Will You Make This Summer Your Best Summer Yet?

Summer FunI’m not sure exactly why January gets all the hoopla here. When it comes to change, it seems like winter (all right, not here in Southern California) might be the most difficult time of year for some people to take on serious change. Sure, after the excess of the holiday season people are feeling penitent. They’re also perhaps ready to accept some quiet, “inward” time after the social overkill of the previous weeks. And, of course, it’s cultural sentiment to look back fondly on the year, clink the glasses at midnight and envision a beautiful, better year ahead – a vision that holds our collective attention for about a week. Well-intentioned as it is, New Year’s motivation is too often a flash in the pan. Maybe little wonder. The winter weeks that follow – truly brutal in some areas of the country – can be as inspiring as scraping your windshield. While I’m all for making change whenever (Isn’t it always a good idea, regardless of the calendar?), I wonder if there isn’t something backwards about this typical scenario. Personally, I get to June and sense that a certain energy and rare enthusiasm are accessible again (not to mention the inviting weather, longer days and fresh markets). You can literally see it in people. Who doesn’t know what I mean here (those of you with standard seasons at least)? Doesn’t this seem like the perfect time to imagine something new and ambitious for yourself? Part challenge, part resolution, part bucket list, part self-experiment? Humor me on this path for a bit….

When I lived in Maine decades ago, I always had the sense that the world woke up about now (blackflies aside). You saw your neighbors again (sans parka and shovel). Face it: you saw your own skin again. Literal and metaphorical layers were exuberantly shed. Community calendars were filled to the brim, competing for the limited supply of summer weekends. It’s an interesting mentality, especially for Northerners – something like carpe diem on steroids. I was thinking about the concept this week. How do we harness the energy (and opportunity) of the summer while resisting its more manic pressures?

Personally, I like to use summers to develop something new in my Primal life. It’s not about applying hard core discipline to reach a new level of strictness. In fact, it’s usually about loosening up. By choice and circumstance, I open to new possibilities I hadn’t considered before. Slowing down helps that, and for me summer is for slowing down more than ramping up. I dare say if you went back in the archives here you’d find that a lot of new dimensions to the Primal Blueprint made their first appearances in the summer months. Certainly, The Primal Connection came out of a couple summers’ worth of exploration.

So, here’s my thought….

What would it take to make this summer somehow the best ever – a new pinnacle for you? Seriously. A more fulfilling time, an experience that initiates a new chapter, a welcome if unexpected change? Sure, it smacks of that old Seinfeld theme, “the summer of George.” We laugh at the concept, but maybe in the back of our minds we’re kind of wondering, “why not?” Put aside any skepticism or any thought that this summer is already accounted for with work and family plans. Just brush that to the margins and hold the idea for a moment. What would it take?

I’m not talking really about a bucket list, which too easily becomes an inventory of “achievements” in the same way people talk about “doing” Paris or “bagging” Hong Kong. For a moment, take a step back from the generativity mindset that drives this strange bus of a culture we live in, and get in your Grok mind. What would leave your Primal self fully sated come Labor Day? What would make you feel meaningfully expanded and content in ways exceeding your summers in the past?

Beyond the realm of acquisition or (most kinds of) achievement, there’s unfiltered experience and undistracted connection – rarities in the modern world. Even experts stress that experiences are what offer us lasting joy, that memories are the “durable goods” of a life well lived. Will a boilerplate summer routine offer you much of that?

In true Primal fashion, I’m not suggesting living well means living large or that we need to upend every welcome custom of summer. Think back to your own positive memories of childhood summers. What comes to mind? A lot of it might seem mundane in adult retrospect, but what’s likely underlying it is a sense of natural ease, of unbridled freedom, of subtle ritual, of sensory keenness, of unfettered connection. Funny, these are exactly the layers of experience we lose touch with as adults, as we expend our energy attempting to manage our (or our kids’) experiences, record every meaningful moment on our phones (or encapsulate it for a Facebook status). Maybe we’re so tired, overworked or distracted, we seldom even get that far. Sometimes people work a whole summer waiting for a big vacation that barely registers past the ride home.

A bucket list can work the same – this restaurant, that park, this outdoor festival. We check off the experience but maybe don’t take much away from it. What if, instead of acting on our list like a collection of do-to items (however positive), we prioritized our own lens and let the places we go and things we do act on us? Have a list of what intrigues you, but go and do with the thought of coming away changed. Seek out what touches and transforms you on a personal, however simple or subtle level, and what makes the list just might change.

