Summer has officially started with Memorial Day weekend behind us (Yes I know it really started on June 21st with the Summer Solstice, but traditionally Memorial Day kicks off the start of fun summer activities!). Remember that feeling when you were a kid? Memorial Day came and the whole summer lay ahead, filled with picnics, outings, beach and lake activities, and overnights with friends. The arrival of summer brings with it feelings of happiness and joy, but did you know that being happy is an important element of a healthy life?
In a review of more than 160 studies of human and animal subjects, Dr. Ed Diener, Senior Scientist for the Gallup Organization, found that there is “clear and compelling evidence” that – all else being equal – happy people tend to live longer and experience better health than their unhappy peers. And that "the overwhelming majority of studies support the conclusion that happiness is associated with health and longevity." So why not make this your happiest, most healthy summer ever?
With focused intention and planning you will be able to create the most enjoyable and healthy summer experience. Intention is a mental state that represents a commitment to carrying out an action or actions in the future. Intention involves mental activities such as planning and forethought”.
And believe me, you can be healthy AND have fun! A recent review of the literature on the research of intention indicates a strong correlation between forming specific if-then plans (or 'implementation intentions') and goal attainment2. This means, with intention and a specific, well-developed plan you can achieve your goal of making this the best summer for yourself and your loved ones! PLAN with Purpose and it will happen!
5 Steps to the Healthiest and Most Fun Summer
- Decide that this WILL be the happiest and healthiest summer ever. Life moves forward whether your car is washed, your home is not perfect, or the laundry needs tending. You have the power and the choice to decide to create this magical summer. Make that decision. Human studies have found that positive moods reduce stress-related hormones, increase immune function and promote the speedy recovery of the heart after exertion1. Creating positive, happy events creates positive moods!
- Write out your summer wish list of activities, places, and people you would like to experience this summer. Think of activities that move and feed the body. Some of my personal favorites are:
- Swimming in the ocean, lake, or pool (Can’t swim? No worries - just get in the water and PLAY!)
- Kayaking, paddle boarding, or simply going for a walk. Regular physical activity is effective in the primary and secondary prevention of several chronic diseases (ie: cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, hypertension, obesity, depression and osteoporosis3) – Putting movement into your summer plans will increase your happiness AND your health!
- Creating dishes that burst with color and flavor of the summer harvest of fruits and vegetables. People who eat lots of fruits and vegetables are healthier and live longer, more vital lives than those who avoid these nutrient dense delicacies3, 4. (See recipe below for a Pasta Salad that will guarantee compliments and requests for seconds!)
- Narrow down your list to 12 activities (1 per week until Labor Day weekend). These do not have to be extravagant activities or events. My list for this summer includes grabbing a cup of my favorite coffee from my favorite coffee shops, heading to the beach for a sunset walk, kayaking in the bay for a couple of hours with friends, climbing Cowles Mountain with my favorite hiking pal, trying at least 3 new recipes to share with family and friends.
- Print out your list and post somewhere you will see every day. This visual reminder will keep your intention present in your mind and help with planning.
- Share your list with your friends, spouse, or partner. Tell them you are intentionally living the healthiest fun summer of your life! Remember: intention plus a good plan = goal achievement1.
How lucky we are to be adults and have choices to be healthy and to have fun all at the same time! As I get older I realize that the connections I make in my life are more important than the garage that needs to be cleaned, or the papers that need to be organized. Life is meant to be lived as vibrantly as possible and sometimes that comes from taking the time to stop what we are doing and smell the roses.
You have 12 weeks left of your summer. Will you make it the happiest and most fun summer yet?
- Diener, E. & Chan, M. Y. “Happy People Live Longer: Subjective Well-Being Contributes to Health and Longevity”. Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, Volume 3, Issue 1, pages 1–43, March 2011.
- Warburton, D.E.R., Nicol, C.W., & Bredin, S.S.D.; Health benefits of physical activity: the evidence. 2006 Mar 14; 174(6): 801–809.
- Chere Bork MS RDN aka Energy Igniter How I Spent My Summer Vacation, http://cherebork.com/blog/?p=4277, cherebork.com.