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By the time July rolls around, it can feel like summer has flown by. But there is still time to make the most of the season because, as we all know, fall will be here much too soon.
Part of what makes the days seem to fly by are the endless to-dos – groceries, errands, maybe even kids’ activities. But according to UW Health psychologist Shilagh Mirgain, "not doing" is just as important to our well-being.
“Relaxing, slowing down, finding ease and taking pauses are essential components to a healthy life,” she said. “It’s easy to fall into a pattern of being overly scheduled and we fall into the trap of being a human doing vs. a human being.”
Mirgain uses the example of flowers: When they receive nourishment through sunlight, water and healthy soil they are able to thrive. We need similar nourishment but aren’t always very good at knowing what that is. She shares a few simple tips to help us bloom:
As most parents know, unscheduled time is important for kids as it challenges them to be creative, use their imagination and problem solve. As adults, we tend to avoid downtime by filling our days with activities and using screens to de-stress. Instead, Mirgain recommends being conscious of the unscheduled time and simply enjoy it. Sit outside and watch the night sky. Enjoy a sunset. Have a picnic at the park. Take a long bike ride.
“Take pleasure in the unoccupied moments. And, if you’re with family – enjoy those moments together. This kind of conscious downtime allows us to come back to ourselves and we may even discover new insights,” Mirgain said.
Focus on the fun
Particularly as we age and responsibilities take over, we don’t always value the importance of play. Whether kids are in the picture or not, spending time doing fun activities – whether that’s camping, taking a hike or mini-golfing – is good for our well-being. Mirgain recommends making it a priority, particularly on a beautiful summer day.
Summer is a great time to try something new. Take in a farmers’ market and find new vegetables to try in a recipe. Travel. Go to a museum or take a lesson in something new – like stand-up paddle boarding or yoga by the lake.
Recharging is important to our well-being because, like a healthy soil, it sustains us even in times of stress. And a key component to recharging is rest.
“What better way to enjoy a beautiful summer day than a nap in a hammock,” Mirgain said.
Of course, good quality sleep at night is also critical to our well-being, so Mirgain recommends taking steps to ensuring a good night’s sleep – no electronics at night, no TV in the bedroom, keep the room dark and try to keep to a consistent schedule.
Recharging also takes other forms – like unplugging from technology, getting out and moving and making the most of vacation time.
Mirgain recommends taking time every day for things can help us renew – meditating or praying, dancing, playing music, journaling, yoga or spending time with people who help you feel good about yourself.
“Take some time every day where you can just be," she said. "When you do, it offers the opportunity to consider what really matters – where does your energy go compared to where you would like your energy to go, how can you boost your energy, and what do you want to be able to do with that energy."
Taking even just 10 or 15 minutes in the morning can help set the tone for a positive day ahead.