All schools will have broken up for the summer holiday by tomorrow and many already have. Hooray! I recommend you go outside to a green space (although in most parts of the UK the green has turned brown – my lawn looks like a beach) and spread your arms wide and breathe deep. Fling your head back, close your eyes, feel the breeze (if there is one) on your face and say, “I did it! That year is done and now I have some well-deserved free time.”
What to do with it? How to use it well and make the most of it? Well, I would love you to focus on your well-being. You could go back through all the 29 tips I’ve given you so far and see if any work well for a summer holiday. (Put “52 Ways” into the search box above.) The last one, about having a hobby, is a good example.
I’ve decide to give you a quick list of some new ones I think would work really well over the summer.
#30 Tackle one thing
During term-time or a busy working week it’s very easy to get caught up in all the things we have to do and it can be hard to see the big picture, to look ahead or to plan how to change anything we need to change. We go around thinking, “I’m disorganised/anxious/snappy/negative – I’m that kind of person and I can’t change it.” What we need to do is break it down and solve parts of the problem, rather than focusing on the whole thing. So, rather than “I’m always snappy,” think “I was snappy to my friend/sibling/Mum/dog this morning – how can I make it up to them, apologise and smile at them this evening?” Small changes. It’ll make you feel better and that will make you less snappy.
Or look at why you get snappy. Does it happen when you’re hungry or thirsty? Easily sorted! Hunger and thirst can make some people really ratty – me, for example… If I can’t get some food or drink quickly, I tell the people with me that I’m suffering from hunger and it’s making me ratty so they should stay out of my way. (Or find me a biscuit. Please. Thank you.)
Or, if your room is always untidy and getting you down, see #32 below!
Some things you tackle could be small and others could be big. This year, I tackled the fact that I knew very well that I didn’t get enough heart-rate-raising exercise so…I became a runner. I made that sound easy – it wasn’t. This was a MASSIVE change for me. I’ll write about it separately soon. I decided I had to do it and I got help from an App (Couch to 5k) and just did it.
That was one change that has massively improved my life. (It could be making it longer, too.)
There’s one other major change I want to make in my working life but I know I can’t do it yet. But I’m looking ahead at how I can one day and I’m looking for the opportunities I need to do it. Watch this space.
So, take a look at your life and decide to change one thing. Don’t worry if it doesn’t work. Just try again or try something different. Chat to a friend: what do you each want to change this summer?
#31 Drink water
I was recently asked by a young person in a school event about well-being: “Will drinking another glass of water make my brain work better?” The answer is, “Only if you hadn’t drunk enough already.” Drinking more water does not make our brain work better unless we haven’t drunk enough. So, drink enough! But what’s “enough”? There’s no simple answer, though some websites will try to give you a target amount. The thing is we also get a lot of water from food – an apple is almost entirely water, for example – and that all counts in those targets you read about.
“Enough” means certainly drinking as soon as you’re even slightly thirsty but ideally drinking before you feel you need to. Feeling thirsty is your body’s way of telling you to drink. Don’t ignore it.
But avoid fizzy drinks, which are not helpful, even though they might make you think you’re not thirsty. If you drink caffeinated coffee or tea this only has half the hydrating effect. (Even decaf coffee and tea have some caffeine, unless it says “caffeine-free”.) Water is best but there’s no real problem with adding something to flavour it. Most people find it easier to drink water that’s nice and chilled. I think drinking some water before bed and when you get up is important but apart from that just avoid feeling very thirsty by drinking at the first sign that you might be and remember that on hot days you will need more.
There’s more about the science of drinking and hydration in Positively Teenage. “Liquid” is the second of the eight FLOURISH principles.
#32 Tidy your room!
And adults, tidy your office or sort the kitchen cupboards or the garage. In my opinion there are very few people who genuinely thrive in a mess. You might pretend you don’t care about your untidy room but don’t you honestly love it when it’s all clear and everything that’s meant to be out of sight is out of sight? Mess and chaos and dirt are things humans are wired not to like; they make us uncomfortable, itchy, snappy, even a bit down; and they usually make it harder for us to work well and even, I’d say, to relax. The summer holidays give us a great chance to get sorted, especially as we can’t be out in the sun all the time. Allow yourself enough time and do a massive tidy: everything out of drawers and cupboards, rubbish thrown away, things you don’t use/want any more disposed of or stored out of sight.
If you share a room with a sibling, this is obviously tricky. How well you get on with them will affect how you handle this. But you can do it!
One tip: if you’re going on holiday, tidy your room before you go. It’s deeply unpleasant arriving back home tired and grumpy and then finding dirty clothes from two weeks ago or whatever tip you happen to have left all over your floor.
#33 Look at nature
Looking at a scene of natural beauty makes us feel better. As the authors of that useful gathering of evidence from the University of Minnesota say:
“According to a series of field studies conducted by Kuo and Coley at the Human-Environment Research Lab, time spent in nature connects us to each other and the larger world. Another study at the University of Illinois suggests that residents in Chicago public housing who had trees and green space around their building reported knowing more people, having stronger feelings of unity with neighbors, being more concerned with helping and supporting each other, and having stronger feelings of belonging than tenants in buildings without trees. In addition to this greater sense of community, they had a reduced risk of street crime, lower levels of violence and aggression between domestic partners, and a better capacity to cope with life’s demands, especially the stresses of living in poverty.”
It doesn’t have to be spectacular – a park or grassy space is better for our mental health than a wall.
So, get out there and find some natural beauty, whether it’s grass, trees, flowers, a river or stream, mountains, hills or valleys, or the seaside. But don’t just look at it. Look at it properly. Take some time to think about it, to be silent in the face of nature, to breathe it in a little. And feel it settle your mind and your soul.
#34 Slow down
I go too fast. I’m in a rush and set myself goals that are often impossible. But I know that this is not something I can keep doing (I’ve paid the price for that before) so I make sure I do sometimes slow down. As Billy Joel said in the sing, Vienna, “Slow down, you crazy child, and take the phone off the hook and disappear for a while. It’s all right, you can afford to lose a day or two. When will you realise, Vienna waits for you?”
So, although you might have big plans for this holiday and you might be doing exciting things, make sure you also find time to slow down, stop doing, and just let the world spin without you for a bit. Breathe, breathe, and breathe again.
Have a wonderful holiday. Have a rest, have a change and give your brain and body what it needs to recuperate from all the hard work and to FLOURISH: Food, Liquid, Oxygen, Use, Relaxation, Interest, Sleep and Happiness.