Summer may be the same length as the three other seasons, but for some reason it feels shorter. Depending on how you read the calendar, we have two or three months at most before we’re all supposed to put the summer whites away and get back to business as usual. So, we want to put this time to the best use we can. Carpe diem! (That means “Seize the day!” for those who don’t speak Latin.)
Here are nine ways to make the most of summer while spending time with others…or reenergizing yourself.
1. Take short vacations
“Less is more” is a key credo for psychotherapist Jonathan Alpert, despite the title of his book, Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days. With our day-to-day lives being so dang busy, now is not the time for a huge vacation, he says. “Not only is that expensive, it takes a lot of time, energy, and stress to plan it. Then it takes a few days on the trip to get out of work mode, and a couple of days before it ends you’re thinking about work again.” So, you’re wasting half the trip with anxieties about work. Where’s the fun in that?
“What’s better is to take long weekends,” he recommends. “It takes less mental energy, costs less, and you’re not stressed by missing work for so long.” You don’t get disoriented or fall behind.
2. Disconnect from social media
While platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram give us a sense of community, they also have the drawback of being intensely competitive when people post lavish trips and vacation spots. “They create keep-up-with-the-Joneses feelings,” Alpert says. “Don’t let social media influence where you go for vacation. Just disconnect and base your decisions on your own research and discussions with your significant other.”
Then, when you’re on vacation, the pressure to report your experiences to social media in real time can also take you out of the experience itself. Don’t curate your vacation. “The more time you spend on social media, the more you miss what’s right in front of you,” Alpert says. In other words, your fear of missing out — or FOMO, as the kids call it — should be over a real beach, not a photo of one.
3. Get back to nature
One way to replace that tech overstimulation is through immersion in the natural world. “It’s summer, so anything you can do to get outdoors and be around flowers and plants is a great move,” says Brielle Merchant, MHA, a certified health educator and registered yoga teacher.
The following three suggestions are all activities Merchant recommends that you do out in nature.
This involves getting down and dirty with Mother Earth. “You lie down, take your shoes off, and put your feet on the ground with your arms and legs out,” Merchant explains. “It reduces stress and feelings of anxiety and depression, lifting your mood. It can also improve your sleep and help you be more present in your everyday life.”
“Making daily entries in a diary outdoors is a great way to gain clarity and understanding,” Merchant says. Parks are a perfect place to do this, she notes. “They’re beautiful, normally quiet, and they often have water fountains and gazebos you can sit under.”
6. Coloring, drawing, painting
Any of these practiced out in the beauty of nature will lower your stress and anxiety, and improve your mood and sleep quality, Merchant says. “They also improve your focus and patience. Plus, they’re great ways to improve our motor skills.” For those who aren’t particularly gifted in art, Merchant recommends adult coloring books, which you can find at your local art store.
7. Meditation or yoga
Listen to the audio of a meditation you like when you’re out in nature. This gives you a double dose of serenity: one from the meditation, one from the location. The same goes for yoga outdoors. “Yoga is especially great because it also helps you improve your balance and increases your strength,” Merchant explains.
8. Cook and eat plant-based foods
In addition to being out in nature, it’s a great time to put some nature in you, Merchant advises. If possible, purchase vegetables, fruits, and beans from your local farmers market. Even if you only have access to grocery stores, summer is the perfect time to explore new produce or cook it in a new way. “Plant-based foods improve your mood, energize you, and reduce your risk of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.” They also give you new ways to stay hydrated in summer, Merchant adds. “Just add plant-based foods like mint or blueberries to your water to make it more interesting. It’s far healthier than sugary sodas.”
Summer is the perfect time for reunions with loved ones and friends that you haven’t seen in a while. “Start a new family tradition,” Alpert recommends. “Go hiking, hit the beach, visit a new city together…and if you all love it, make it a point to do it regularly.” And if you’re a couple, it’s the perfect opportunity to work on your relationship. “Just getting away from work is a start, and relaxation enhances romance,” Alpert says. “You can just focus on each other.”
“The healthier the thing is that you do together, the better,” Merchant says. “Science shows that any good habit you’re trying to develop, if you do it with a loved one or friend who can keep you accountable, it really increases your chances of not just adhering to it but establishing it as a long-term lifestyle choice.”