexpected pleasure can arise as long as the challenge isn't too hard, or too easy.