3 Keys to a Truly Refreshing Summer

boardwalk_Atlantic_ocean_Laurie Wallin1It’s officially summer. Sunshine and iced tea. And balancing travel, work, holidays, gatherings and probably a house full of kids or guests. Is it possible to refresh this summer with all the balancing?

Two weeks ago, my family of six climbed on a plane headed for Florida. Ten hours of travel following a week of writing deadlines, last week of school activities, and about a hundred loads of laundry and errands.

Fortunately, when we got on the plane everything was zen and peaceful.

Seriously?

More like piling together the worst of everyone’s personalities into just enough elbow room for those who have no problem cuddling with strangers, or sisters with whom they find a thousand reasons a day to fight over issues that aren’t even issues.

It took two days (and about thirty-six meltdowns—half of them mine) to begin to relax once we got to Florida.

Fortunately, the trip was full of goodness: new experiences in nature…

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New experiences in relationships with our extended family. Restorative conversations with my husband. It was more than worth the airplane drama.

Then we got home.

No distractions for the kids (or me), and a yawning ten weeks of summer staring us in the face. The meltdowns (again, all of us) rivaled those before our vacation.

Maybe you can’t relate to this. Maybe summers are easy and emotionally spacious for you and your family. But just in case they aren’t, perhaps these might help:

Establish refreshing summer ratios.

I’m finding 2:1 is good. Two hours relating with people and doing things, 1 treat for the heart—something as little as 15 minutes reading a new novel or grabbing a bouquet of flowers while grocery shopping and five minutes arranging them. A friend of mine likes paint by numbers on her breaks. Another lights her favorite candle. I love photographing things up close, or capturing light, shadow, and their play on the world.

Atlantic_ocean_flora_Laurie Wallin1

Be creative, plan the goodness in, and make it as important as the plans for the day.

Make summer memories with your heart (not the camera).

I love taking photos, and my kids do too. But every day I make it a point to put the camera away and do something fun (that I really wish I had a camera to capture!) and choose to be in the moment and take in the memory with the other four senses besides sight. It’s worth it to remember what life smells, feels, sounds and tastes like. The other day, we were at a pool, and one of my daughters was having a time-in (former foster kids with mental health issues need those a lot), and I closed my eyes, listed to her, felt the sunshine pouring over my skin, the wind like feather kisses, the sounds of kids playing—and my daughter finding her way back to joy.

The more senses we bring into a moment, the deeper a memory etches on our minds for good.

Review the refreshing moments each day.

It’s easy after a long day of entertaining out of town family, shuttling kids to day camps, or braving the heat to simply curl up on the couch with the remote and check out. But what about jotting down the goodness of the day for a few minutes first? What about keeping a small journal or box of notecards with what filled your day with beauty, strength, community, rest, or adventure? Our brains are wired to remember the tough stuff more than the good stuff (science calls it “negativity bias”).

Recording life-giving moments counteracts our neurology and helps us praise our great God, from whom all blessings flow.

Your turn: What are your favorite ways build relaxation into your summers? Or what might you try this year for the first time?

-Laurie