If wintertime for me is a time of bundling up and retreating inward, both physically and psychologically, summertime is the time of openness and expansion.
Dreams that have long lain dormant can come to life in summer, finally planted on soft, warm soil. I've noticed that often as many of us progress through life, we begin to leave some of the fun and playfulness along the path of our many obligations, daily work and unexpected stresses.
A while ago a friend suggested to me that I needed to do more than just rest when I wasn't working. She knew some of the responsibilities I was carrying and my tendency to take on a little too much. She felt I needed to deliberately have fun. She explained that this was not really an option, but a necessity. When I was younger I very much enjoyed excitement and adventure, but as I got older personality was focusing more on the long list of things I could never get through in a day, a week, a month or even a year.
I am amazed when I ask people what gives them joy, what do they do just for fun, what makes them feel most alive, and we sit out the next few seconds in an awkward silence before they tell me, "I have no idea." They have literally forgotten what makes them happy and can't name exactly why they're feeling blah today.
Summer to me is a time for picnics, swim-fests, hiking and camping parties. It's a time for watching things grow in the hot, bright sun and visions of beauty in the evenings over dinner with friends. It's freedom from the rhythms of school and structure, a time to unwind and look around. And summer is embracing that vibrant life that has a way of lifting you out of the doldrums of winter and teaching you to remember that the possibilities of this world can be endless.
How do we re-capture our dreams and sense of adventure this summer? Here are some simple ways:
Create a dream-board collage and hang it on your wall. This is simply a poster board filled with words, quotes, pictures and artwork of things you enjoy about life and would love to experience or do. Displaying your board is a way of capturing that childlike inspiration and keeping your dreams in plain view until you begin to really believe they can be achieved.
Journal out your plans. I love to journal and don't feel quite right when I have a lot of thoughts in my head that have yet to be planted on paper. Sometimes we wrestle with our desires for years before they come true. But how sweet it is when even a few of the things we have looked forward to actually happen.
Don't be afraid to think big. For some reason, we think dreams should be manageable. Ignore the little voice that doesn't want you to be disappointed, or embarrassed, or feel like a failure. It doesn't matter that some things we dream may not happen. The point is, if we don't dare to dream at all, we simply don't have as great a time. Let the process of dreaming itself be half the fun.
Choose to have an inner summer all year long. Who says it has to stop this by fall? Keep the idea of dreaming, adventure, and fun with you all year long and see what happens.
Tabi Upton, MA-lpc is a therapist at Richmont-CBI Counseling Center and founder of the website www.chattanoogacounselor.com. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.