The summers of yore. 

 

When I was a kid, summers were spent in an idyllic 1980’s suburban kind of setting. Images flood my mind when I think about it: waking up naturally,  spending endless days by the pool, playing outside with neighborhood kids and riding my bike with a banana seat. The streamers on the handlebars were blowing in the wind. I can hear the sound of the screen door slamming, and I fondly remember evenings sitting on the front porch watching fireflies. The pace was slow. Intentional. I was in every moment. 

 

Over the past several years, I have been practicing mindfulness and creating an intentional life as a human “being.” When I began consciously cultivating my life, I had a belief that the experience of being fully present- without regret for the past or worry for the future- was impossible. Summers, in particular, were gone in the blink of an eye. Now, I feel so fortunate to share a few thoughts with you to help make this summer a little slower and hopefully, filled with more of you. 

 

Summer is a state of mind. 

 

The other day my husband and I were meandering through a shop in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Leaning against a shop wall was a sign that read, “Summer is a state of mind.”I stopped to ponder it for a moment and thought, “So true.”

 

As it is with many things, mindset is all-important. Sometimes a slight shift in the way we think about something can make all the difference. Philosopher, Marcus Aurelius said, “Our life is what our thoughts make it.” That sign was a great reminder. 

 

Creating an intentional life takes, well, intention. 

 

Setting intentions is a great technique to help move us toward action. Maybe you have “tried” this before with small or no success. I acknowledge that there can be a gap between intention and action. Your brain can get the blame for some of the gap. Our brains are naturally wired toward instant gratification and will seek it over things we know logically are better for us.  So if it is important to set intentions and there is a natural inclination to ignore these intentions. Why do it? Stick with me for a minute and I promise, I’ll get you there. 

 

While the brain is naturally wired to go for instant gratification, there is also a little thing known as neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to reshape itself based on experiences. (If you really want to geek out on science, this article from Very Well Mind will be right up your alley and will give you all the details.) Our brains still harbor some of their prehistoric attributes. Fight, flight or freeze is one example. In that case, our brains process stress as if we are some kind of cave person running from a T-Rex who is hot on our tail. The same is true regarding the instant gratification craving. 

 

So, what the heck am I saying? I am saying that despite the somewhat primal wirings of our brains, we can teach these old brains new tricks. According to this article from UHealth at the University of Utah, “One-and-done is not enough. Shorter bouts of intense repetition are usually needed to create new connections.” By creating an intention daily, you will eventually change your brain and the connections within it. By the way, it is important to write them down. It all goes back to that pesky neuroscience. Writing them down engages both hemispheres of the brain and imprints your intention in your brain. 

 

Here’s a fun fact: People who write down goals are 42% more likely to achieve them. If you are a learner like me and want to “geek out” on goal-setting stats and science, click here

 

Schedule Spontaneity.

 

Once your intentions to live a more mindful summer are set, it is time to set up some actions to follow. We’ve all heard the phrase, “Fake it till you make it.” Sometimes I literally have to “schedule” spontaneity and opportunities for mindful moments in my day. My executive coach, KC Carter is working with me on expanding my capacity as a leader and, for me, that includes spending time on experiences outside of my professional life. He recently asked me for a commitment to do something spontaneous  by the next time we met, hence the aforementioned day trip to Yellow Springs. The act of setting up my schedule and blocking out time is a tool that truly helps me to move through the world mindfully.  I literally schedule dinner and free time on my Google calendar and it has been so freeing. By scheduling it, I have committed to it and the actions follow.  Even on those nights when I am working late, Google calendar will send me a reminder that it is time to close up shop. 

 

Finally, I have come up with a list of activities to consider that are mindful by nature and can support us in soaking up all that summer has to offer. Perhaps the habits created now and intentions acted upon can be your pathway to a new way of being a human “being.”

 

Mindfulness Activities for summer

  • Stargazing
  • Watch a fire
  • Nature walk 
  • Smores 
  • Bicycling 
  • Floating
  • Gardening
  • Catching fireflies
  • Coloring
  • Journaling
  • Mindful walking
  • Meditate
  • Make a mind jar (free download here.)
  • Make a rainstick (free download here.)
  • Catch a sunrise or sunset
  • Stop and smell the roses
  • Notice and take in summer smells – bbq, suntan lotion, chlorine, flowers, rain

 

Summer playlist: Be sure to check out our summer playlist here.

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