If you’ve been doing the diet and absorbing the fitness suggestions up until this point, resolve to jump in with both feet this season. Challenge yourself to appropriate it as a way of interacting with life and not just as an alternative meal plan. Use the concept of “Grok mind,” “Primal lens,” or whatever makes sense. Push your own envelope with self-experimentation – daily. Embrace the dirt, the wild, the reflection, the exertion, the quiet, the attentiveness. Master the art of doing nothing, live outside every possible moment (cajole your way to working from home?), seek out 15 minutes of pure silence (in your own head) every day, catalog the birds you see every month, go barefoot and look for sensory opportunities for your feet, lose any inhibition about baring your body (within legal limits) no matter what your size, grow something, spend an entire afternoon observing natural or manmade minutiae, get in the water, watch a dog in the water, let go of a grudge, sleep on the ground, people watch at the lake, do a weekly bonfire, cook something you catch, put your furniture outside, burn a message you have about yourself, watch the clouds at 2 o’clock on a Wednesday, build a fort, sit outside at night and listen to the bugs, get up for the sunrise and walk barefoot on the morning dew, create or record something that captures the thoughts you have when you break the routine this way.

What does this bring up for you? What ideas or interests come to mind? What could be different or uniquely Primal about this summer for you? Offer up your thoughts, and thanks for “journeying” with me today. Can we say it yet? Happy Summer, everyone.

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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52 thoughts on “Will You Make This Summer Your Best Summer Yet?”

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  1. Primal Lens – sounds like “The Lensman Series” by EE Doc Smith 🙂

  2. I’m with you in that the treasures of life are memories not ‘things’. This summer I want to take my kids on hikes. They’re old enough now, and the baby can go in a Bob quite easily. I want to do easy, flat hikes. Let the kids mosey as kids like to do.

    Slow hikes with good food are about as Grok as it gets.

  3. I love sitting in my backyard looking at the Milky Way…dreaming!

    1. I remember eating milky ways in my back yard…
      My adventure this summer though is going to Primalcon New York!

  4. Wow, I love these ideas so far, I think I’ll take a trip to the art store and stock up on some paints for me and the kiddos to paint outside in the patio and let everyone paint what they observe in our in own backyard. Oh and of course we’ll be barefoot. Toe painting anyone?

  5. I spent my childhood summers camping and seem to have done less and less as the years go by and I so miss it. You’re right, it’s not the big events I remember it’s standing in the middle of a treed campground. Dragging our damp airmattresses back through dusty paths. The sound of a good crackling fire. Even the smell of our old camp trailer. Sigh. Also, really need to organize a massive game of Red Rover!

  6. I think this summer I might have the courage to go to the Greek dance lessons at the Greek festival, and if I actually learn how to dance, instead of watching the dancing I will do some dancing. I do NOT dance, never ever ever, so this might be a big deal. We’ll see what happens.

  7. If I both survive with minimal trauma and derive tangible benefit from my sinus surgery this Summer I will have had a real “kick ass” Summer 🙂

  8. Yes! When I was obese every New Years Resolution centered around “finally being able to enjoy the Florida summer” and not fell self-conscious in a bathing suit. Years rolled by and I never hit that resolution. Finally, I lost the 50 pounds and have been able to make every summer my best!

  9. I’m off to Middlebury Vermont to study languages. Any PB users with experience of the program? I’m going to get my grok on in the mountains while absorbing another language.

  10. This spoke to me big time. For me, summer brings to mind running through the sprinklers, splashing through the gutters during a downpour, and spending hours at the pool. Apparently I need to find myself some water to play in this summer!

    Thanks for the great words Mark!

  11. Summer is for water sports and walking barefoot. As I child I would: body surf, surf, waterski, fish, spear fish, dig clams, catch crabs, have clambakes on the beach, go sailing. take inner tubes down rivers, jump from heights into deep water, eat sea pickle and sleep in a sandy bed. A sandy bed never bugged me as a child why should it now. I will get wet and sandy often this summer. You have inspired a goal to catch/spear, fillet, cook and eat dinner on the beach at least once before the next equinox.

