How to have your best summer ever

Summer is nearly upon us again. Though this season is a little less of a break when you’re a grown-up than when you’re a kid, it still feels different. You can be outside more. You can use the longer evenings to squeeze more life out of each day. Routines change, opening up an opportunity for rethinking how you’re spending your time…if you seize it.

So what would it take to create your best summer ever?

I’ve been pondering this question lately. I’ve had many good summers in my life, but there’s no reason they shouldn’t continue to be on an upward trajectory. As I learn more about happiness and how we spend our time, I’ve figured out a few techniques that I think are helpful.

First, it’s important to think. What would make for a great summer? You could try making a list of 100 dreams (or a list of 100 summer dreams in particular) to brainstorm what you’d find pleasurable. Blend the professional and the personal — there’s no reason summer should only be about leisure time pursuits. You could make great professional strides as well. A career breakthrough would certainly make for a best summer ever!

Second, you have to plan. I’m all in favor of spontaneity, but we live in a constantly-connected electronic world. Unlike when John Keats wrote his Ode on Indolence, any spot of empty time will be instantly filled by email, television or other such distractions. You can plan big stuff and then allow for spontaneity within it (deciding to go to the downtown of a nearby city for the day, for instance, but then wandering wherever you want in the neighborhood while you’re there). Having pleasurable stuff on the calendar gives us things to look forward to.

Third, remember the small stuff. Happiness isn’t only about big experiences. It’s also simply about how we’re spending our hours. If you know being outside makes you happy, you should choose to spend more time outside. Think about how to do that. Can you eat lunch outside during the workday? Can you take your conference calls outside? Can you bike to work some days? If getting together with friends makes you happy, think about more regular ways to work it into your life. A book club? An exercise partner? Sunday night potluck dinners?

Finally, be mindful of what is going right. Try keeping a “Best Summer Ever” list in which you record the happy parts of your days. Memories can be fleeting things, but the act of writing something down digs the memory in a little deeper as you experience a part of it again.

What would you include in your best summer ever?

Photo courtesy flickr user Moyan_Brenn

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