If you, like me, are a student and are just coming out of exam season then there’s no doubt that you’re a little bit worse for wear. Tired from days and nights of cramming, lethargic from weeks of comfort eating and starved of culture and fun from days on end of monotonous revision, you’re definitely in need of a break and some R and R. Luckily the long summer holiday offers the perfect time to chill out after all that hard work.
Then comes that question you ask yourself every year as you put your pen down at the end of your last exam. “How do I spend it?” Summer jobs, work experience, internships and travelling are all common answers and a good use of the time, as is completing a bucket list of fun things to do with your friends, but it’s also the perfect time to work on you.
Summer is the perfect time for self improvement. Getting fitter, feeding your soul and being creative are just as valuable ways of spending your time as career-related activities are. There are so many ways that you can create a healthier happier you this Summer, but here’s a few that I recommend and will be doing myself.
Have a clear out
In contrast to what modern consumerist society would like us to believe having more stuff doesn’t make us happier. Having lots of stuff gets in the way and drags us down. Be ruthless and sort through all your clothes, books and general clutter and donate and throw out anything that you no longer need or want. You’ll feel so much lighter and have a sense of accomplishment, plus donating things to charity will make you feel good and is a good way of practising generosity or compassion.
Here’s a few articles and check lists to help get you started:
Learn to meditate
I recently started trying out mindfulness meditation and it has done wonders for my mood and mindset. By taking just five minutes a day to focus on the here and now you’ll find it far easier to live in the moment and push out thoughts that are unproductive or distracting. At first you may find it difficult to focus, so start with a guided meditation of around 5-10 minutes and gradually build on it. There are some great free guided meditations on YouTube. I like to do it before bed, but it’s also a great way to start the day.
I recommend trying these ones:
Read up on something that’s always interested you
Being a humanities student I do so much reading for my course that I rarely get the chance to read up or research something that interests me which isn’t directly related to my degree, and as much as I like researching and reading about things for essays or exams that would have never crossed my mind before, it’s also nice to swat up on things for the sake of it rather than because you’re getting marked on it. It doesn’t have to be something worthy of a dissertation, just something that you’re curious about or that fascinates. For example I’m reading up on Buddhism at the moment as I’ve thought about converting for a while. I’m also a total pop culture junkie and have books on cinema and television on my reading list for summer. The best way to find books on interesting subjects are charity shops or places like The Works, who have all sorts of random books, normally at low prices. Teach yourself books are really good starters as they are written by experts on the field and topics are normally divided into easy to digest chapters.
Start a creative project
Being creative is a great way of expression and for boosting self esteem as we feel a sense of accomplishment when we finish something we’re proud of. With endless time Summer is a great time to lose yourself in a creative hobby, as there is no worse a barrier to creativity than a lack of time. I love writing, but rarely get the time to sit down at my laptop and get lost in my novel in term time, so I’m aiming to get another 10,000 words written this summer. I’ve also decided to make a scrapbook out of all the photos I took during my first two years of university and when I went interrailing. I never have time to create art at university and it was something I did a lot when I was younger and I miss it. If you’re not naturally creative and the thought of writing a novel or painting a canvas terrifies you then don’t worry, a creative project can be as simple as starting a blog or completing a colouring book. It’s a personal project for you, so lose your inhibitions and go create.
Create a morning exercise routine
Sure it’s tempting to spend each day in bed until noon, but getting up and at them with a morning work out is a far better use of your time and energy. Don’t think you have to go hell for leather, simply 10-20 minutes before breakfast is enough to boost your metabolism and your mood for the rest of the day and get rid of fatigue. Working out outside is an ideal way to wake up, but if jogging or walking isn’t your thing try out some fitness videos on YouTube. There are loads for every ability and time limit and most don’t require any equipment. Here are a few of my personal favourites :
Write up some fitness goals
Keeping motivated to exercise daily is a lot easier if you set specific goals on what you want to achieve. They don’t have to be major like getting a six pack or running a marathon, but just focusing on something you want to work towards like increasing your stamina or toning your bum will give you a project to work towards and will encourage to keep going.
Devour some culture
Make a list of book and films you want to see and read and indulge in quality culture. Try out genres that you wouldn’t normally pick and directors and authors whose work you’ve never looked at. Books and films are cheap entertainment and are fantastic soul feeders. They provide escapism, inspiration and solitude. Here’s some book and film lists to get you started:
Spend as much time outside as possible
We spend too much time inside (guilty as charged) and summer is the perfect time to break this habit when it’s actually pleasant to be outside. Sitting hunched over a day isn’t good for our body or mind, so use your holiday to get out as much as possible. Even a 20 minute daily walk in a park is enough to connect us with nature, reduce stress and increase feelings of well being and connection.
Complete a well being challenge
Summer is an ideal time for self improvement as we don’t have to plan our time around a timetable or juggle several different tasks. Completing a well being challenge is a good way to reconnect with ourselves and focus on doing us. There are several on the internet covering everything from gratitude to minimalism. Pick something that you want to battle or cultivate in yourself and give it a go. Challenges are normally around 30 days and are good way to add variety into the everyday, as they pose a mini challenge or task everyday. Here are a few I have come across.
Start a journal
Journalling has numerous benefits: it’s productive, promotes mindfulness, allows venting and is a great reflective exercise during down time. What’s also great about it is that there’s no one right way of doing it. Some people like to write diary accounts of their day, others like to focus on certain aspects or just use them to write about their dreams and goals. Starting a journal is a great project to help you get to know yourself better. I journal on all sorts of things and there’s nothing I love better in the evening that writing away with a cup of tea and a good playlist. If you need help getting started google “journaling prompts” for ideas or try making a positive thoughts notebook like mine.
What are your plans for summer? hat are you planning to achieve?
Let me know in the comments below.