    1. Ha, a sandy bed always bothered me as a child! But, those barefoot days at the beach were the best. Campfires and forts and catching tadpoles, oh joy. This summer I am going to spend less time online, more time appreciating my kids. We still have ten at home, but they grow up so fast! We have already been swimming in the pool, had a few campfires, and put the climbing rope in the tree. We went to the park and spent all the live long day at the playground and riding scooters and bikes. This summer for me: lots of fresh air and sunshine and even walks in the rain, and: no sugar. No cookies or bread or hamburger buns:) I want to feel good!

  12. I’m going to adopt the second oldest woman in the world method for a peak summer: I’m leaving it all (including this method) in God’s hands, it’s up to Him. Since I don’t really believe in God, I will drop even that.

  13. I think the best summer of life is probably left back somewhere in my childhood years, but this summer is definitely shaping up to be one of the better one’s I’ve had in a while. I’ve finally been able to feel happy again after going through being separated and divorced the last two years. I feel healthier than I have in 10 years. I’ve really been enjoying doing group fitness workouts a couple times a week. I’ve been loving cooking and making healthy, real food. And I have new boyfriend who is four years younger than me thinks I’m beautiful. It doesn’t hurt that I have been having tons of the most amazing sex of my life. Hopefully I’ll make it to the beach a few times being that I live in Florida.

  14. What a great post. Lots to chew on there…
    My family and I moved to Colorado at the end of last summer, and things were very hectic as we settled into our new place. But now that the move-in maelstrom has died down & as the days are growing warmer and longer, I look daily to the mountains and dream of hiking–the physical exertion, the delicious mountain air, the food cooked and enjoyed outside, the vast sky at night filled with stars. I believe in the restorative and life-affirming nature of summer, and your post has bolstered those notions. Time to start researching some trails and planning some trips! Thanks for all you offer–keep it coming!

  15. Sailing. This summer I will learn to harness the wind, like the vikings in loincloth… but with a jib.

  16. About four weeks ago I cut back on my workouts and moved them to lunch time. Since then, instead of racing around in the evenings, I’ve been reading in my hammock, going for walks, working in the garden, trying new paleo recipes and getting more sleep. I feel like I’m on vacation every evening! I don’t know why it took me so long to make this change but it’s amazing. I thought having a good diet and plenty of exercise was enough, but this enjoying life business is where it’s at.

  17. This so resonates with me! After 4 years of undergraduate study, years which were fulfilling but extremely busy, I feel like its time to “live a little” -slow down, make time to enjoy things…
    And, try eating paleo for the first time 🙂 I’m a boxer and haven’t wanted to try and make the full transition whilst competition season was on. But now its time. Just a question, do the more seasoned here think its a good idea to do a full on “whole30”? Or could I just eat paleo including some treats andwine and chocolate? I do want to try if paleo can be a solution to IBS and excema BUT i’m also sick of restricting my food after years of weight making in my sport… Any thoughts? 🙂

    1. I’m a whole30 dropout. It made me crazy. I became an obsessive idiot, ranting and raving when life got in the way of Whole30. If you’re trying to live a little and slow down, let Mark’s guidelines lead you there. Whole30 will always be there if you want to try it later on.

      1. Is my comment awaiting moderation because I used the word “id–t”? I meant it toward myself. Let’s try again.

        I’m a whole30 dropout. It made me crazy. I became a obsessive, ranting and raving when life got in the way of Whole30. If you’re trying to live a little and slow down, let Mark’s guidelines lead you there. Whole30 will always be there if you want to try it later on.

    2. If you’re looking for answers/solutions to IBS and excema, I would recommend doing the Whole30. If you’re a cold-turkey type this should work well for you, and will help you get to the root of your symptoms. Remember it’s just 30 days (at least that’s what I kept reminding myself during my Whole30), and then you can slowly incorporate the things you miss to see how they affect you.

      Best of luck!

    3. If you want a slow result but an easy transition you can start removing and replacing things. I would suggest removing all processed foods along with grains. If you have to keep something in the grain department a lot of people use rice products to fill in the hole left. Little steps can work, as you feel better you can keep tweeking the food as you learn what your body seems to thrive on. Plus, if you have a family you can transition the whole menu with only little changes here and there, who’s gonna know that you cook with coconut oil instead of junk oil? All those crackers and beans were rancid anyway right? And who doesn’t like steamed broccoli slathered in real grass fed butter? 😛
      Whatever will work for you, jump in totally or just a toe, then a foot and then a leg until you are ready for the full plunge.

