There’s just something about the onset of summer that’s always made me giddy with excitement—and also, fearful that it’ll fly by way too quickly. Growing up, my countdown to summer would start on May 1st, and there was such a build-up by the time Memorial Day rolled around. Those long, unstructured days full of sunshine and watermelon and bare feet—summer is quite literally my (fresh berry) jam.
Think back to the summers of your childhood—what stands out? Iit’s chasing fireflies through the fields of our home in rural Missouri, going to the U-Pick Blueberry Farm outside town and eating so many berries my stomach hurt, and picking zinnias from the cutting garden my mom planted from seed each year. In a way, creating these memories is the closest we can get to “slowing downtime,” and research backs this idea up.
Another way to create more memorable experiences is to engage all the senses: similar to Proust’s madeleines, think about how you feel when you catch a whiff of tropical-scented sunscreen on the first pool day of summer!
1. Jump into a swimming pool and get your hair wet.
For me, diving into a swimming pool without caring about my hair or smeared mascara equals diving fully into LIFE. You can read more about my journey to let go of perfection and live life to the fullest right here.
2. Pick berries at a local farm.
Some of my favorite memories from childhood are going to the U-Pick berry farms near our home in rural Missouri. In the Austin area, I love Sweet Berry Farm, where you can pick strawberries through May. Just search for berry picking farms in your area to find out what’s available and when—then get ready to have more berries than you can ever eat (that’s what these recipes are for!)
3. Host a barbecue.
I looove grilling season—not only is it quintessentially summer, but it also means less work for me since Adam’s the grill master at our house. Plus, fewer pots and pans to clean up! Burgers or ribs are always a welcome classic, but check out our guide to unexpected foods to throw on the grill this summer. And if you need to brush up on your grilling skills, Adam shared his top grilling secrets for success right here.
4. Read one of the hottest books of summer.
I’ve currently got Sharon Stone’s new memoir and a gripping new thriller, What Comes After, in my cart. There’s no question that one of my favorite parts of summer is curling up in a hammock or on a beach towel and getting lost in a great book.
5. Catch fireflies.
This simple summer pleasure never fails to feel magical.
6. Create a summer playlist.
I’m working on one to share with y’all soon, but in the meantime, get down with the 44 most summery songs of all time.
7. Do a digital detox for an entire weekend.
Nothing spells FREEDOM like silencing your notifications so you can be fully present. This summer, why not turn off your phone for an entire weekend and see how it feels? Just be forewarned: you might love it so much that it becomes a weekly occurrence.
8. Hike on a trail you’ve never taken before.
Remember what we learned about novel experiences carving stronger neural pathways in our brains? It can be as simple as hiking a new trail for the first time—an experience that combines both adventure and serotonin-boosting exercise all in one. I’m asking for these hiking boots for my birthday, ’cause we all know it’s more fun to hike in style.
9. Make homemade ice cream.
Is there anything better than a dish of peach or strawberry ice cream on a hot summer day? I think not, especially when it’s made with simple, homemade ingredients. Growing up, we had one of the old-school hand-cranked machines, and it was so much fun to take turns cranking it until our arms hurt, then be rewarded with the best ice cream I’ve ever tasted. Today, you’ve got options when it comes to homemade ice cream makers: this Cuisinart model gets high ratings, and I have the KitchenAid Ice Cream Attachment that goes straight into my mixer. Or, skip the machine altogether and try this 4-ingredient vegan no-churn ice cream recipe. Yum!
10. Watch the sunrise from a beautiful spot.
Whether you’re at the beach, on a mountaintop, in a forest, or on the rooftop of your apartment building, there’s something magical about getting up early enough to watch the sunrise. Start your morning with this moment of beauty, and just see how it makes you feel all day.