Five fun things to do with your time off when you’re out of ideas

With the summer months approaching, taking time off from work can be beneficial for both your mental health and internal sense of  adventure.

At a time when using vacation time could lead to you getting a raise, there’s nothing wrong with making time for self-care if you can afford to be absent from the office.

But if you’re anything like us, you freeze a little at the concept of more time. When you’re used to being busy, unstructured free time can be a little scary, and it’s all too easy to choose the path of least resistance: sitting on the couch with a Netflix binge, or hanging out in the backyard.

That’s no way to live. This is your time. Think bigger.

Take your eyes off those emails and be with yourself

It takes at least 6 hours to do a digital detox, but the rewards are so very worth it.

Sara Sutton Fell, CEO and founder of FlexJobs, told Business Insider about the benefits of not being available to others in a 2014 article.

“Take advantage of not having to be reachable during the day, and stop checking your email or looking at Facebook for an afternoon or two…This gives you a chance to reset your brain.”

Cooking will center and nourish you

Don’t forget about the most tasty parts of life—  making meals you’ve never tried before just might help you think about what’s important to you. The process of preparing meals helps free your mind, and it is a generous act when you cook for others: you’re thinking of what would please them and make them happy. It’s a good way to calm yourself down and bond with others.

Faisal Hoque wrote about how cooking helped him be mindful in a 2015 HuffPost article.

“Cooking is a great way to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention to the present. It simply means living in the moment and awakening to experience. And it takes practice to be mindful. I have found that when I ritualistically cook on a regular basis it enhances my ability to be mindful about everything else I do,” Hoque wrote.

Volunteer in your community

Helping someone else might even be good for you.

A 2013 study of adults older than 50 in the journal Psychology and Aging presented evidence that there could be physical benefits to volunteer work.

“We found that those who volunteer 200 hours or more per year (roughly 4 hours per week) were 40% less likely to develop hypertension over a four-year follow-up of a sample of community-dwelling older adults,” the study said.

Travel nearby with daytrips

Planning a vacation may take time, but day trips from home can freshen your view in the same way. Local parks, overlooks, historic mansions, or amusement parks all force you out of your usual groove. Or go a bit further afield, even to a nearby state, and discover new terrain.

Play with animals

Animals have the power to brighten up your day and enrich your free time.

Maria Lalonde wrote about spending a day off from work at an animal shelter, and playing with ones who haven’t been adopted yet in a 2016 article for U.S. News & World Report.

“Most animal shelters will let you play with pets awaiting adoption. Grab a leash and spend the afternoon cuddling with shelter dogs. Teach pups new tricks and help them learn how to better socialize with humans. Not only will you be making a difference in shelter animals’ lives, you’ll be giving your own happiness and health a boost. Spending time with animals can come with a variety of health benefits, including exercise and stress relief,” Lalonde wrote.

Ask for more time off: is it time for a sabbatical?

This can be tricky at some workplaces, but taking extended time off for self-exploration and development can be beneficial to your career— just be sure to say that you want to return to work afterward if that’s your intention.

The key: Clearly articulate your purpose.

Hope Dlugozima, a vice president at WebMD and coauthor of Six Months Off, told Monster about the connotation of the word “sabbatical” in an article by John Rossheim.

“The word ‘sabbatical’ has a certain strength to it…Sabbatical sounds like a plan; it implies a certain amount of time and thoughtfulness. Because the word has power, you have to live up to it,” Dlugozima said.

Rossheim also wrote about finding out if your company has a specific sabbatical policy or not.

Mark Horoszowski wrote about how to ask for and receive a sabbatical in a 2016 HuffPost article.

Having someone else help you come up with a way to ask your supervisor could be beneficial.

“Don’t go at this alone. Whether it’s your mentor, coach, associate, or HR team member, find someone that you can discuss your plan with, and who can help you refine your approach in asking for a sabbatical. If nothing else, this person might end up as an accountability partner to help you make the ask and stick to your goals,” Horoszowski wrote.

He also recommended giving your supervisor a one-page document explaining what you want to accomplish, how you’ll get there, and the advantages of doing so, and suggested visiting the website YourSabbatical.

However you choose to spend your time off, it’s sure to help you return to work feeling more recharged.