I recently had lunch with some friends who complained in unison about not having enough vacation time. “Oh, I love Paris! And the Eiffel Tower. But weren’t you just in Hawaii recently? I’m so jealous”, they said.
Sure, we all dream about a fantasy getaway at a beach front resort on Kauai, skiing in Lake Tahoe or camping at Yosemite National Forest. There’s so much to do, but so little time! So, how does one find the time to get into a vacation-like frame of mind without charging up the visa card and taking time off from work? How do you have a great time and release all the woes of day to day stress? Here are a few simple tips and tricks to improve your weekend, feel like you’re on vacation (and turn that frown upside down!)
1. Add a smile to your face.
Have you ever notice your co-workers sitting in-front of the computer, frowning? Or that the driver in the car next to you looks frustrated? During any sort concentration mode, our eye brows may slowly creep together and turn into a full-blown worrisome look. By the time you realize that your face is frowning, you may have added an extra wrinkle on your forehead! The act of smiling simply puts you back in a good mood and reminds you to be happy. It’s incredible how a simple change on your face can affect your mood, energy and immune system. Yes, people might look at you funny, but smiles are most definitely contagious (and free!)
2. Do something touristy.
Love to travel but can’t afford to take time off? Research your local area for fun, indoor or outdoor activities. Tourist attractions are also a great option because it takes the pressure off to have to drive and find things to do. Los Angeles’ “Six Taste” offers walking food tours with VIP experiences to speak with restaurant owners and executive chefs. Choose between a Financial District, Little Tokyo, China Town, Dumplings or Thai Town food tours. These experiences are a unique, fun, and delicious way to spend an afternoon with your date, friends or family. Chicago’s Chocolate Tours also offers chocolate walking tours of local chocolate shops, cafes and bakeries. Enjoy seated chocolate tastings and secret treasures!
3. Get a change of scenery.
Okay, item number 2 above may require a bit of financial investment, but there are certainly other things you can do that cost less. Pick up a book, head to your local park or garden and enjoy the beautiful weather when possible. Getting out of the house, without having any sort of agenda or errand to run, gives you a chance to appreciate your town and see new things. Also consider visiting a new cafe, library, a museum on their free day, or go for a hike around a new neighborhood. Allowing yourself to absorb all the new sights, people and letting yourself be part of the environment shifts your mental state of mind and out of your usual routine. You’ll be surprised how much better you’ll feel by changing the scenery from your day to day activites.
4. Lend a helping hand.
How likely are you to help someone that you barely know? Have you ever done random act of kindness? I’m not suggesting that you give the next person a $1,000 check or giving them your car, but simple acts of picking up fallen objects, doing a good deed, helping an elderly person or someone in need will help kick in the “feel good” mood. Not only that, but you’ve just become a responsible citizen. Not inspired enough? Read this simple act of kindness.
5. Say Hello.
Do you remember waving to truck drivers as a child on long family road trips? Saying hello or waving to a stranger enforces the fact that we are all human beings on the same planet. On a recent trip to Maui, I found myself surrounded by fellow vacationers that avoided eye contact at all cost. Their body language oozed of high stress and felt completely anti-social. All I wanted to do was say, “Hello!” to them to help snap them out of their mood. Saying hello boosts our confidence and triggers the happy mode, which also relieves stress and puts you in a positive frame of mind. Your smile and “hello” will also help you make friends and help you to succeed in your career. That’s a plus!
6. Treat yourself to something decadent.
Indulge yourself in something gooey and delicious. Ice cream, baked treats, desserts, chocolates or even eye candy such as a new top, bracelet or earrings (on sale, of course) can be a great way to reward yourself. Many people work so hard but fail to reward themselves with something that counts. Yes, paying off your loan and rent are both considered good, but splurging an extra $5-10 on something nice for yourself will help make you feel as if you’re on vacation. Plus, that means you’ll also have to get out of the house and head outdoors. No online shopping allowed! Check out the Mast Brothers Chocolate stores in New York, or Vosges in NY, Chicago and Las Vegas.
7. Wear something you haven’t worn in a very long time.
After returning home for a 2 week trip in Hawaii, I asked myself why I didn’t wear my floral Hawaiian dresses more often. Because of that, I felt inspired to put a flower in my hair and go about my usual routine at work and on errands in my Hawaiian outfit. Everyone around me smiled, which in turn put me in a great mood. Challenging oneself to wear something out of the norm forces you to get creative and reinvent yourself. Incorporating new pieces such as a new purse, hair accessory or belt can change the way you feel about yourself and give you the confidence to be your authentic self. So go ahead, dig through your closet and find that something to remind yourself of a well enjoyed vacation.
8. Go for a walk outdoors!
Some cities are made for hiking and walking, with a large number of paths to follow at varying difficulties. Now that the weather is great, take yourself outdoors to see the incredible beauty outdoors. If you’re not an outdoor person, window shopping would suffice too. Staying indoors will only encourage you to sit on the couch and watch TV, which leads to snacking and couch potato behavior. By the way, getting fresh air also helps beat depression.
9. Socialize with friends (offline).
Hanging out with friend can bring lighten your mood and make us feel good. Reconnecting with people we care about, can always bring a smile to your face or help alleviate any stress or pressures. There are always of affordable things to do, such as a movie matinee, hanging out at a local café, window shopping or going to the gym together. Also, catching up with each other may also help broaden your outdoor activities and learn new things. If you don’t have a large circle of friends, consider joining Meetup.com for groups ranging from hoop dancing, painting, small business support, sailing, boxing or even ballet! Chances are, there are people just like you who are looking for new friends to do fun activities together.
10. Sleep in!
Getting up in the morning is often a challenge for most, including yours truly. Waking up in a good mood is also important too. To wake up cheerful, manage your sleep strategy by making sure you get enough quality shut-eye time. Sleep deprivation can slow your brain and energy, which can make for a dull and dreary day. If you have pets, try leaving them out of your bedroom. Closing the curtains, turning on white noise or using light bedsheets (instead of flannel) during the summer can improve your sleep quality too. Sleep can help increase your energy to complete daily challenges, as well as reducing stress. Also, sticking to the recommended 7 – 8 hours of sleep a night can have immeasurable benefits.