Rachel Ward Lilley shares her thoughts on why we should embrace summertime and how the season benefits our health and wellbeing.
Most of us will be familiar with the song, “Summertime, and the living is easy…” It has been popular since it was a hit way back in 1934. Perhaps that’s because it is so evocative of the subject and it strikes a visceral and universal chord with our human psyche, proof – if any were needed – that summer means more to us than simply turning off the heating. Deep down, we are affected by the seasons. All life depends on the cycle of nature and, although we humans have developed the technologies to carry on regardless of most conditions, we are not fundamentally immune to the elemental forces of the natural world.
Autumn is harvesting time and an opportunity to stock up; winter is hibernating time, hunkering down and trying to avoid SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder); spring follows, with its freshness and hopeful signs of rejuvenation; but the crowning glory of the seasons, the one that we all look forward to, is the summer. In our imaginations, our expectations and even in reality, summertime has always been special.
Of course, in Britain, we know not to expect an unbroken sequence of long lazy, warm days of sunshine. Even though that is what we like to imagine as our ideal, the reality is more variable, and we do well to manage our expectations if we want to avoid disappointment. There is a grain of truth in the adage, “there’s no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing”. If we allow the weather alone to control our mood, we self-limit our possibilities for the enjoyment of adventures and experiences.
So, summertime is here and, to make the most of it, we can try opening our minds and senses to all of its unique and life-enhancing gifts and take advantage of what’s on offer. The longer hours of daylight present an opportunity to change our routines, so we can get up earlier and retire later, spending more time outdoors, where the fresh air is good for our physical health. Simply by walking or cycling a little every day, our hearts and muscles get essential exercise, while shedding a few layers of clothing exposes our skin to the rejuvenating effects of the elements, like the sunlight that creates the vitamin D we need for healthy bones.
And we know that body and mind are as one when it comes to our overall health, so the less tangible aspects, like the feelings of freedom, ease and relaxation that summer induces, are just as important to our mental wellbeing. We should soak them up: grab every opportunity to picnic so that our senses can revel in the pleasures of eating and drinking al fresco; eat fresh, home-grown strawberries while they are in season; swim in the sea and feel the elemental force of the ocean; go barefoot and feel the sand and grass beneath our feet; recall those days of carefree childhood spent outdoors, when everything felt like a new adventure.
Take what summer has to offer with open hands. The words of the song may not ring true with everyone – the living is not always easy – but summer is free for all, so we let’s be sure to get our fill while it lasts.
Rachel Ward Lilley is a business and educational psychologist. She has worked for many years advising SMEs and her current work relates to issues of resilience, communication, personal development, team building and motivation. Over the past 12 years Rachel has extended her work into the educational field. Find out more here.