    4. Paleo isn’t supposed to be a bad experience, but it can be pretty daunting if you try to do it all at once. Eliminating wheat should be the first item on your agenda since that is often the culprit in IBS, skin problems, and various other allergies. Try it for a couple of months. If results aren’t satisfactory, try adding dairy products to your elimination list. Keep in mind that going Paleo doesn’t need to happen overnight. Take your time with it and allow your body to adjust between stages.

      Actually, just the elimination of wheat alone is about 85 percent of the battle since it automatically eliminates many other problem foods as well, such as dairy and sugar. Rather than shop for substitute foods, try filling the “gaps” in your diet with whole fresh fruit or crunchy raw veggies.

    5. If you start your Whole30 right now, you have most of July and August left to enjoy the summer a bit more loosely! As Stacie also said: it’s only 30 days. You are still used to it now, but you may not want to go back to restriction later. I would recommend a Whole30!

  18. I think working backward from the goal is the way I will do this. How do I want to feel Labor Day, as you suggest. What will it take to feel that way? What experiences, habits, actions will support that goal? Where will my head be when I’m doing things? Will it be on “accomplishing” or “bagging” it? Or will it be “Wow, when I do X I feel this way and that’s a good/bad way to feel.

    Too deep for words, I know.

  19. Yes, finally, SUNSHINE! This last weekend, while I was barefoot in the yard, hanging laundry on the line after planting beautiful flowers in the yard, I noticed the birds chattering…it sounded so beautiful…I felt happy to be able to see and hear.

    I’ve always hated New Years…never understood why we celebrate one year becoming the next when we should celebrate one day becoming the next.

  20. To all you wonderful people on the other side of the world, do have a wonderful, inspiring and relaxing summer.
    Here (Tasmania Australia) right now there is a light frost outside. I am sitting near the wood fire which is crackling away watching the beautiful orange glow in the sky before the sun will rise in about half an hour.
    A cool but fine day is forecast for today like yesterday where my favourite moment was in the afternoon when I was doing fence repairs to try and keep the wallabies and kangaroos out of my flower plantation. I live way up in the hills and it is very quiet with only bird and nature sounds.
    But I was treated to the sight of a huge flock of Yellow Tailed Black Cockatoos descending on the nearby pine trees where they kept me company with their antics, nattering and screeching. Bliss pure bliss. (Google them they are amazingly beautiful parrots).
    Everyone enjoy the feel of sands through your toes whilst I put on another pair of socks.

    1. The yellow tailed black cockatoos have just returned to the paddocks where I keep my horse after disappearing during fires a couple of years ago. Riding through the bush as evening approaches and the cold air of the night comes down, the cockies are raucous and wheel, arch and screech overhead; so glad to be alive and live where I can ‘touch’ the bush, or more accurately where the bush touches me. The cockies have such a commitment to having fun. They make me laugh outloud. I don’t believe in reincarnation, but if I did I would want to come back as sulphur crested cockatoo. Happy summer to everyone on the other side of the world from the joys of winter in Canberra, Australia. Don’t think I’ll be doing anything barefoot outside for a few months though…

  21. Catalog the birds you see! Done and done! Currently, I’m looking for a big-breasted bed thrasher. I’ll keep the MDA community posted when I find one

      1. No thanks! You can stay old and grumpy, but I won’t be growing up any time soon. Perhaps finding a big-breasted bed thrasher would alleviate your grumpiness. Best of luck to you, grumpy-pants Mark S

  22. as someone who lives in new england i couldn’t agree more with the sentiment of this post. every spring brings new life to the world and it always fills me with energy and the desire to do better in my life and make the most of this incredible period of time before we reenter the desolation that is winter. it sounds extreme but the winters up here take their toll and because of this i find myself enjoying the summer days that much more.

  23. amazing amazing amazing stuff in this post!
    “Master the art of doing nothing…” ahhhhhh

  24. Just wanted to say…

    I’ve been primal for 3 weeks now. I went primal because a lifestyle change meant that I needed a lot more energy than I had. I’d given up on weight loss, so just wanted to feel fit and healthy again. After 3 weeks, I’ve lost (without any effort AT ALL) 4 kg and feel amazing! People have commented that I look 10 years younger too.

