Written by Julie Hassler, LPC
Yes, it’s that time of year again in Austin, Texas. The time where it feels too hot outside to live, much less even breathe. The time when traffic seems so much worse while sitting one red light after another, always behind someone who is driving too slow or, at least, must have a more powerful air conditioner in their car than I do. The time where there are fewer people outside enjoying our city, including myself.
For most of the year, I enjoy the outdoors. I enjoy hiking, biking and anything else that is outdoors. But during this time of the summer, the heat takes its toll on me. Instead of heading to one of my favorite hiking trails, I’m just trying to get from one air-conditioned place to another. I am not noticing what I see, hear and smell. All I can do is feel – and all I feel is the heat. This can be overwhelming for me and generally puts me in a bad mood. I notice quickly that I’m more short-tempered and irritable. I realize that for me, the heat feels very oppressive and just slows me down. In the past, during the month of August, I simply hibernated indoors and just waited out the heat till that first Fall cold front comes in. I made no outdoor plans during daytime hours and spent my time losing myself in front of the tv or computer. I was on auto-pilot spending away many a hot hour lost in some distraction. I then began to realize that while I was staying cool, I wasn’t living mindfully. I began to make a point to put down the computer or turn off the tv, and just be. I didn’t need distractions to change my bad mood. If I felt irritable, I turned my attention to it. I spent time with it. I opened myself up to it. As well as looking inward, I looked outward at my surroundings. I realized that this time that had previously seemed so stifling due to heat, had given me the opportunity to see what I had been missing out on. I began spending more time with loved ones, reconnecting with friends, reading a new book and enjoying time by myself. I began to be more grateful for this time to “catch up” with things that I have been putting off. Living mindfully, in appreciation of my life in the present moment, is not an easy task. So, I began to make an appreciation journal of five things I was grateful to have in my life each day. This list started out with the basics: roof over my head, people I love in my life, job, etc. But, I have challenged myself to continue to add five new things each day. The lists have become more interesting and diverse. It has definitely begun to stretch my perception of what all there is to be appreciative of. Of course, the summer heat has never been on my list, but that first Fall breeze definitely will be. Until then, I look forward to finding new ways to appreciate what each day has to offer. So instead of moving away from the blistering heat, I move toward the things that nourish me. I challenge you to try it as well, and see what new things you come up with.