The summer season offers a different sense of time than the rest of the year. Are you a parent? Are you on vacation, or still working ? Do you live in the city? Or the countryside? Do you live with others or alone? Whatever your answers, summer is a great opportunity to ponder how you utilize your time. Throughout the year, we find ourselves caught up in major obligations and fleeting pleasures, alternating between stress and burnout. May we present you with some ideas to make this summer a temporal respite? A chance to reconsider how you use your time?
Taking care of your connection to yourself.
- Slow down.
Whether it’s the number of activities we cram into a day, or the pressure we put on others, the proposition is to break free from the habit that demands performance, especially in our relationships and leisure time. For instance, many of us have the need to plan the perfect vacation. Let go of perfection! Vacations are meant for rest, relaxation, and creating memories, not for stressing out. The goal is not to visit the maximum number of monuments in a day, or have the perfect balanced itinerary. Prioritize quality over quantity: do less, but do it better. We can evaluate the balance between perfectly organized vacations, which can lead to tension when unforeseen circumstances arise, or more chaotic vacations, where pleasure comes from the connections and time spent exploring. In doing so, we take care of ourselves and others!
- Reconnect with the living world.
Slowing down and reclaiming a slower pace also allows us to enjoy quiet moments such as walks. There’s no need to do everything all at once, like jogging with podcasts. We can simply enjoy the fresh air – although that can be enjoyable too! Try walking slowly, observing the landscape, and the beings you encounter: humans, animals, insects, flowers, and trees. Kindly reconnect with the living world. Cherish the beings close to you. Set aside time each day to simply enjoy the presence of a beloved pet, listen to birdsong or observe the dance of pollinating insects. This can become a cherished moment and a precious memory.
- Rest and cultivate joy.
Take time for yourself! Try to reduce the requirement of performance that we impose on ourselves. Joy is an indicator that we are engaging in an activity that has meaning. If you are joyful, you are not wasting your time, even if your inner critic says you are not doing something meaningful.
Nourishing connections with loved ones.
- Reconnect with our values.
This summer, you can question what is essential and fundamental in your life, and notice how you dedicate your time. If there is a misalignment, perhaps it’s time to readjust. To do that you can make a list of your values. We suggest listing your values now and using this as an essential guide for your decisions this summer. If it nourishes you, consider letting this list guide you in the future as well. According to François Bourgognon, values are “what is beautiful, good, and just.” They give meaning to our lives.
Values are the thoughts and actions that touch us deeply, and taking action aligned with our values gives purpose to our day. It’s not about pleasure and pleasant sensations, but about profound meaning. For example, family, justice, honesty, friendship, sharing, discovery, learning, and kindness are values. There are infinite possibilities. Another way to identify our values is by exploring our anger. Anger often arises when one of our values is violated. For daily use, we might list around ten values that correspond to what is paramount for us and gives us a sense of purpose..
Next to each value, we can include actions to take. Sometimes one action can nourish multiple values at the same time.. For example:
- Kindness: taking care of others, doing errands for grandmother.
- Family: calling a distant cousin, organizing a dinner.
- Discovery: visiting a museum.
When we list our values, it becomes our guide to prioritizing actions that give our existence meaning. This may involve letting go of perfection in old tasks in favor of spending quality time with what we value. Aligning our values with our schedule allows for a more coherent life. Of course, constraints may make it challenging to alter our current obligations and we don’t seek to create guilt. We simply suggest consciously deciding how to spend your time by defining the sacrifices you are willing to make.
- Being present with those around you.
On occasional evenings this summer, we suggest setting aside screens in order to spend quality time with loved ones: children, parents, friends, roommates. Watch the stars, engage in small talk, or deep conversations, do a craft activity, play a board game—the aim is to overcome our addiction and become comfortable with the initial sense of emptiness that comes with refusing to check for notifications. For a few hours be fully present in your body, feel the presence of people in the room, notice how they make you feel, and how the atmosphere changes with different conversations and activities. You can also become present to people who are farther away from you. Call friends whom you haven’t spoken to in a while; send a letter; check on elderly relatives.
- Take a step towards others.
The most basic way to connect with someone is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the greatest gift we can give each other is our attention. A loving silence often has far more power to heal and connect than the most well-intentioned words.Rachel Naomi Remen
This decision to be more present for others applies not only to those in our immediate circle, but also to those who are no longer part of it. We can connect with old friends, cousins, uncles, aunts, friends of our parents. Reestablishing contact may seem daunting and uncomfortable, with awkward silences and uncertainty. However, if we can simply accept these feelings, we can create and recreate valuable connections. We may extend a hand to someone who needs company, or a simple conversation. We’re not suggesting rekindling toxic relationships from which you have distanced yourself, but rather overcoming the awkwardness that lingers in strained relationships. This awkwardness is usually shared, and is used to justify the estrangement by both sides. Beyond that first moment of awkwardness, the renewed contact can be infused with the joy of reunion.