    Thanks Mark!

  25. Today begins the year of playing hard. This week I’ll be hiking with llamas, attending a steampunk carnivale, taking a dance lesson, chalk art, weed pulling, and bike riding.

  26. I get up before sunrise and drink a cup of coffee. I put on thin sole shoes and bring my rifle. I stalk through the woods and across the fields. I move slowly, with full attention to the now. I travel at sometimes as slow as half a mile per hour in varied terrain, I feel the scents in the air, the texture of the ground and the warmth of the sun (or perhaps the cool of the late summer rain). I listen to the life around me. If the goddess diana is with me I will sit down with my prey and share a moment of respect. Then the work begins, field dressing, carrying home, skinning and all the rest of it. I’m done in the mid morning and I find a cool place in the shade and have a nap… The day has just begun, but already, it’s complete.

  27. Really want to embrace these ideas this summer, especially now that my kids are at the age of “memories”. Getting them into the outdoors will be a priority for the next few years. I don’t naturally think this way so it’s good for me to get other people’s ideas.

  28. I accidentally started doing just this, on June 1st, even! I’ve been walking every morning at sunrise with my dog (and sometimes with my husband as well), going to bed early, cooking a TON of really amazing food, and I gave up my evening wine for the time being, as well. This summer pace is the best!

    I can’t go barefoot here (southern NM is covered in plants that want to stab you to death and everything sheds stickers/thorns) but I go minimal allll the time.

    I totally agree, something about summer is so much better for transforming experiences than New Years will ever be!

  29. I’m a homeschooling mom and we emptied our schedule for the summer so we can spend every day just playing. So far this has looked like 10-14 hours outside a day, playing in the backyard and neighborhood, inviting friends over to share meals (and play), and working in the garden. I LOVE this time of year. Eventually, we’ll get our kids to a river to canoe, but for now, we’re loving the relaxed nature of no obligations and lovely weather.

  30. You’re absolutely right Mark. There is something magical about summertime. Thank you for this post : D

  31. I’ve just read this post parked in a motorway service station in our motorhome. We’ve just spent the last couple of weeks travelling back up to northern Scotland where we live having driven south some three weeks before for my son’s wedding in East Anglia.

    On our slow drive home we’ve stopped off at various nature reserves to watch, and list, the birds we see. Of all the places we’ve visited on the journey this activity has given us most pleasure. Just sitting quietly in bird hides with camera, binoculars and a bird book and working out what we have spotted.

    We must have seen more than 30 new species (new to us seeing them live and in the flesh so to speak). Everywhere is burgeoning with growth and new life in the wild world this June.

    It has certainly given me pause for re-evaluating.

  32. I live in Michigan and holy moly was it a brutal winter. I agree with you Mark…June seems like my January 1st. I feel like I just existed through the winter and now I am ready to start living again! I have joined a walking challenge for the month of June to walk 100 miles. So far I am right on track! I’m looking for new things to do outside such as trying Frisbee Golf and basically trying to spend more time outside finding new things to enjoy instead of staying cooped up in the house doing laundry and housework…I have all winter to do that! Your article was spot on! Happy New Year everyone!

  33. I recently happened upon MDA and feel very fortunate that it is summertime. It seems the perfect time to commence a primal way of life. I have three young ones at home and have truly enjoyed letting go of a strict workout schedule which always just stressed me out because I could never really do it. My boys love to play so we play. And eating this way is good for the entire family. I have so much more energy and rarely feel hungry. I am so happy to finally let go of grains!

  34. I love this post, almost as much as I love summer! I know what would make this the best summer ever — the pinnacle for me — and that’s to make a bunch of new Primal friends. I want to start a Primal group in Topanga, CA, for everyone interested in the Paleo/Ancestral Health/Primal way of life, but I’m a bit technologically challenged and got stuck on the meetup site, hesitant to pay for a service that no one may find or read, not on FB, etc. But this site has readers galore! So if anyone sees this who lives in Topanga, or near Topanga, or simply wants to visit Topanga, we have a new slack line going in and I’m ready to cook! And dance. And hike in the State Park with likeminded folks — of all ages. If you’re interested, drop me a reply with an e-mail address and I’ll gather us up! Thank you, Mark, for ALL you do!