Lower your expectations…of everyone. For example: don’t think you have to lose weight to go swimming, or that if you don’t get laid before Memorial Day that you’re a loser. Don’t expect your friends to be perfect. In other words, welcome reality. Know that some days will feel better than others, some people will disappoint you and some days you’ll disappoint yourself. Forgive yourself (and others) and do your best to move onto something else.
This may not be your best time to take a vacation. If you prefer cheaper hotels, swimming pools not crammed full of screaming children and avoiding swarms of other tourists, summer may be a good time to stay in town and do stuff you’ve always wanted to do (museums, nice restaurants, exploring the East Village or North County. Try some mini-vacations (like going to LA or Palm Springs for long weekends). Fall, Winter and Spring tend to be easier times to travel, with fewer kids and less traffic. Maybe September would be nicer for your trip to Europe or New York City or Mexico.
If you do go to social events – picnics, beach parties, street fairs– how can you maximize your happiness? Get clear about what to get from it. Do you want fun? To get laid? To show off your beautiful body? Let’s be real: often, we go into things without any idea what we’d like to experience. This may work out, but, often, we end up getting something we didn’t want. For many of us, summer social events bring a LOT of unspoken expectations that often leave us feeling disappointed when it’s all over. Take a moment before you join in any of these celebrations and ask yourself: “What do I want from this?” and listen to yourself. I promise you that this will improve the odds that you’ll get the most enjoyment possible.
Summer romances are a cultural phenomenon, rife with their own songs, vibes and stories. Do you want one? If so, go for it. If you want more than a bunch of fun hookups, tell yourself the truth about it. Know what you want and don’t settle for less.
Let’s move from the big picture to the details: I was reading a professional journal that talked about happiness and how to get more of it in your life. One research study found that happiness isn’t linked to big, dramatic events or buying expensive stuff like a new car/house/furniture, instead, it’s about learning to savor life’s small pleasures. Sounds a bit overly-simplistic, right? Well, in my experience, it actually works. So here are some ideas on how to experience more happiness this summer on a daily/hourly/moment-to-moment basis:
Do kind things for people you know (and those you don’t): as an experiment, try to do 3 good things every day. They needn’t be big or obvious: Yesterday, I let a guy go in front of me at Vons because I had a lot of stuff in my cart and he only had a few things in his. It felt good. This kind of stuff adds up. If you see someone who looks sad, just say “Hello”. No big deal. They may not respond, but you’ve put good energy out there in the world and it will always make YOU feel better.
Volunteer doing something (anything) that you feel good about. Go to volunteermatch.org or doinggoodtogether.org to see what’s going on near you that you can plug into. It’s not a lifetime commitment, just give it a try and see if it makes you happy.
Let yourself be goofy/silly/weird: Freud called this, “Regression in the service of the ego”, a fancy name for letting yourself be happily, temporarily, childlike. If this is too daunting, watch a goofy/silly movie and enjoy watching other people do weird stuff. Life is far too hard to be serious all the time, and summer is a good time to lighten up.
Eat happy food. Yes, there is such a thing. Dr. Drew Ramsey, author of ‘The Happiness Diet” encourages us to consume more Omega 3’s, B-12, B-9, Vitamin E and magnesium in our diets if we want to feel happier. Google these nutrients or ask someone at Sprouts or Whole Foods how to get more of these happy foods into your diet.
Unplug from technology: connect with real people face-to-face. Psychological research shows that the key to happiness cannot be found on your ipad/iphone screen. It lies in your relationships with other people. Give yourself a tech-free day/morning and see what happens.
Go outside: our gorgeous city is envied by most of the world, and it’s free for us who live here. Walk the beach, a park, Torrey Pines, the Laguna Mountains or the streets of North Park. Notice flowers, plants, and trees. Let them give you a bit of happiness every time you pay attention.
Be physically active and you’ll be happier: research shows that even five minutes of physical activity in nature boosts self-esteem and mood.
Find things to be grateful about. You woke up. You saw the sun. Your dog/cat loves you. Your friends love you. You live in San Diego. You can see well enough to read this. Many studies have found strong correlations between gratitude and happiness. Start with noting 3 things you’re grateful for and see where it takes you.
Summer CAN be a happy time, it just takes a little awareness and effort. I hope that the ideas in this column help you to make this summer your best ever.