Now that summer weather has finally arrived in the Northern Hemisphere, we can trade our “al desko” lunches for some authentic al fresco dining. From picnics and patios to backyard barbecues and snacks on the beach, this is the time of year when we make the most of being outside. Whether a simple frozen treat, like a popsicle or ice cream or a big celebratory dinner, like a graduation or wedding, eating outside is a summer tradition. The days are long, the sun is shining and we just cannot bear to be inside any longer.

We often (maybe erroneously) think that food tastes better when we’re outside, but there are real benefits to escaping your desk or your dining room at meal time for the great outdoors. It’s not just the increased exposure to Vitamin D; eating outside can actually improve your attention span and productivity—a great weapon to combat the long yawn of the corporate afternoon. And natural light, even indirect, can make you happier. According to a study by the University of Sussex in England, workers who ate their lunch at the beach got the greatest boost in happiness when compared to others that ate in the park, at a restaurant, with friends or family or at their desks. (Lunch at their desks, just to be clear, actually made employees less happy.)

Picnics first came to fame after the French Revolution when people were eager for informal dining experiences and had access to royal parks. Even today, with our more lax mealtimes, eating outside often has a relaxed atmosphere that’s not easy to replicate indoors. With the right set-up, a deck or patio can be transformed into an extra room outside, always ready to greet friends and family. Decorate your outdoor space with plants, lanterns, cosy chairs or a hammock. If you love to entertain, an outdoor grill or pizza oven will help you make the most of the season.

When planning a barbecue or outdoor party, don’t forget this is the relaxing, casual party you’ve been craving all winter long. So catch up with friends or play a quick game of frisbee while you share everything from mouthwatering corn on the cob and burgers to grilled vegetables and fresh fruit. Summer is fleeting and we have to catch all the lazy, outdoor meals we can.