Stealing Summer


Fresh summer tomatoesLast July I remember going to pick up groceries and glancing at the newsstand at the three-inch thick September issue of Vogue. “How depressing,” I thought to myself, summer is practically over, and for me, an August “renter” it’s hardly started. My thoughts were taking me down a path that was a not a happy one. Fortunately, my inner positive psychologist reminded me that the “summer” I was still eagerly looking forward to was still very much within my control.

Switching gears

I chose not to pick-up the Vogue (although it would have done my biceps some good) and instead jumped in my car and drove to a farm stand down the road. I grabbed a bunch of basil, sunflowers and a dozen ears of just-picked Silver Queen corn. One whiff of the fresh basil and I was 100% present in a happy summer moment…and it was still July. September would have to wait.

Choosing a positive mindset is well within our control. In fact, research presented by Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D. University of California, Riverside, author of The How of Happiness shows that as much as 40% of our happiness (in addition to our genetic disposition) is up to us. The secret is that it takes practice. Negative feelings (a left-over survival tool) stick around longer than positive ones. For example, an insult lasts longer in our minds than a compliment. It’s how we are wired and what psychologists call the negativity bias.

Summer is an ideal time to soak up happy memories and build resistance to life’s inevitable negative tugs. You may have heard these suggestions before, but like a good story, they are worth hearing again.

• Set a goal to be “in the moment” at least once a day
• Go out of your way to use your senses – tis the season!
• Keep a notebook of summer memories, funny stories, and happy times
• Save meaningful tokens – like sea glass or skipping stones
• Start a “3 Good Things” journal – and write about them daily

Peaks and Valleys

Summer SunsetA lot of unconscious savoring goes on for me in August. I rarely take for granted a run by the ocean, the smell of a beach fire, the beauty of a giant blue hydrangea, and the abundance of juicy red tomatoes. August is also the month we take photos on a weekly basis and share highlights of our lives “in person” with friends and family. Essentially, August is a time I collect positive emotions and memories in rich detail.

Yet truth be told, there are some pretty cranky days in August that I choose to forget. Not surprisingly psychologists have found the peaks of an experience are what we tend to remember most. Again it comes down to choice. Which peaks do you want to leave the greatest impression? Survival issues not withstanding, my vote goes to the ones that genuinely resonate with you positively both physically and mentally.

What are some ways that you can richly encourage positive peaks this summer?

How about:

• Start an online photo album – before you go on vacation and add to it daily
• Create a playlist of your favorite summer 2012 songs and the memories will follow
• Listen to a funny book on tape if you have a long drive
• Try a sunset sport – even if you aren’t any good at it – like golf or kayaking

Happy Endings

Labor DayLabor day weekend is a highlight of my summer. Traditionally the weekend is filled with golf and tennis matches, awards ceremonies and my dad’s famous pasta with fresh tomatoes from his garden. Nobel Prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman, author of the new book Thinking Fast Thinking Slow (Check out his TED Talk here.) suggests that both the peaks and the ending of an experience have the greatest impact on our memory.

Regardless of when your summer break begins, give some thought to how you want it to end. Hopefully it’s on a high note – that will linger and create hope for many more good times to come.

Have a happy summer.


Amy Tardio

For a complimentary coaching session, contact Amy.