Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Relax and rejuvenate – even during the dog days of summer

As I lounge around my house, sweating profusely, it’s a bit hard for me to think of reasons to love summer.

Yes, I’m one of those people who relish cold weather. I have always preferred cool weather; even as a child I remember sitting by the hassock fan in our tiny living room in Brooklyn, New York, trying to find ways to keep cool.

My sister, an old-fashioned sun worshipper, would tan to a deep brown while constantly playing outside. Refusing to join her until the afternoons cooled down, I would become a slightly darker shade of winter.

Summer can be very long for someone like me, so I make sure to clear my head from the heat and focus on finding ways to enjoy the season.

The heat of summer is a reminder for me to take the time to slow down and center on myself and my wellbeing. I stow away anything extra in the house that needs to be cleaned or dusted. I get dirty in the garden only after the sun has sunk below the trees. I grab a cool drink, a good book and relax in the shade. To escape the stuffy house I pack up some light snacks, go to the beach and enjoy dinner on the breezy seaside.

As you find your own ways to stay cool this summer, practice some easy meditation techniques to focus on your mental health as well. Before you open your book, close your eyes, breath deeply and fully, and bring yourself to a time when you felt a great peace. It can be a time when you were a child, on a great vacation, or even a place in your imagination.

Russian scientist Ian Pavlov, most famous for his research on salivating dogs, was once very ill with a fever at a time prior to the availability of antibiotics. To have some relief from the fever, he made a strange request: a bucket of mud.

He placed his hands deep in the bucket, and recalled in detail his favorite childhood memory. Pavlov imagined himself playing in the mud by the river, listening to his mother tell him stories as she washed the clothes.

This meditation brought him a feeling of deep peace and his fever broke soon after. Deep relaxation tumbles into peace, which can then boost the immune system.

This summer, as the mercury climbs, I will take time to put my hands in the mud. If you can remember to find something that brings you joy and peace, you can create a happy and healthy lifestyle in any circumstance. Forget about the endless “to do” list this summer. Take time for relaxation and rejuvenation. Remember this as a prescription for wellness.

Paula Novak, a registered nurse and certified Healing Touch practitioner, is the Clinical Coordinator for Healing Touch and Integrative Care at William. W. Backus Hospital. This column should not replace advice or instruction from your personal physician. E-mail Ms. Novak and all of the Healthy Living columnists at healthyliving@wwbh.org, or comment on their blog at www.healthydocs.blogspot.com.

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