7 Ways to Ensure a Mind Blowing Summer

Just because we’re in the dog days of summer doesn’t mean we have to waste our days lazing around at home (though, sometimes that can be nice). If you want to maximize your time this season, here are seven ways to ensure you have a mind blowing summer.

1. Master a skill

Many of us dabble in poetry or play guitar in our free time, but how many of us can truly be called experts at something? Summer can be the perfect time to master a skill, and as an added bonus, research has shown mastering a skill can increase long-term happiness.

There’s a viral video that made the rounds of the internet a few years ago showing Karen Cheng learning how to dance by practicing every day for one year. By the end of the video, her transformation is amazing. She launched an offshoot of that project called Give It 100, to encourage others to master something by practicing that one thing every day for 100 days. While Give It 100 is now defunct, there is a similar one called #The100DayProject.

While we may not have 100 days of summer left, we do have about 50. Imagine what you could accomplish by practicing one thing every day for that amount of time. Who knows? Maybe you’ll decide to keep up with the practice long after summer is over.

2. Travel somewhere you’ve never been

Summer is traditionally the peak travel season for most places in the world, but that doesn’t mean you have to get stuck in an expensive tourist trap. You’d be surprised at how many global destinations are inexpensive.

Even if you can’t travel internationally, you can still play tourist in your hometown. All it takes is doing something new, such as trying that new Italian restaurant down the street or packing up your car with friends and hitting the road for a day trip.

3. Exercise more

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity a week, but the CDC’s 2016 National Health Interview Survey found just over half of Americans actually get the minimum recommended aerobic physical activity.

Exercising doesn’t have to be a drag—it can actually be fun and invigorating, and best of all, you feel better after you’ve done it! If you enjoy dancing, try signing up for classes like Zumba, salsa, or swing dancing. If you enjoy playing basketball, sign up for a local league. It can even be something as simple as asking a few friends to join you for afternoon runs.

4. Spend more time outdoors

Research has shown that sitting in a forest can reduce blood pressure, stress hormones, and heart rate. Many of us sit inside a school or an office all day and rarely get to soak in the beauty of the outdoors. Make a commitment to taking a 30-minute break every day to go for a quick walk outside or relax beneath the shade of a tree.

5. Break a bad habit

Okay, at first glance, this doesn’t look “fun,” but that’s not the point. Breaking a bad habit frees you to be your best self and make way for good habits.

Psychology professor Peter Gollwitzer recommends a simple trick for increasing the chances you’ll break a bad habit: Use the “if-then” format. Here’s how Gollwitzer explained it in a Fortune article:

“Take drinking too much in the company of your friends as an example. In the ‘if’ part of the plan, you identify the critical situation that usually triggers your bad habit. Perhaps the trigger is being offered a drink by your friends. In the ‘then’ part, you specify an action that can halt accepting the offer such as responding to it by saying that you prefer a glass of water today. And then you link the ‘if’ and the ‘then’ parts together by making an ‘if-then’ plan: ‘If on Friday evening my friends offer me a drink, then I will answer: I prefer to have a glass of water today!’”

Another great way to break a bad habit, or form a good one, is to have an accountability partner who shares the same goal. For example, if you want to reduce your sugar intake and you have a friend who wants to do the same, you can check in with each other to see if you’re meeting your daily goals, share low-sugar recipes, or simply commiserate when the going gets tough.

6. Meet new people

Meeting new people allows you to get outside your comfort zone, gain new perspective, and maybe even make new friends! One site I like to use is meetup.com because you can search for groups of people based on shared interests, such as writing, hiking, food, and much more. Pick one event to attend and see where it takes you!

7. Get rid of stuff you don’t need

When junk starts filling our desks and our homes, we lose focus and feel overwhelmed by the clutter. A great way to gain a fresh perspective on life is to start getting rid of the things that no longer serve us.

One fun way of doing this is the 30-day minimalism challenge. The idea is you pick a friend or family member to participate and turn it into a game. On day one, you get rid of one item, on day two you get rid of two items, and so on and so forth, until you get rid of 30 items on day 30. By gamifying it, you’re less likely to give up, and it’s more engaging. By the end of one month, you’ll be enjoying a more simple, clutter-free life.

Do any of these ideas catch your eye? If so, pick one and run with it! Challenging yourself this summer is a great way to ensure you have a mind blowing summer—and improve a little at the same time.