Building connections in society.
- Cultivating a sense of community and sharing.
While in rural areas, we often know our neighbors. This is not always the case in cities. A neighborhood party might give us an opportunity to connect with the people who live around us. We suggest cultivating a sense of community by reaching out to neighbors you don’t know, taking the time to chat at the bakery or in a stairwell. We can even relearn how to share our resources, when possible: inviting neighbors to enjoy our shaded balcony or terrace, or simply savoring a meal or an aperitif together.
In these times of newly intense heat that we are experiencing, we can create chains of solidarity and kindness within our geographic community. We can offer to do grocery shopping for elderly people living around us, or simply drop by from time to time to check on them to make sure they have everything they need. Sometimes, a conversation is all someone needs. We can simply remember our valued priorities and create the time to offer connection.
This solidarity extends to everyone around us. For example, homeless people suffer greatly from the heat. We can take a few minutes to engage in a simple conversation: “How are you today?” To start a conversation, we can introduce ourselves and ask for their name. Then, we can offer what the person might need, such as water or food, taking into account their dietary preferences and restrictions— the goal is to be helpful and not make assumptions about their needs and preferences.
- Developing our altruistic behaviors.
As explained by Matthieu Ricard, altruism is the best way to act for the environment. After all, why change our behavior, if we only do it for personal gain? It’s clear that the crisis of the Earth system already has consequences for each of us, making ecological practices imperative for everyone. But if we practice this change solely for personal interest, we miss out on a fundamental dimension of ecology, which involves caring for oneself, others, and the entire ecosystem.
Solidarity is essential. For example, we can avoid unnecessary water consumption without waiting for legal restrictions. Gardens are a good way to practice altruistic gestures. If we mow only once this year we will allow life to take its course. Insects will be able to live their lives fully as pollinators, recyclers, and soil aerators, promoting food chains and providing abundant food for the birds. We can also find ways not to take the lives of beings we consider less valuable than our comfort. For instance, we can prevent mosquito bites without using lethal traps, or repel flies without electrifying them.
- Reassessing the cost of convenience.
We can also question the value we place on our convenience, which we habitually prioritize over the collective interests and ecological sanity. Slowing down allows us to savor the journey and give ourselves the time to choose low-carbon transportation options. Are we so rushed that we can’t take the train, instead of the car or plane for vacations? And if our reason is the short vacation and the distance to our destination, can we question the necessity and significance of traveling so far for such a short time? We can ask ourselves: why? This is called “voluntary simplicity“.
This also applies to those who don’t go on vacation. Slowing down and using public transportation to commute to work. We become constrained by schedules that we no longer choose, but it also creates pockets of time that we wouldn’t have otherwise. If you don’t take the bus, who will give you those 15 minutes just for yourself while you wait? Who will let you gaze at the scenery for half an hour, allowing your thoughts to wander? Moments of “lost” time may become a rediscovered blessing this summer.
The same question applies to balancing convenience vs. caring for the environment. This summer you might try not to use disposable tableware, even during vacations or picnics in parks. It takes effort. You may be bringing back a bag as heavy as when you left. It will be filled with dirty dishes, which must be washed when you return. It’s less convenient than plastic or even cardboard tableware (which gives us a sense of environmental consciousness), but is the effort so great compared to the environmental cost? Your temporary plastic convenience will become waste in the landfill, the oceans, or even sent by ship to other countries for burial or incineration. It starts with ourselves.
- Opening ourselves to the world.
The slowdown we propose for this summer frees up our time, which can be better used to align with our values. For example, we invite you to dedicate time in your week to open yourself to the world, to learn about inspiring actions or topics that may invite your engagement. We offer you a few resources to explore and savor. Perhaps certain analyses will surprise you, unsettle you, or even evoke strong disagreement. Maybe you will discover a perspective you weren’t aware of. Maybe some aspects of your daily life, or what you hear around you will take on new meaning. The key is to be open with a willingness to actively listen or read, welcome different visions of a shared world, and step out of your personal point of view. None of us can grasp all the complexities and nuances of social realities. Give yourself time and space to open to new realities.
- Doughnut – Kate Raworth
- Less is more – Jason Hickel
- All about love – bell hooks
- A plea for the animals – Matthieu Ricard
- From scratch- Attica Locke, based on novel From scratch : a memoir of Love, Sicily and finding home – Tembi Locke
- Heartstopper – Alice Oseman, based on her graphic novel
- Grace and Frankie – Martha Kauffman and Howard J. Morris
- Normal people – Lennie Abrahamson and Hettie MacDonald
- Atypical – Robia Rashid
- Bigger than Us – Flore Vasseur
- Breaking boundaries : the science of our planet – David Attenborough et Johan Rockström
- My octopus teacher – Pippa Ehrlich et James Reed
- Un monde nouveau – Vittorio De Sica