Summer is a time of warm temperatures, sunny skies, green leaves, neighborhood cookouts, family vacations, ice cream cones, and more. In short, it’s a season that’s full of opportunities for enjoyment—so why do so many of us drift through these warm weeks in the same hum-drum fog we’re lost in during the other three seasons? The fact is, most of us have become numbed by life, feeling that we’re victims of circumstance and simply trying to survive each day. So while a refreshing dip in the swimming pool might put a smile on your face while you’re submerged, your good mood usually doesn’t last long.
If you’re ready to put a genuine summer smile on your face, then read on for six simple ways to up your contentment quotient:
Enjoy the weather: Exercise. No one except the most avowed couch potato can resist venturing out into the great outdoors when the sun is shining and the grass is green. Take advantage of the wonderful weather and up your activity level! Exercise will begin to relax you, make you feel stronger, and improve your sleep. It’s also a natural anti-depressant that will boost your attitude and outlook. And as time passes, you’ll gain the added bonus of being happier with your physical appearance as well.
Get some new sunglasses: Be easier on yourself. Most people tend to go through life as though they’re wearing glasses with prescriptions that allow them to focus only on the negative things: their failures, mistakes, worries, etc. This summer, put on a new pair of shades with a more positive prescription that enables you to focus on all of the good things in your life, too! The fact is, we’re all human—and thus fallible—so it’s normal to make mistakes. However, it’s not healthy or beneficial to dwell on them.
Plan some fun activities: Play to your strengths. The days are longer, schedules are more relaxed, there are several holidays to look forward to, and you’ll probably be taking some vacation days. Resolve to spend some of that time developing your special abilities and talents! If you want to be happy, you need to recognize, use, and share your gifts. Each of us has been given special, unique strengths, and when we are using them, we’re happier and feel much better about ourselves—and the world at large is better off, too!
Smell the roses: Live in the present. There are so many moments to treasure throughout our lives, and they’re often especially vivid in the summer: the sound of your kids playing outside, the scent of the herbs in your garden, the feeling of sand between your toes and sun on your skin. The question is, are you really experiencing and enjoying these moments…or is your mind obsessing over the past or worrying about the future while only your body is physically present? If it’s the latter, you’re only exacerbating your anxiety and unhappiness by choosing to dwell on things you can’t control.
Break out the barbeque: Strengthen close relationships. Summer is known for cookouts, pool parties, and front-porch sittin’. Don’t be “that family” who always keep to themselves—try to host at least one or two events between June and September and invite the people you love over for some fun. The truth is, it’s worth putting work into improving your relationships with your family and friends all year round, because the quality of your bonds with the people closest to you can make or break the quality of your life.
Smile and say hello: Be friendlier. Yes, spend more quality time with the people who are most important to you this summer, but also continue to make new connections. You’re not the only one who ventures outside your front door more often in the summer—so make a conscious effort to be friendlier to others you encounter, too. Introduce yourself to the family next to you at the pool or beach, for example, and say hello to folks you pass while walking in the park. (You’ll also be setting a great example for your kids.)
These suggestions are meant to be a starting point for you. My hope is that you’ll incorporate these habits into your life and experience a more sunshine-y summer…and that you’ll remember this season as the beginning of your journey toward happiness. It’s true—what may seem like small changes in your actions and attitudes really can make a huge difference in how you experience the rest of your life!
______________________________________________________________________About the Author:
Todd Patkin, author of Finding Happiness: One Man’s Quest to Beat Depression and Anxiety and—Finally—Let the Sunshine In, grew up in Needham, Massachusetts. After graduating from Tufts University, he joined the family business and spent the next eighteen years helping to grow it to new heights. After it was purchased by Advance Auto Parts in 2005, he was free to focus on his main passions: philanthropy and giving back to the community, spending time with family and friends, and helping more people learn how to be happy. Todd lives with his wonderful wife, Yadira, their amazing son, Josh, and two great dogs, Tucker and Hunter.
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