4 Unexpected Ways to Maximize Summer
DINE AL FRESCO ALL DAY
Outdoor cafes and restaurants are great for people watching and soaking in the summer ambiance, but dining at your neighborhood bistro shouldn’t be the only way to get your al fresco fix. Eat dinner outdoors. Citronella candles and tiki torches create a romantic atmosphere while keeping the bugs away.
For a more exotic location, or in case you don’t have a backyard, consider a picnic dinner. Summer months, with their extended hours, are a great time to visit neighborhood parks, botanical gardens, or forest preserves. You can eat while it’s still light, just remember to pack out what you brought in.
And don’t limit outdoor eating to dinnertime. Start your day eating breakfast en plein air. Grab your sunrise smoothie and oatmeal and decamp to your balcony or patio. Natural sunlight not only helps you wake up, it also helps you sleep better.
ENJOY THE SUNSET FROM AN UNUSUAL SPOT
In winter the sun sets during rush hour, if not earlier. If you’re lucky, your commute home might include a glimpse of fading light on the horizon.
Take advantage of the sun lingering long in the sky. Research the best sunset spots in your state, like this list from Yahoo Travel. Capture some wild views with smartphone apps, reviewed by Have Camera Will Travel, that help you line up the sun (and moon and Milky Way) with a landmark. These apps use your phone’s GPS to pull data for your precise location to determine when and where the sun will set.
For unfettered views that make you feel like a bird in flight, consider a sunset ziplining trip through a forest canopy. ZiplineRider maintains a list of zipline locations throughout the United States, Canada and other locales.
TAKE A FOREST BATH
Forest bathing, also known as forest therapy, is the Japanese practice of a slow, deliberate walk in the woods to contemplate nature and de-stress. A review of research published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that forest bathing has numerous health benefits, including lowering blood pressure, decreasing anxiety and depression, boosting immune function, and possibly improving sleep quality and duration.
Find a forest preserve or state park near you and set aside two hours. Forest bathing isn’t a brisk hike or form of exercise, but rather a meditative walk in nature, stopping often to sit and contemplate what’s around you. The point is to fully engage your senses, like listening to the gentle babble of a brook, touching a frilly fern or watching a spider weave a web. The Association of Nature & Forest Therapy Guides & Programs explains this therapeutic practice and a searchable map of programs and guides.
BLOCK PARTY WITH YOUR NEIGHBORS
Today’s gadgets and social media echo chambers may leave you feeling socially isolated and disconnected. Reconnect with your community by getting to know your neighbors with a summer block party.
Check with your local officials first and get proper permits for things like closing the street. Some towns offer ready-made block party wagons filled with supplies, such as folding tables, chairs, and an outdoor grill.
Form a block party committee to set a date and time and share the planning tasks. Decide whether you want a potluck event, or to pool money for ordering in. Collect money for shared supplies such as paper plates and cups, and glow sticks for after sunset.
Plan activities for every age group. Some favorites include face painting, corn hole, musical chairs, water balloon toss, and karaoke competitions. And don’t forget name tags. Mr. Rogers would be proud.
Like diet and exercise, quality sleep is essential for optimal health and performance. Because everyone’s sleep needs are different, Sleep Number® beds with SleepIQ® technology inside adjust to your ideal level of firmness, comfort and support. SleepIQ technology tracks how well you sleep each night, giving you personal insights into your sleep so you’ll learn how life affects your sleep and how sleep affects your life. Find your Sleep Number® setting for your best possible night’s sleep.