As summer draws to a close, the warmer weather, longer days, and time spent outdoors begins to fade. The start of school (or work), cooler temps, and shorter days signify the end of summer and, for many, disappointment and depression can creep in.
Saying goodbye to summer—and the swimming, barbecues, and vacations that tend to dominate the season—might not be easy. However, the last few weeks before fall can be fruitful. It can be a time to hit the reset button; to take stock of your life, set new goals, and get organized for the upcoming season.
To help you transition more smoothly from the summer season, here are nine ways you can get into the fall groove, including a few activities to help give summer a proper send-off.
1. Journal About Your 10 Best Summer Memories
Gratitude or happiness journals can help retrain your mind to focus on the positive. Put a new spin on the gratitude journal and spend 20 to 30 minutes (or longer, if you like) writing about each of your top 10 favorite memories from summer.
The act of writing accesses your left brain, which is analytical and rational. While your left brain is occupied, your right brain is free to create, intuit, and feel. Journaling about positive memories from your summer can evoke a state of mindfulness as you close the chapter on summer and focus on the present.
2. Preserve Your Memories in a Photo Collage
Photos are one of the best ways to induce positive memories. Think about how happy you are when you look back on pictures of yourself and your loved ones enjoying the summer season. Surround yourself with fun photographs that will keep you in happy spirits for months to come. They're also a great conversation piece when friends and family come to visit.
Put together a collage of photos from the summer that you can put in your home or office. Perhaps you can select one photo from each of the fun times you spent time journaling about to represent your "Summer 2015" memories.
Another fun project is to make photo books (you can do this through online photo galleries like Snapfish or iPhoto) to put on your coffee table, or calendars that you can send as gifts.
3. Organize and Pack Away Your Summer Gear
Set aside time to wash and purge this season’s supplies. Now is a good time to wash all summer clothing and determine what you want to hold on to for another season and what can be donated, or given to younger relatives as hand-me-downs.
Do the same with your outdoor supplies like tents, tablecloths, grilling supplies, pool toys, and other items you collected over the summer. Box everything up and store them for next year.
4. Find Your New Flow
Our routines tend to shift with the seasons. For many families, fall is when kids begin a new school year and join extracurricular activities. For others, it may be a time to focus on work, whether it’s at an office or starting new projects around the house.
Going back to school or work doesn't have to be a bummer. It can be an exciting new chapter in your life, if you place your intention on setting new goals and having fun.
As you set your new routine, consider your responsibilities, health and wellness as well as your favorite leisure activities. Make a list of what is most important to you and your family. Your list might include exercise, sleep, proper nutrition, setting new goals, scheduling down time, beginning (or getting back into) a meditation practice, organizing activities, making time for fun and leisure, and establishing a new hobby.
Get the whole family involved to ensure everyone is on ready and excited for the fall routine.
5. Create a New Meal Plan
Fall means new seasonal fruits and vegetables will hit store shelves and your local farmers’ market. Revisit your meal plan and design one that includes fresh seasonal veggies and fruits, and explore new recipes for more grounding foods as you move into the cooler months.
Remember to shop around the outside perimeter of the grocery store, where all the fresh foods can be found. Minimize processed foods that are frozen, come in a box or a can; do your best to get all the colors of the rainbow in your diet each day.
Make it fun and involve the whole family when preparing your meals. Cooking together can be a lot of fun.
Plan and prep your snacks and meals for school or work in advance. Pack smaller containers with seeds, nuts, fresh-cut veggies, and fruits to keep you healthy when you’re on the go. Having healthy snack-size portions to munch on between meals will keep you satisfied and away from the vending machine or cookie jar. The key is to get creative and have fun, while keeping it healthy.
6. Get Daily Exercise or Movement
An active body is an important component to physical, emotional, and mental well-being. Try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise or movement every day. Do your best to make sure you're doing some form of cardio to get your circulation moving, strength-building exercises to develop strong bones and muscle, and stretching to loosen and lengthen your muscles. Whether you're hitting the hiking trails, taking a yoga class, cycling, or swimming, choose an activity that you enjoy. If it’s fun, you'll keep doing it!
*Remember to check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program, especially if you haven't exercised for a long time or have chronic health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, or arthritis.
7. Get Social
Research shows that individuals who lack social connections or report frequent feelings of loneliness tend to suffer higher rates of infection, depression, and cognitive decline, according to an article published in Journal of Health and Social Behavior.
Plan fun get-togethers with friends regularly. Whether it’s a weekend getaway, lunch, dinner, a social gathering with friends, or an event in your community, be sure to take time to stay connected with others and have fun. When we maintain a social connection with friends we tend to laugh more, have engaging conversations, and feel more supported through life's challenges.
8. Find an Activity for Shorter Days
Hobbies or activities that keep us mentally stimulated and bring us joy are a great way to pass the time indoors when the temperature falls and the days get shorter. Many people take on various creative projects such as expressive writing, arts and crafts, reading, and re-arranging interior spaces to keep them actively engaged during the fall and winter seasons when outdoor activities aren't as accessible.
You might find that this is a good time to explore taking an online course in an area that you want to learn more about. Coursera is a resource for free online courses offered by top universities and organizations worldwide. Here you can find more than 1,000 options for different topics to study at your own pace. Whatever you choose, find a class that inspires you to learn and keep growing, or one that brings you happiness, joy, and fulfillment.
9. Take Some Down Time
The Western world has trained us to be intently focused on the frenzy of doing, accomplishing, and acquiring. We spend the majority of our days outwardly focused. Unless we’re able to balance our lives with down time, we may find ourselves overloaded or exhausted. Many people think of down time as watching television, running errands, or scrolling through their social media feeds.
For Dr. Deepak Chopra, down time means doing no mental work and just letting the mind and brain simply be. Taking a hot bath, gazing at a fire in the hearth, meditating, or cozying up on the couch with a good book can be incredibly nourishing down-time activities. Down time allows you to rest and reboot, which should give you the focus and stamina to take on work or other challenges.
"The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration—it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done," essayist Tim Kreider wrote in The New York Times.
Transitioning gracefully from free-spirited, rule-breaking, and fun-loving summer back into fall routines can be fun, if that is your intention. A smooth transition to fall comes down to identifying how you want to spend your time and creating healthy new habits for the next six months. A small shift in perspective and a bit of self-discipline will help get you into a great new routine in no time at all.
Remember to design your routine with balance in mind and you’ll set yourself up for success as you transition into the fall season.