by Lena Schmidt: Whether you are feeling the angst of back to school time, lounging by the pool for another few weeks…
or counting down the days until you can rationalize lighting that pumpkin spice candle, it is important to take some time to reflect on the end of summer. As the season of swimsuits, suntans, and sweet vacations draws to a close, so may your sunny demeanor. If you are particularly affected by the weather and seasonal changes you will do yourself a big favor by making the transition from summer an intentional one.
Feelings of Loss?
The end of summer can sure be a letdown full of mixed emotions. If you have been enjoying a boost in mood from the extra vitamin D or some time off from work, the end of summer can trigger feelings of loss. If summertime has brought with it more quality time with friends and family, especially due to the longer days, closing out summer might be bittersweet. Perhaps summertime brought up some fun reminiscences of summers past or included the creation of fond new memories. As the daylight wanes, so might these memories and the positive feelings associated with them. It can be beneficial to do some reflective thinking on the feelings that arise as summer fades.
Missing Your Vitamin D?
The impact of vitamin D on your health is significant. About 50 percent of the world’s population is vitamin D deficient. Vitamin D is responsible for helping the body absorb calcium, which builds and maintains healthy bones. Studies have linked low levels of this vital vitamin with depression and seasonal affective disorder, more prevalently suffered in the winter months. Vitamin D is most reliably sourced by regular sun exposure, which can more readily be accessed during the summer months. Since vitamin D is rarely found in foods, except in some fortified milk, cereal, and fish, and supplementation should be taken in consultation with a health care professional, getting some sun is necessary. So that burst of vitality and glow you may have been experiencing this summer? That is your body enjoying healthy doses of vitamin D!
Rejoicing Summer’s End?
Or maybe you are rejoicing! Finally, summer is over! No more FOMO (fear of missing out)! Finally no more boring beach days. No more social barbeque obligations. Are you looking forward to hunkering down for some movie watching (during the day!) and reading on the couch under a blanket (so cozy!)? Then it certainly behooves you to reflect on how your summer has progressed and what you are most looking forward to in the coming seasons.
What Is Self-Reflection?
Self-reflection is important. Self-reflection can be understood as thought or meditation about your behavior, beliefs, and motivations. It is the inner desire deep within your heart to know your true essence or nature. When studied in the health care setting, the benefits of personal reflection included strengthened ability in individuals to progress in their careers and improved motivation.
Checking in with Yourself
Some people do regular check-ins about their dreams and goals. Some people attend therapy, receive coaching, or attend guided groups in which personal inquiry is the goal. Others go through most of their adult lives without ever considering how their thoughts, behaviors, and patterns affect their lives and the lives of others. Reflecting at the end of your summer experience is particularly significant because it serves as a lesson that can lead to shifts that will influence how you live out the next season ahead, the remainder of your year, and summer next year.
Self-inquiry takes courage. Should you choose to dive into the “why” and “what for” regarding your tendencies and emotional experiences, about summer or any other area of your life, it is best to be prepared for potential upheaval. As you look carefully into your life, your career, relationships, general happiness, and spirituality, you may discover that it is time to move on from people, places, and patterns and gain a new perspective on things. Transformation takes guts. Looking inward, which in yoga philosophy is called svadyaya, is a lifelong healing process. As you embark on the journey of end of summer reflections, steel yourself for the repercussions of change, minor or dramatic.
Personal Reflection for Change of Seasons
There are several ways to practice personal reflection. The USC Sol Price School of Public Policy suggests three steps to personal reflection when it comes to leadership. Here, they are re-imagined for a seasonal reflection. This process can be used to practice personal inquiry at any time, though it is designed to be particularly effective at the change of the season.
1. Identify the Important Questions: Consider several critical areas of your life in which to inquire and investigate. Think about what brought you joy this summer, what challenged you, what may help stimulate growth, and what/whom it may be time to release. Here are some questions to ponder during your end of summer reflection.
- What is your favorite thing about summertime?
- How are you feeling as summer draws to a close?
- What was the best thing that you experienced this summer?
- What challenged you this summer?
- Did you come across any new strengths or weaknesses?
- If you could go back and do this summer over, what would you change?
- What did you learn about yourself this summer?
- How was this summer different from past summers?
- What lessons or takeaways would you like to carry with you into the fall?
- Are there any health-, body-, or food-related changes you would like to make for the next season?
- Are there any career, relationships, or home-life changes you would like to make for the next season?
2. Choose a Method: There are many, many ways to practice self-inquiry. Luckily, there is no wrong choice and whatever method you choose will serve you on your journey of self-discovery. Consider the following healthy options as you look back on your summer.
- Journal: Take some time to answer the “identifying important questions” inquiry questions in a reflective journal. You could write notes on paper, on your computer, or even into your phone. Many of these prompts invite personal insights and promote healing. Journaling can help manage anxiety, reduce stress, cope with depression, and improve mood.
- Meditate: Settle in for a period of quiet reflection with meditation. You could ponder the “identifying important questions” in Step 1. Or you might simply follow your breath for 20 minutes and see what comes up for you. Meditation can help reduce high blood pressure; relieve anxiety, depression, and insomnia; and relieve pain.
- Gather: Get together with a group of friends to celebrate the close of summer. Whether you get together over a meal or to participate in an engaging activity together, consider taking turns sharing your photos or stories from summer. Social connections are vital to happiness, are good for your health and well-being, help you live longer, are good for professional success, and boost life satisfaction.
- Retreat: If you have a few days or a week to devote to personal growth and self-reflection, consider attending a retreat dedicated to that type of inner work. The Chopra Center offers a variety of personal growth retreats for those interested in transformation and personal development in the setting of a guided retreat.
3. Schedule Time: Set aside some dedicated time to reflect on your summer. Choose a specific time for this reflection period such as each day for a week or one ceremonial evening. Your morning practice could be the perfect time for summer self-inquiry! Or reserve an evening to turn inward and try out your chosen method of reflection. During your scheduled self-reflection time, set up your space so that it is inviting and sacred: create an altar with photos, figurines, and relics from your summer adventures; light incense and a candle; and turn on mellow, soothing music.
So, summer is drawing to a close. Hopefully, you are savoring those last late-evening sunsets and good times with friends and family. Maybe you are soaking up the sunshine and enjoying the present moment. Or rejoicing in the last long days of heat and looking forward to the coming autumn! Understanding self-reflection’s meaning will help you complete this season and prepare for the next.
This is your official invitation to take some time to look back on the summertime adventures, feelings, experiences, and challenges with compassion and interest. Carve out some time to reflect, sure, but make sure not to unnecessarily squander these final summer days with regrets or fear. Allow your reflection time to be a learning experience for yourself and be guided by positivity and growth mindset. Here’s to all that was and all that is yet to come in the future.