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By: Ellen Geller Kamaras

Have you thought about how you are going to make this summer special?  Or how to make your free time meaningful? 

Let’s play free association.  What word, feeling, or thought pops into your head when I say the word “summer”?

Okay, I’ll go first.  The words that come to my mind are: warmth, sun, freedom, carefree moments, bucket list, fun!

Now it’s your turn!  Need more help?

Tools for Planning a Great Summer

The first and foremost tool in planning a fabulous summer is to think about your three favorite aspects of this season.  Do you enjoy being outdoors (think: long walks on the beach, bike riding, or swimming)? Do you have a lighter workload in the summer (such as summer hours at work, or no carpool)?  Are your children in day camp or overnight camp? Are you free from homework duty? Do you enjoy leaving your office while it’s still light outside? 

Now that you have identified what you love about the summer, the next step is to ensure you carve out time to put those activities in your summer calendar!

The Benefits of Sunshine

Take advantage of the sunshine and warm weather and go outdoors!  Get moving!

Documented research shows that the warmer weather and sunlight of the summers in our part of the world can actually make us feel happier, more creative, and more focused.  The reason for this is that the brain produces more serotonin on sunny days than it does on darker days.  Serotonin is a mood-lifting chemical or what is often called a natural antidepressant.  Many people develop seasonal affective disorder (SAD) in the dark days of winter, which causes symptoms of depression including moodiness, low energy, lack of interest in daily activities and more.  Don’t let those long days of light go to waste!

Sunlight is also a natural source of Vitamin D, which helps you fight various diseases.  Soak up some sun in limited doses and don’t forget your sunscreen!  Set your phone alarm and take a short brisk walk during lunch.  When you get back to your desk, you will feel energized, and a solution to your earlier problem may suddenly come to you. What about eating lunch at a picnic table with friends at a nearby park?  Or take your lunch and eat it on a park bench while you listen to your favorite tunes?  Or flex that green thumb, spend some time gardening, or start an early morning walking group with some like-minded friends.  If your children are home, make sure to incorporate lots of outdoor time for them as well.  With summer’s long days, you can even have a family outdoor outing (e.g. dinner at a park or beach) when you get home from work or when they are home from day camp.

Get Creative!

Another useful tool in planning your summer fun is your very own imagination!  Close your eyes and dream.  Is there something you have always wanted to do but never found the time?  Summer is a perfect time to make it happen!  Do you have a bucket list? Summer is the season to start checking off some of those entries!  Choose some items that are within your budget and are reasonable, considering your calendar and work and family responsibilities.

Here are some popular bucket list items to get you thinking. 

Have you ever wanted to:  jump in a car and take a road trip, go skydiving, do karaoke, learn a new language or instrument, take professional cooking classes, run a marathon, or write a short story or your memoir, get over a fear, connect with someone from your childhood?  How about getting a makeover, going camping, walking across a bridge, or playing tourist in the city?

Try Something New

Block off time on your calendar to do something you have never done before – get out of your comfort zone. Stretching oneself can be empowering, help you feel stronger, and boost your confidence and self-esteem.

Enjoy the beautiful parks in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and New Jersey. Pack a lunch and hop on the iconic and free Staten Island Ferry!

How about doing something you loved as a child?

Check out Jane’s Carousel in Dumbo! It was built in Ohio in 1922 and was recently transported and renovated in NYC.  Or indulge your inner child at Coney Island or Asbury Park.

Do you want to create a new habit or routine?  The average number of days it takes for a new behavior to become automatic is just over two months or around 66 days.  Why not start in the summer when you may be feeling more carefree or less stressed?  As I wrote this article, I decided to start a new habit - getting to work 30 minutes earlier. I will let you know how that goes!

It may be easier for you to kick off a new healthy eating routine in the summer.  Do you have more time for the required preparation, such as cutting up veggies and fruit?  I like to make or buy fruit or veggie smoothies for breakfast or snacks in the summer.  I find that they are filling and refreshing as well as healthy!

Try Flexibility

If you are fortunate to work for a company that allows flexible summer hours, you can certainly use the extra time to make your summer more meaningful!

Do you own your own business or manage a company? Please keep in mind that studies have found that employee productivity increases and morale is better when employers offer shorter work weeks or flextime.  Employees appreciate the opportunity to have extra time for relaxation and building relationships with friends and family.

Tackle a Task, Physical or Spiritual

Here’s another summer strategy. How about planning to do house projects and other tasks that are easier in the summer versus the winter?  For example, painting that fence or rail, or clearing out the garage or basement, or visiting a relative that lives far away. This approach can pave the way for an easier school year or winter.

Summer is also an opportune time to nourish your soul and spirit!  Are you willing to try something new to grow spiritually?  Can you commit to one new mitzvah for the summer or choose one to do really well?  Maybe you’d like to sign up for a new shiur at your shul or online, or say a few chapters of Tehillim a day or join a havruta (small group learning)?

Allow Yourself Time to Relax

Please remember that a significant aspect of summer is relaxation!  No need to plan an activity for every free moment. Take some time to unplug, practice self-care (how about a massage?), and to recharge and refresh.

Give yourself permission to just chill out and relax.  Summer is also an ideal time for your children to read just for fun and not for a school assignment.  We all can pick up some of our favorite hobbies and check out new interests.

I hope I have successfully stirred your creative juices!

Wishing you a healthy summer and lots of opportunities to create new and joyful memories, allowing you to share stories about them with family, friends, and colleagues throughout the year!

Ellen Geller Kamaras, CPA/MBA, is an International Coach Federation (ICF) Associate Certified Coach.  Her coaching specialties include life, career, and dating coaching.   Ellen works part-time as an entitlement specialist at Ohel Children’s Home and Family Services. She can be contacted at