Keeping Your Mind on Island Time Throughout the Year

Khadeeja Yasser

Sadly, another unforgettable Fire Island summer season is ending. Summertime is synonymous with chilling out, kicking back, and calming down. The warmth, the sun, the sea, the beauty of nature, and the outdoor activities all conspire to make us slow down, sit back, and savor life.

Our schedules inevitably become more hectic as the days grow shorter and the temperature drops. Before long, we can find ourselves stressed out and longing for those lazy days of summer. Even if you do not suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that starts in autumn and stays till spring, you can find yourself experiencing a bad case of wintertime blues.

There are many reasons, including scientific ones, explaining why we tend to mellow out in the summer. The longer days provide more sunlight which triggers our brains to produce serotonin, the feel-good chemical that naturally lifts our spirits. Being outdoors and getting sun exposure helps our bodies make Vitamin D, an essential nutrient for our mental health. Additionally, throughout the summer, we tend to do more fun things like going to the beach, outdoor concerts, parties, and barbecues, and all these activities put us in a festive state of mind.

People tend to lighten up and be less productive during the summer. Perhaps this is a vestige from all our years of schooling, which conditioned us to believe that it was OK to take it easy during the dog days of summer; therefore, when the temperature soars, our subconscious mind prompts us to do less and enjoy more. Moreover, countless studies have demonstrated how increased temperatures negatively affect people’s prolificacy and output. Still, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know that a natural human response to sizzling temperatures is to surrender to the summer heat and chill out.

The trick to keeping an island-time mindset all year long is allowing yourself to go with the flow and hang loose no matter what the thermometer reads. One way to do this is by incorporating some Joy Therapy into your everyday life. Joy Therapy does not involve spending exorbitant amounts of money or engaging in harmful or self-destructive behaviors; rather, it implies doing simple, life-affirming activities.

Reading a book for the sheer pleasure of enjoying a worthwhile story is one type of Joy Therapy. If you make it a book set in a tropical paradise or one of the good summer beach reads you never got to, this will put you in a laid-back, carefree mood in record time.

Other examples of Joy Therapy are doing puzzles or crafts, working out, walking, watching a movie, taking a hot yoga class, listening to your favorite music, dancing, or joining a gym with a heated pool.

Remember, you can still get many of the beneficial effects of nature all year long by bundling up and going outdoors. By dressing warmly and basking in the sun, you can trick your mind into thinking you are still at your favorite summer happy place. Furthermore, the sunlight will reset your serotonin levels, lifting your mood. Scandinavians, who endure long, cold winters, have a saying, “There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.” In Norway, they espouse the spirit of  “friluftsliv,” a passion for outdoor “living in the free air” regardless of the season. If you are so inclined, delight in some winter sports like hiking, cross-country skiing, skating, skiing, sledding, ice fishing, or snowshoeing. In Finland, they revere their saunas as thermal therapy for winter-weary minds, bodies, and souls, a practice we might consider incorporating into our way of life.

When it comes down to it, what we enjoy most about summer is the playful, childlike, live-for-the-moment way we feel as we laze in the sun and romp on the beach. Summer always stirs up glorious childhood memories of how free and easy we felt when school let out and the pressure was off. By embracing Joy Therapy and building a few happy hours into your everyday life, you can maintain a bright and sunny outlook throughout the darkest days of winter.

Of course, if all else fails, escape to Margaritaville in your daydreams or seek asylum for real in some faraway tropical getaway where you can lie on the beach dreaming about the wonders of Fire Island and the joy that awaits you in the summer of 2024.