Seeing the “Back To School” section at Target is always unsettling. Stacks of black speckled composition notebooks and Trapper Keepers remind us that summer is coming to an end, and we commence mourning the beach trips we never made, the poolside drinks we never sipped, the parties we never threw, and the vacations we never took.
But floating in a giant blow-up flamingo in a tropical oasis isn’t the key to a successful summer. It doesn’t have to be built of beach trips, travel, or even hours spent by the pool — sometimes the best summers are the ones in which you indulge in the little things.
When you focus on the small joys in life, June and July don’t feel like missed opportunities at all. Follow these five simple tips so that when September rolls around, summer will feel like a season well-spent.
Spend time outdoors every day
Planting yourself inside is a straight shot to feeling like your summer was wasted. On the other hand, getting outdoors will help you to feel like you’re actively taking advantage of your summer, even if you’re not at the beach. Soaking in some Vitamin D is good for your health, and studies have shown that being outdoors helps combat depression and anxiety. It also lowers cortisol and blood pressure and fights fatigue.
You don’t have to plan anything extreme. Just go out for a walk or have a picnic in your backyard. Lay in the grass and read, chalk up the sidewalk with the neighbor kids, or drink your morning coffee on the porch. Sometimes those simple, personal activities are the most relaxing and enjoyable.
Relish in classic summertime activities
Remember the long summer days of your childhood — those simple days that live in your memory as the epitome of pure, innocent joy? Why not relive them? Why not relish in the summer activities of your youth? Any one of these simple, inexpensive activities can rekindle that joy and form a new and lasting memory:
- Buy that megapack of rocket pops.
- Sit outside and marvel at thunder and lightning storms.
- Go to the double feature at the drive-in movie theater.
- Lounge by a pool or on a beach.
- Invite friends and neighbors over for a potluck barbeque.
- Rush outside to catch the last rays of a pink and orange sunset.
- Light up sparklers on Fourth of July.
- Splash around in the local creek.
- Take spontaneous trips to the ice cream shop after dinner.
These quintessential summertime activities require little money yet provide experiences that you’ll carry with you long after the summer closes up shop.
Gather your summer crew
Nobody wants the regret of a wasted summer, so reach out to your local friends and family who are equally interested in committing to classic summertime activities. Share your summer bucket list and brainstorm new ideas.
Plan weekends for mini-adventures, schedule weeknight barbeques with lawn games, and make a pact to be open to those last-minute, “Want to go out for ice cream?” texts. Whatever you end up doing, sharing your summer with friends and family doubles the fun.
Pause your “to-do” list
We all have responsibilities we need to keep up with, but don’t forget to grant yourself a little leeway. If you’re trying to decide between doing laundry or going out with friends, cut yourself some slack and opt for fun. Instead of staying overtime at work, give yourself a summer Friday and get out of the office early for an evening hike.
Summer is a great time to recharge before the fall arrives with its shorter days and dicier weather. So make an extra effort to prioritize your mental health over the summer months. Pausing your to-do list in favor of some summertime TLC will help you to feel well-rested come September, instead of lamenting that you never got the break you sorely needed.
Be present in the moment
In the end, the key to a great summer is simply being present in the moment. You don’t need to be on a yacht or jet-setting to Europe to feel like your summer is worth something.
Being happy doesn’t depend upon the things you have or the adventures you go on. Happiness ultimately comes from having gratitude for the everyday blessings all around you. Bask in those simple moments of joy and it’ll be your best summer yet.