It’s summer vacation season, and folks are posting photos on social media of family trail rides through the Grand Canyon, smiling children licking huge ice cream cones, and anonymous turquoise painted toes peeking out from the sand. It looks (like most things on social media), like everyone is doing summer vacation exactly like they are supposed to. But how are you supposed to do summer vacation? If you are still looking forward to yours, here are a few tips to make it more than Facebook post-worthy:
- Collect memories rather than souvenirs. Thanks to a movement toward positive psychology, we social scientists are learning what really makes people happy over the long haul. People who spend their time and money on doing things together report higher levels of happiness than those who buy more stuff. Our brains keep sort of emotional photographs of experiences, and when memories are positive, these stored photo albums provide us both preventive and restorative doses of happiness. Material things don’t make as big an emotional imprint in our brains. Choose the swim with the dolphins rather than the tee shirts, and the destination hiking trip in the old shoes rather than the new Nikes.
- Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is a type of meditation in which you focus on being intensely aware of what you’re sensing and feeling in the moment. Spending too much time planning, problem-solving, daydreaming, or thinking negative thoughts can be draining. When you see your toes in the sand, instead of reaching for your phone to snap a pic or planning your next pedicure, focus in on the fine grains of sand, the reflection of the water on your shiny toes, the warmth of the sun on your skin, and even the uncomfortable urge to document the moment. Camping? Never mind that sagging tent for the moment. Stop and listen; are there children laughing? Water chuckling in a creek? Can you hear the birds?
- Engage with others. Research has shown that strong social connections with others are important to our happiness, and vacation is the perfect time to foster these kinds of relationships. Put away your phone, and delve deeper with your family or friends. Think you know your companions so well that there aren’t any questions left to ask? Check out some of the conversation starters offered by https://www.tabletopics.com/. With young children, step into their worlds. In a relaxed atmosphere, their imaginations will take the lead. Be a mermaid on a fantasy island with them, or pretend to be the mythical whale person ferrying them off to save the universe. Traveling solo? This is the perfect time to connect with someone new. Chances are that the people around you share common interests, a building block for close relationships.
Wherever your summer takes you, whether to a Greek island or a backyard camping expedition, you can use these guidelines to bring present and future smiles to the traveler’s faces.