By Lauren Berger, MSW, RSW
Welcome, Summer! Summer is a treasured time of year because we associate it with all things good: sunny days, barbecues, and an all-around sense of fun. As people generally see an improvement in mood during the summer months, it is the perfect time to use techniques to help that improvement last when the fall approaches again.
Focusing on mindfulness is a handy tool in getting the most out of summertime fun. In focusing your awareness and attention onto the things you enjoy, you can begin to experience them in new, lasting ways. For example, what do you remember about the last delicious ice cream cone you ate? Chances are, at best, you simply remember the flavour and the fact that it was super tasty. With mindfulness, the goal is to bring attention to the little, specific sensations that you experience with each of your senses. Using the example of eating an ice cream cone, you have probably only considered it as a taste experience. You can, however, use each of your senses to enjoy and maximize the experience:
Sight: What beautiful colour is the ice cream? Is it a perfectly round scoop, or a swirly vision? How about the cone? Do you notice a waffle texture, or the way it looks when melty ice cream runs down it?
Touch: How does the cone feel in your hand? What does the sensation of cool ice cream dripping onto your hand feel like? What is the texture of the ice cream on your tongue? Is it perfectly smooth, or is there fruit or sprinkles on it that adds variation to the texture?
Hearing: What about that satisfying “crunch” when you finally arrive at the cone?
Smell: Breathe it in — is it fruity, chocolately, mocha-scented, or relaxing vanilla? Does the smell remind you of the last time you had that flavour? Maybe even the first time you tasted it as a kid?
And Taste: Well, this is a no-brainer. How does it taste?! What wonderful flavours are standing out on their own or blending together to make an awesomely tasty team?
When you use all of your senses to engage in an experience, the experience becomes incredibly well-rounded. By the time you’re done, chances are you will be left with a sense of greater satisfaction, helping you extract every bit of happiness from the experience. When you’re able to do that, you’ll probably find that you are satisfied with an occasional ice cream cone rather than one every day of the week if you ate without bringing awareness to the experience.
As a bonus, you may also improve the positive memories that carry you through the winter months. To make the summer last, you can carry the memories with you… but if you find yourself rushing through the fun (and tasty) parts of summer, chances are they will become a distant memory before you know it. Or, perhaps, you try to help remember it in other ways, namely with photographs. Sure, a quick snap of that ice cream may help you remember what it looked like, but it probably won’t remind you of the unique taste or the satisfaction of smooth and crunchy on your tongue. Once you’re enjoying an experience, why not get everything out of it that you can? Hey, summer is short! Bring your focus to every glorious part of it, savor, and enjoy every facet of it by considering mindfulness.
Lauren Berger is a Registered Social Worker providing counselling and psychotherapy at IHI. Check her out at www.laurenberger.ca, drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow her on Twitter: @LaurenBergerMSW