Chill Out And Cheer Up
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Summer is a great opportunity to take time off from our busy schedules and regain some much needed R&R. Besides the break from our usual routines, vacations also help us reboot our brains, refresh our bodies, and reconnect with ourselves and others.

Studies have shown that taking vacations are important. Downtime leads to multiple benefits including decreased stress, increased happiness, and improved productivity.

It's nice to believe that we all take vacations on a regular basis, but the reality is that we don't. A Glassdoor Employment Confidence Survey showed the average US employee takes only half of his or her eligible vacation time--and more vacation days are being added to the "untaken" list each year.

So what's the problem?

Too many of us are concerned about keeping up with our workload, but that means we are ignoring our stress load. The solution? It's time to follow through and schedule the vacation. Otherwise, your timely time off may end up in the should-have-done file. Plan it; book it; and put it on the calendar. Then you will start to book around it and not over it.

Whether you decide to indulge in a vacation or staycation, here are some simple tips for chilling out this summer and getting some much-needed cheering up:

Get perspective. How often do you leave the comfort of your home, neighborhood, and workplace? Try going somewhere new. Experience contrast; embrace variety; welcome happenstance. Get out of your comfort zone and go explore the world. Explore your own town, a neighboring city, or an adjacent state. It doesn't need to be far away. The planet is a gigantic classroom waiting for you to become a willing student, so jump in and take the free class.

Get lost. Seriously. I'm not kidding. Remember what it feels like to be lost? You might not--or not as much as you did before GPS. Getting lost nowadays isn't as common--we can just glance at our phone or Garmin to steer ourselves back on track. But getting lost has several benefits: It forces us to explore new territory and let go of control; humbles our hubris; and reminds us how much more there is still to learn around us. Plus, asking a stranger for directions can bring you a new connection, the best places to eat, or even a new friend.

Get quiet. Our minds and bodies were designed to be active and engaged, but they also require downtime for balance and refreshment. Vacations can remove us from the noise of life, and in moments of silence, we reconnect with ourselves and gain insight, focus, and clarity. Silence can bring us into alignment with our thoughts and feelings and help us hear the quiet inner voice of our intuition. Doing nothing can, indeed, be something.

Get happy! I know it may sound clichéd, but happiness is a choice--and we can get there faster by deliberately putting ourselves in the company of people and surroundings that are already positive, uplifting, and pleasant. By purposely choosing cheerful, we expose ourselves to happy vibes--and vibes are catchy. So if happiness contributes to healthiness, then it's time to cheer up!

Learn more about the benefits of balance and happiness in Balancing Work, Relationships & Life in Three Simple Steps, or another book from Michael's collection at

Image: Brenda Wanke Jenkins and her Chucks

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