Summer is finally here, so I thought it’s time to lighten things up a bit. This is the time we (traditionally) slow down, get outdoors more, vacation and, generally, hang out. I don’t know how much hanging out you plan to do, but the thought of adding in some relaxation sounds good to me!
Having fun and enjoying down time is just as essential to health and wellbeing as is physical activity and healthy foods, but too often it’s last on our to-do list. We might be on top of scheduling time for workouts, but not so much when it comes to scheduling in time for relaxation. Too often we end up feeling tired or run down, when just a little self-care could make a big difference.
To that end, I’ve put together a list of ideas to get you started on the road to feeling less stressed, happier, less prone to illness and maybe even more fun to be around. If you’re already thinking you don’t have the time, you can know that some of these can easily fit into your day in a space of 10 or 20 minutes. If you’re still thinking you don’t have the time, you’re probably more in need of a little recreation than you realized. (Did you notice that the root of recreation is re-create?) Here are a few ideas to get you going on the road to re-creating you.
- Get lost in a good book. So often these days we get our information or entertainment from our laptop or tablet, often while on the fly. When was the last time you pulled up your favorite chair, and became so absorbed in a book that you lost track of time. Researchers call this state “flow,” and it refers to any activity in which we find ourselves completely immersed in the moment. Being in this state can lead to increased positive affect, and enhance performance and concentration.
- Taking a 10 or 15 minute walk outdoors can work wonders to boost your mood and your energy. Taking along a friend or the dog can up the ante.
- Turning on some tunes can fast track you to feeling happy and relaxed. Can you really listen to Pharrell Williams’ song “Happy,” without getting a lift? Better yet, take a break and watch the video on YouTube.
- Treat yourself – to a massage, a mani/pedi, or an afternoon movie. This is (hopefully) self-explantory.
- The verdict is in. Research shows meditators are, in a nutshell, healthier and happier than their non-meditating counterparts. I’m not going to enumerate all the benefits here. Google “benefits of meditation.” You’ll see.
- Be neighborly. Pay someone a visit, stop and chat when you walk the dog, admire a garden. Taking even a short break out of your day can enhance your feelings of community and connectedness, in turn increasing feelings of well-being.
- Play time with your puppy or kitty can be a ton of fun for both of you. Studies show that having a pet lowers stress levels, and increases the levels of “Oxytocin,” the feel good chemical in the brain.
- Do yoga. A yoga practice is portable and can happen anywhere you take your mat. Taking a 15 minute yoga break can help you to slow down, relax and be more present. Being outdoors adds in the benefits of Mother Nature.
- (I talked about this last time – I’m on somewhat of a kick here.) Having too much stuff around or being disorganized can be a source of stress. Give yourself some breathing room.
- Go on a field trip. When was the last time you took a day trip? Maybe a drive and lunch in a nearby city or town you’ve been wanting to visit. Or checking out what exhibits are at your local art museum, and spending the day there with your partner or a friend. Take the day off and forget about work and commitments. Playing comes naturally to kiddos, but as adults we often neglect to carve out time for fun, and that’s a mistake. Fun adds joy to our life and joy enhances physical, mental and emotional health.
- Plan at least one weekend morning to sleep in. Better yet, spend the rest of the puttering, reading, and doing whatever you feel like doing. Stop rushing around and give yourself a break. Dare I say it: just hang out – with your husband, wife, kids, or the dog. You’ll go back into the world the better for it.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject – what are your favorite summer pleasures? Post them in the comments below.