What I Like Most About Summer

Sitting in my swivel chair as I write this, I find my gaze drawn out the nearby window to take in the bright sun, blue sky, and green trees swaying in the breeze.  The view offers welcome relief from the sterile white walls and abrasive fluorescent light of the office.  It is also a bittersweet reminder of being confined indoors to attend to my professional tasks.  I lament that I cannot able step out into the scene just beyond my window sill.  At least today I have the opportunity go there in my mind and reflect on what I love most about these Summer months.

 

Longer Days & Warmer Weather

Here in New England, it is oft bemoaned that during the winter we ‘go to work in the dark and drive home in the dark’.  The short cold days means that daytime almost feels squandered by being stuck inside.  When Summer comes around, there is sweet reprieve from the workday grind with the knowledge that there will still be a few hours of daylight after it is time to clock out.  On most days, when you step outside you are welcomed by the warm embrace of Summer air and birds chirping.  Those of us privileged to experience the four seasons know that this is much different from heading outside in the winter- which typically means ducking down and shuffling through the snow to reach your car as quickly as possible before risking certain death from exposure!  The bright sunshine and warm air beckons us to feel more open and relaxed.  We are encouraged to feel less guarded and free as we are embraced by the nurturing rays of the sun.

 

Nature is Alive and In Bloom

This sense of invigoration by the warmer months appears to extend throughout nature.  The trees are full and green, catching the wind and sunshine, and provide us with fresh air.  The birds are chirping and chasing each other.  The local ponds become a hub of activity as fish, fowl, and frogs lark about the shores.  Wild flowers and manicured gardens adorn the landscape with vibrant hues like confetti at a birthday.  Summer makes it feel like there is a party outside!

 

Being More Social

People seem to become more social when the weather gets nice.  There’s the chance to come together in open spaces and warm air and sunshine.  We feel less guarded, as we don’t need to actually physically guard ourselves from the elements.  There’s something to the idea of “summer love”.  We feel freer and more open with ourselves and others when the weather is nice, and the sun is bright!

 

Getting Outside

Everything I have described so far supports the fact that it is great to get outdoors!  The benefits of being outside is something innate that really doesn’t require description.  I think we all sort of intuitively know that it is good for us to get out of the house.  It makes sense.  Outdoors is where 99% of our evolution has occurred.  This whole spending much of our time indoors thing is a pretty new phenomenon.  Humans evolved conjointly with our natural settings.  This natural relationship and its benefits have become the subject of a vast breadth of contemporary research.  That inquiry has shown numerous health benefits to being outdoors and in nature.  Here’s a non-inclusive list of the benefits of the outdoors:

 

  1. Increased vitamin D absorption, shown to be crucial for a plethora of cellular processes
  2. Fresh air, also important for the health of our cells as well as improving our sense of relaxation and well-being
  3. Decreased blood cortisol, helps to regulate stress and decrease risk of disease, while improving mood
  4. Improved immunity, germs thrive inside. Getting outside means getting away from the stuffy and often unsanitary conditions of the indoors.  Also, research has shown that being outdoors helps to boost white blood cells.
  5. More active lifestyle, with more space to move around, we naturally move more!
  6. Increased focus. Prominent researchers Roger S. Ulrich and Stephen and Rachel Kaplan have shown positive correlations between natural settings and scenes of nature and overall well-being and cognitive performance.  In particular, being exposed to nature has been shown to have restorative effects for rehabilitation patients and for students under heavy academic loads.  Taking a break in a natural setting has been shown to significantly improve focus and performance over having a break indoors or in urban environments.  This has been explained in part by the idea that nature provides “passive stimulation”.  Natural scenes provide something to focus on without needing to actively filter or sort the information.  This is opposed to “sensory overload” that we find in urban environments, or to an indoor space that is otherwise not very stimulating.

 

For years, Japanese culture has practiced something called “nature bathing”.  This means to go to a natural setting and taking in the environment- which has a cleansing effect on our bodies and minds.  Research into the practice has only validated the correlation between nature and well-being.  My favorite part of Summer is that it lends us the access to getting outside and being more well.

 

Let me take this opportunity to remind you that when venturing off to find a healthier you, bring along your Mouth Watchers travel brush!


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