Winter breaks are for recharging, right? We think so, but if you ask a high schooler what they’re looking forward to most over the holidays, they might answer with “binging that new Netflix show” or “finally getting a chance to beat that new video game.” While we understand the importance of kicking back in front of a TV or computer, we also think there’s value in using winter break as a time to mentally reset before diving into the next year.
So without further ado, here are some of our best tips for how to make the most of your break (and start the new year off on the right foot):
One of the best ways to clear your mind is to actually take some time to be mindful. Not only has meditation been shown to enhance academic performance, it has also been demonstrated to reduce stress, improve an individual’s well-being, actually change the way your mind works, and even potentially improve your health.
But how am I just going to sit there and meditate on my own?
Well, there are loads of classes out there dedicated to meditation – a quick internet search will almost inevitably turn up countless opportunities for meditation near you. In addition, there are many ways to experience guided meditation from the comfort of your own home.
If you’re having trouble finding some meditation classes outside (or if you’d prefer not to brave the tundra that is winter in the Northeast), there are many online resources dedicated to helping you meditate from the comfort of your own home. The New York Times has a some great guided meditations of different lengths, and there are some smartphone apps such as Headspace dedicated to helping you practice mindfulness, wherever and whenever you want.
Instead of staring at a screen for your whole holiday break, try and take some time to read something. Reading can help you stress less, and much like meditation, it can clear your mind and transport you to a whole new world.
Ask your English teachers for some reading recommendations, or better yet, ask your parents or family members for their favorite books. Not only will it give the two of you something to talk about, but it may also help you understand your parent a little bit better.
If you’re stuck or looking for some other recommendations, check out the Smart Alec reading list, which includes some great picks from our expert tutors.
While volunteering or donating to charity is important all year round, the holidays are a great time of year to give back. Donating your time or money is clearly important from a moral and interpersonal point of view, but did you know it can also have positive psychological effects?
In fact, psychology researchers have found that spending your time doing things for others can actually increase your subjective sense of time affluence. More simply, by using some of your time to “give back,” you can actually feel as if you have more free time than if you never took the time to volunteer in the first place.
So, take some time this break to give back in advance of the new year. You’ll feel as though you’re starting this new year with more time than ever.
You probably know that feeling – that “rush” after breaking a sweat at the gym or playing a sport. We all know that it’s good to exercise, and getting active can actually have a tremendous impact on brain power. A recent study from the Journal of Science Medicine and Sport reported that boys who spent the most time sitting (and least amount of time moving) had poorer reading skills than the rest of the students. Who knew that the easiest way to flex your mental muscles was to get moving?
However, you don’t need to even hit the gym to start benefitting from these effects. Grab a family member, bundle up and go take a short walk. Even better, find somewhere that isn’t heavy with traffic where you are able to enjoy nature — it just might make you happier and more attentive. Plus, it’ll give you a chance to spend some quality time with a loved one.
Don’t wait until your New Year’s Resolution to get your blood pumping – kick your year (and your brain off) right by getting off your couch now.
These are just a few ideas for how to use your winter break to recharge before heading into the new year. Enjoy the holidays, and try to get in a little mental relaxation before you head back to school in 2017.