By Jim Kulackoski
Summer is finally upon us, and no matter what your favorite season is, summer is special in our neck of the woods. The long bright, colorful days and warm weather are always welcomed, especially after a long winter and cool spring.
Like every season, summer has its unique qualities. Although in our culture we treat our bodies and lifestyles much the same, regardless of time of year, some simple adjustments to your lifestyle, diet or general routine can significantly heighten your experience of summer while enhancing your health and well being. Here are some helpful tips to get the most out of this short, but special time of your year.
Where winter is a time inward reflection and deep rest, summer is the opposite. It is a time where nature is fully expressed, and we as humans, whether we like to admit it or not, are part of nature too. Spending time outside in any season helps your body acclimate to the “energy” and rhythm of nature during that time.
Try spending as much time outside as you can. Taking your lunch break outside, or short breaks from your work during the day to get out and enjoy the warm weather and soak up the sunlight are great ways to directly attune to nature. Like food, our bodies need both sunlight and fresh air to function optimally.
Also take the time to relish the longer days summer brings. Relaxing evening walks are a great way to slow down and take advantage of this seasonal phenomenon and let your body naturally relax after a long day. These times are also ideal for exploring parts of the city your may not know or be accustomed to. Depending upon how balanced your system is, you may find that you naturally need less sleep during this time, so don’t be afraid to stay up a little later than you normally do.
Unlike the stationary quality of winter, summer is about movement and outward expression. Take advantage by engaging in some sort of physical activity you enjoy. It’s a great time to set aside your normal routine of exercising for health and instead do something physical for enjoyment. Try your hand at an outdoor sport, traveling by bike, or walking or running outside near the lake, or in a park soaking up nature. You naturally will have access to move energy during this time and the more you can enjoy your exercise, the more it will feed you rather than just using up energy mindlessly in a gym.
Another way to be in tune with summer and enjoy what it has to offer is to get out and spend time with your family and friends. The summertime brings host of exciting activities and cultural events and Chicago is full of hidden treasures such as festivals, concerts and parks. Try exploring one of the many neighborhood or cultural festivals on a weekend with friends or visit a park you have never been to. An evening picnic on the lawn in millennium park while listening to beautiful music can be a perfect romantic evening with someone special, or an unforgettable memory with friends.
Summer is the time to enjoy the finer things of life and food is a perfect medium for that. Try sinking your teeth into fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables which are naturally cooling to the body helping it to adjust to the heat of the season. If you can get locally grown produce, even better, as they have the most balancing effect as they grow in the same climate. Check out when and where the nearest farmers market is and make it a habit to shop there at least once per week. Its not only a great way to get to know your local farmer, but also gives you an opportunity to appreciate natural cadence and rhythm of the season itself which we sometimes lose sight of in the city.
Also, favor lighter, foods which are cooling and easier to digest. Your body’s metabolism is heating in nature and in the summertime, your metabolism is naturally not as strong as it is in the winter for this very reason. Heavier foods take more energy to digest and therefor heat the body more. While this is ok in the wintertime when we need to stay warm, in the summer, it can lead to a number of physical imbalances and digestive disturbances.
Therefor, favor vegetables over meats or greasy foods. Choose fish or foul which are lighter over beef or pork with are heavier and warmer in nature. You may even want to consider a modified vegetarian diet for this season where you limit your consumption of meat to one or two times per week. Seasoning your food with condiments like lemon, mint and parsley add a refreshing cooling twist to your meal and help aid in your digestion.
If you drink alcohol, favor white wine over red, or lighter cocktails such as those containing compare, tequila or gin over heavier ones like bourbon or whisky.
Keeping cool during the heat of summer can seem like a balancing act, but is important, not only for you comfort, but your overall health, including your mental and emotional health. Hot temperatures not only affect your physical comfort, but also can make you feel agitated or emotional.
Be sure to keep hydrated by drinking plenty of water, at least eight cups per day, as your body will naturally require more during these months. Also, activities involving water such as swimming or sailing are great for your health in the summer, especially if you tend to get hot tempered when it is warmer outside. These activities are both cooling and relaxing and a great way to balance activity with enjoyment. Taking a walk on a moonlit night is not only romantic but has a cooling and calming effect on your mind and body.
Enjoy the finer things in life.
We spend so much time retreating inwardly during the winter. Summer is the opposite, a time to reap the benefits of all of our self exploration and planning. The best way to do this is to do things you really enjoy. Carve out time from your busy routine as often as you can to do some simple things that you really enjoy, but may not normally do. If you don’t have a clue what you like to do, set aside some time and try something new. Treat this season as your time to enjoy life, getting to know yourself, your family and friends.