Vibrant Living: A Fresh Start In Late Summer

The bestselling author of Glow and Vibrant, Dr. Stacie Stephenson finds a sweet spot in the summer-fall transition for reevaluating, reestablishing and recommitting to better health and wellness habits.
Connecting with people who make you feel good positively impacts mental and physical health. Photo: Bob & Dawn Davis

While I love a warm year-round climate, especially in the chilly season, I like to head to a more four-seasons part of the country as soon as I detect those first few whispers of fall in the air. When the afternoon light turns that unique color of fall gold, when the edges of the leaves start to blush, when I go out for a morning walk and discover I might actually need a jacket, that’s when I start to get really inspired. My creativity fired up, I start getting new ideas about how to improve things and new projects I want to take on, but most of all, I start thinking about a health reboot.

People often think of “getting healthy” at the end of the year after a decadent holiday season, but why wait for December 31 to turn things around? Wouldn’t you rather feel great through the holidays, rather than repentant? That’s why I use the summer-fall transition as a time to recommit to good habits and reestablish a health routine that often falls to the wayside during the lazy and unstructured days of summer. I also reevaluate what I need now, because health is dynamic and the habits of 2019 you—for example—might not necessarily be relevant for 2023 you.

So how do you reevaluate, reestablish, and recommit? Here is your personal guide to the three R’s of the summer-fall transition.


If you aren’t feeling quite as strong, mobile, energetic or vibrant as you used to feel even a few years ago, maybe some things need to change. Have you strayed from some of your good habits? Could you stand to bring new habits on board? As summer fades, consider what you would like to do for yourself between now and 2024. Take a good look in the mirror and ask, “What do I need?” Is it better sleep? An improved diet? Do you need to get moving, to reconnect with friends, or do something about your chronic stress state? Most people abandon good health habits in the summer, in a couple of consistent categories. Think about which of these areas could use some improvement:


Long, sunny days and a late sundown tend to keep people up later, and an early sunrise wakes us  earlier as well. The result is that many people don’t get enough sleep during the summer. Maybe you’re too busy having fun to get a good eight hours. It’s important to enjoy your summer days, but not at the expense of sleep. A majority of people in the U.S. are sleep-deprived, and that has some serious health consequences, like a higher risk of heart and kidney disease, and higher rates of diabetes, obesity and depression. Even one night of insufficient sleep can impact your mood, dissolve your good intentions when making food choices, wreck your exercise plans and make you more irritable. Stack those sleepless nights up for weeks on end, and you’ve got a recipe for chronic disease. Have you been getting enough sleep?


With all the cookouts, beach days, drive-thrus and road food, it’s easy to let your good dietary habits slip during the summer. But you know that food matters. How you eat has a major influence on how you feel, how you age and how healthy you are. Junk food and processed food have been linked, time and again, with inflammation, obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other health issues. Diets rich in vegetables, fruit, seafood and whole foods (like the Mediterranean diet) are associated with lower rates of all these diseases, as well as a longer life and a better mood. If you change just one thing in your life, I suggest starting with your diet. Have you been eating well?


Many of us kick off spring with a lot more outdoor time, but when the temperature rises, it can feel a lot better to stay indoors. Or, maybe you’re loving being a beach bum, but you mostly relax with a book. There are plenty of ways to get active in the summer without overheating. Try swimming, biking, walking or hiking in the morning or evening when it’s cooler, joining a gym, taking a yoga class, or working out at home in the AC. If I could pick one single intervention to improve mood and keep you looking and feeling younger, it would be adding more movement into your life. Have you been getting enough exercise?


Isn’t summer supposed to be stress-free? Maybe not, if you’ve got kids home full-time and you’re still trying to work, and everybody needs something or has somewhere to go. Trying to coordinate child care, summer activities and family vacations with work can be even more stressful than when kids are in school. Vacations can also be stressful, especially when they are jam-packed with activities. Even the simple lack of a routine can feel stressful for some people, because it feels so disorganized. Have you been feeling stressed-out?


When was the last time you really spent quality time with your partner or your friends?  Studies have linked supportive social connections with better health, and loneliness with poorer health. Have you been connecting with the people who make you feel good about yourself and your life?

You have the power to change your life when you want to. Photo: Bob & Dawn Davis


Now that you have an idea of what you might want to work on, it’s time to make an action plan. How will you reestablish (or just plain establish) some habits that can get you to where you want to be? I find that making small changes is the most effective. Write a list of some of the habits you want to ditch (like the drive-thru, the daily glass or two of wine, or the nightly TV session). Make another list of the habits you’d like to adopt. Keep it simple. Doing just one small new thing per day is most likely to lead to success, rather than trying to change everything at once. If you can substitute a good habit for a bad one, even better. It’s easier to give up a bad habit if you replace it with something that hits some of the same pleasure points, like swapping that afternoon soda for one small square of dark chocolate.

When you have some ideas, map them out over the course of a week. Begin with one change per day. After the week is up, you can decide what you want to keep, and what you can save for later (or never). Which of the things you tried do you want to keep? How often do you want to do them? Can you have a big salad for lunch every day? Go on a walk a few mornings a week? Meditate every Sunday?


Building good habits can be difficult at first, but habits are established by doing, and the more you do something, the easier it becomes. The more times you make a big salad for lunch, the more you begin looking forward to it. The more times you go on a morning walk, the more enjoyable it becomes. The more times you meditate, the easier it gets. To get to the easy, however, you have to be willing to get through the hard.

So what will you commit to doing as summer turns into fall? You can strengthen your resolve by drawing up a contract with yourself, something like:

I,                                        , hereby commit to the following habits for the remainder of 2023:

A morning walk every Monday, Wednesday and Friday

A big salad for lunch every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday

Date night every Friday

Yoga or meditation every Sunday


Don’t expect perfection. Just because you skipped your morning walk on Monday doesn’t mean you should forget the whole thing. Just resume on Wednesday. Also, let your list be flexible. So the big salad isn’t working out so well, or you find that a meditation practice isn’t a good fit?  No problem. Try something else. There are hundreds of excellent health and wellness habits to choose from. You could cut your alcohol or caffeine consumption in half. You could join a gym. You could take up an invigorating sport, a relaxing new hobby, or enjoy a weekly hike in nature.

The simple act of committing to a few new habits can make you feel better, not just because you are living a more vibrant life, but because you realize you have the power, the discipline and the will to change your life when you really want to. Do it for yourself, and for the people who will benefit from a happier, stronger, fitter, more energetic you.

And when New Year’s Eve rolls around, you may discover that those same resolutions you make every year aren’t relevant anymore, because you’re already there.