After the upheavals and uncertainty that we experienced during the first half of 2020, we could all use a little more fun in our lives. While the bad news keeps on coming, the good news is that it’s summer! During this stressful time, taking care of ourselves and indulging in a few feel-good activities to relax and restore is a necessity. In addition to improving our overall mental and physical wellbeing, taking a summer vacation from our everyday life has been shown to heighten our satisfaction with life and increase our productivity.
So, take advantage of the long days and warm weather. Below are six ways to spend your vacation time this summer. These feel-good activities also make it easy to social distance, too. Take a break from your screens, stay safe, and have a joyful summer!
1. Create Your Own Resort Experience
Relaxation is a state of mind after all! While we’re sick of staying home, it’s the safest place to be. So, get creative and transform a space in your house or backyard into your private resort space for a “staycation.”
- Get inspired! Recall your favorite resort or what you enjoy most about staying in resorts. Do you have a favorite hammock spot? Is it the sound of the surf? Maybe the Tiki bar? Make a list of what you love.
- Set aside a spot. Make a space just for your resort. A backyard or outdoor space is ideal. But for those without, try a spare room or even your living room for the duration of your “staycation.”
- Decorate and accessorize. Focusing on your list, brainstorm on how you can replicate that resort feel. Set up your patio chairs and umbrellas, blow up the kiddie pool and the slip-and-slide, and prepare to enjoy.
- Don’t forget scents and sounds. For example, if you love the smell of jasmine, get scented candles, air fresheners, or flowers. Also, download the sounds of nature or play the music from a favorite vacation.
- Food & drink. Some of the best memories on vacation are made over a meal or a cocktail. Make sure to stock up on the food and drinks that you enjoy most. Get delivery from a restaurant that offers a menu similar to your resort favorites.
- Games & activities. If you like to sightsee when you’re on vacation, you can definitely spend some time taking virtual tours of almost anywhere in the world via the internet. However, sometimes it’s good to take a break from all our screen time. Pretend you’re camping and break out the board games and cards.
2. Hit the Road!
Of all feel-good activities, a road trip might top the list—that feeling of happy expectation as you set out on a new adventure. Luckily, traveling by car (or RV if you’re lucky) is almost as safe as staying at home if you plan it right.
- Before you go, establish the length of your trip and decide on the route. Travel restrictions, social distancing, and mask requirements may vary even within short distances, so check ahead.
- Hotels are taking extra precautions regarding cleaning. Look for information on the steps they are taking to keep their guests safe. If you can’t find anything on their website, make sure to follow up by phone. Or, you can circumnavigate the hotel experience by renting an RV.
- If you’re concerned, be extra safe and avoid hotels by making it a camping trip. Even campgrounds will have precautions and restrictions in place due to COVID-19, so check ahead and make sure you have all the necessary supplies with you.
- If camping’s not your thing, just plan day trips to places you’ve been meaning to check out. Even if your route only takes you to a park a couple of hours away for a picnic lunch, you will get a welcome break from your routine.
- Avoiding anywhere densely populated is your best bet. Some states are a little better to get away in with tons of parklands, stunning scenery, and wilderness preserves. Check out Colorado, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Tennessee.
3. Summer Reading
If you’re not able to get out very much, a great summer reading list may be the perfect escape! Spend some quality alone time indulging in the latest from your favorite author. Or, read out loud and get the whole family involved. In addition to providing hours of free entertainment (if you use your library card) and reducing your stress levels, there are many cognitive benefits as well. This includes improved memory, focus and concentration, increased knowledge, and vocabulary.
- Many of the major outlets have come out with their annual summer reading lists. So, there’s no shortage of reading advice. Check out the New York Times summer reading list for a treasure trove of newly published gems. Conveniently broken into subject categories, you can find everything from thrillers to sports memoirs.
- Reading a ‘real book,’ has a couple of scientifically researched advantages to an e-reader. First, flipping the physical pages of a book may lead to better reading comprehension, and screen time at bedtime can lead to sleeping problems.
