Emotional Health

Dr. Ford: 7 Ways to Make Your Summer Even Better

Illustration by C.A. Martin

If you have time off this summer, as most of us do, it’s a good idea to try to maximize it. Your vacation, whether away or at home, will be over before you know it. Often we allow time to slip away, filling it with errands and the needs of others. Even our downtime has to be somewhat purposeful if we are to get anything out of it. Vacation should be different from our regular lives — not just another day whose only difference is that you are not on the job. To get the most from your time off, try to avoid passively going through your usual routines. This is a good moment to shake things up and try new things. When you get back to work, your goal is to feel relaxed and rested, and like you’ve really been away.


1. Alter Your Routine

If you go to bed too late, get up too early, rush through breakfast, etc., take a vacation from all that. Make sleep and rest a priority, and try some new ways to maximize it. For example, on vacation you can take a soothing bath before bed rather than a bracing wake-up shower in the morning.

Some of the best vacations I’ve had have been at places with no TV or Internet. Illuminated screens, including computers, are disruptive to sleep. They tend to activate, rather than soothe the mind. Reading, on the other hand, is a proven soporific, and naturally relaxes you. There are no flashing images or loud sounds. The rhythm is gentle and self-directed, and a good book (even if it’s exciting) is a better bet for restfulness. Reading before bed is correlated with better sleep and longer sleep. Readers also tend to fall asleep earlier, which means you have a better chance of sleeping more. And if you wake up earlier, then you will have more hours of the summer day to enjoy. Even if you are at home, you can decide to swear of TV and web surfing. I have friends who actually turn off their cable every summer and don’t reconnect until it’s over.

2. Try Something New

Summer is a good time to explore, make changes, and try new things. Whether this means choosing a new vacation spot or staying home and trying to learn a new skill, having the freedom and extra time to do something new is one of summer vacation’s chief joys. It has been shown that when we learn new skills our brains actually change and grow. For those who are aging, learning new skills can even be a hedge against the decline in cognitive functioning that occurs for most of us.

While we don’t have to aim to be Grandma Moses, who is famous for starting her painting career in her late 70s, it can be exciting to exercise new skills and discover hidden talents. Humans are wired to keep growing throughout our lives. The challenge of keeping our daily lives going, overloaded with family, work, and other responsibilities as most of us are, often prevents that. Use vacation time to rectify that and you will feel renewed. An added bonus is that you may be able to continue your new skill or hobby after vacation, or at least go back to it on future vacations.

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  • Laurie August 13, 2016 at 3:01 am

    I always go to bed too late, get up late, too, rush through breakfast. I just have 2 meal per days. I felt tired all the times. Maybe as you said, I need a rest for my brain, my body. Too stressed is not good for my healthy, even for my work.