- Get the kids involved with a summer reading program. The American Library Association works with public libraries across the country to develop annual programs. Check with the library closest to you for details. Plus, reading programs can keep them busy this summer if you have to work.
- If you’ve got a teen resistant to reading, try tempting them with the AudioFile Sync. This audiobook program offers two free downloads per week throughout the summer. Yes, free.
- Share and discuss what you’re reading with your friends. Download a book lovers app like Good Reads, join a book club or virtual book club, or organize your own book club. A variety of digital and social distancing clubs have sprung up since the start of the pandemic to fill the gap during the quarantine.
4. Take a Hike!
Getting some exercise and fresh air are guaranteed feel-good activities. Hiking is an especially good way to reconnect with nature and escape the crowds. However, even if you can’t get out to the country, taking a city stroll has its charms.
- Getting outside provides us with a wide variety of mental, physical, and emotional benefits. Nature packs a powerful punch, from improving our mental focus and concentration to reducing inflammation and improving our immune system.
- Explore the national system of protected and conserved trails that are part of the National Recreation Trails Program. These trails are designed to provide recreation opportunities close to home across federal, state, and local lands.
- Inject a spirit of adventure into your hikes by geocaching. Billed as the world’s largest treasure hunt, the game consists of finding caches (or containers) hidden by other game players using GPS navigation.
- Stuck in the city? Add interest to your strolls by downloading a smartphone application with walking tours of your city. There are many options to choose from depending on your interests. However, it might be even more fun to make up your own. You might be surprised at what you find!
- Challenge yourself and your family and friends with distance competitions. There are a variety of smartphone activity-tracking applications with social media capabilities so you can track and share your progress.
5. Go Paddling
Paddling sports of all kinds have been increasing in popularity. Whether it’s paddleboarding, kayaking, or canoeing, there are a host of benefits to taking up these feel-good activities.
- Use the National Water Trails System to help plan your trip. This impressive system of scenic waterways is open to the public for exploring and enjoying.
- It’s fun to paddle with pals. One of the benefits of paddling is the built-in social distancing that occurs when you’re in or on your own craft. So, you can be sociable without getting too close.
- The physical benefits of paddling include calorie-burning, improved cardio, and better core strength. These are in addition to the benefits of being in nature and getting plenty of vitamin D.
- The key to enjoying your paddle is learning the proper technique. These tips include sitting up straight, gripping the paddle firmly but lightly, and holding the paddle with elbows at a 90-degree angle.
- Renting is a great way to get started. Find out what type of paddling suits before plopping down a major payment.
6. Summer Stargazing
Long, balmy summer nights are perfect for gazing at the stars. Grab some binoculars or invest in a telescope and enjoy endless evenings exploring the Milky Way as it arches from the south to fill the northern skies.
- Use a smartphone app to discover what you’re gazing at. Most work by holding your phone up to the sky. Then, your GPS will help align what you see on your phone screen with the placements of stars in the sky.
- Mark August 12 on your calendar. That morning marks the beginning of the Perseids meteor showers. If you look carefully, you can see a meteor a minute if the sky is clear and dark. You can identify the shooting stars as Perseids meteors due to their paths extending backward toward northern Perseus.
- Don’t trip while you’re walking around in the dark. Cover a flashlight with red paper or cellophane to help you navigate the night without turning on the lights.
- Reduce light pollution around your house. Analyze your lighting needs and decide where you can adjust by reducing the number of lights, the wattage and color of lights, or by shielding or correcting the light path.
- Take a trip to a dark sky place for the very best stargazing experiences. These are communities, parks, and protected areas that have committed to preserving and protecting dark sites by implementing lighting policies and public education.
No matter what feel-good activity you decide to do this summer, use the time to connect with family and friends. During the uncertainty of a global pandemic, at least you’ll get a bit of solace.
iStock Image: Beli_Photos, swissmediavision, Geber86
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