By: TANJA SREBOTNJAK, Hixon Center Director
Summer seems so long, it can be daunting to think of all the things we might want to do. What better than making a list of things to do, play, eat, not to do, … The list goes on and on. So here is a list of lists—not to be taken too seriously, of course. Happy summer!
List I – Things to read.
- The Uninhabitable Earth—Life after Warming by David Wallace-Wells. Published by Tim Guggan Books, New York, 2019.
- A Desert Harvest: New and Selected Essays by Bruce Berger. Published by Farrar, Straus and Giraux, New York, 2019
- Selected Writings by Ralph Waldo Emerson edited by William H. Gilman. A Signet Classic, 1965
- The Invisible Killer: The Rising Global Threat of Air Pollution- and How We Can Fight Back by Gary Fuller. Published by Melville House Publishing, 2018
- Downriver: Into the Future of Water in the West by Heather Hansman. Published by The University of Chicago Press, 2019
List II – Things to do.
- Get outside to take a walk, run, or ride your bike. Don’t take any headphones, set your phone to vibrate and just see, listen, smell, and feel nature. A solid body of research shows that connecting with nature has multiple health benefits.
- Fix your bicycle, or better yet, build your own, unique bicycle from second-hand parts, and then use it! According to one survey, 48% (margin of error +/- 7 percentage points) of people do not have access to an operational bicycle.
- Complete an Eco-friendly Project. Whether it’s a compost bin, rainwater harvest system, or backyard garden suitable for insects and pollinators, it’s fun to build something that benefits nature and humans. Composting keeps valuable nutrients out of landfills and your garden will love the fresh humus. Rainwater drums and local groundwater recharge systems keep precipitation where it occurs, instead of sending it to the ocean in stormwater channels. And seeding endemic wildflowers is a great way to attract wild bees, butterflies, and humming birds. None of these activities require great skill nor are they costly. There are lots of how-to videos available on YouTube.
- Make time for family and friends. Summer break is a chance to slow down a bit after a busy academic year and spend more time with family, to reconnect with friends, and making new ones. Research shows that strong social support from family and friends, also known as social capital, is a better predictor of subjective wellbeing (SWB) and happiness than many economic indicators.
- Make some plans. Although living mindfully in the Now is important, it’s also helpful to occasionally take stock of life and career and develop some short- and longer-term goals. Among the many demands placed on our time, mental and physical energy, it is easy to lose sight of the things that are really important to us.
List III – Things to listen to.
- Playlists. There are so many play lists we could compile and it’s fun to do so, so here are some by famous people to get you started: President Obama’s 2016 Spotify playlist, Taylor Swift, Jimmy Fallon’s 2017 musical guests, and Stephen Colbert’s Late Show collection.
- Nature. Music is not the only thing we like to listen to. Listening to nature—tweeting birds, chirping crickets, buzzing insects, … the list is long and fascinating. Or try listening to silence—it’s noisier than you expect. Anyway, in our visually dominated world, it’s good to challenge our other senses from time to time.
- Honest advice. Yep, just listen to it.
- To yourself and your own body. Our moral and ethical belief system is the result of a myriad of personal experiences and teachings of societal norms and values. Today, some of these norms and values are threatened by divisive political discourse. As Michelle Obama put it “When they go low, we go high,” so listen to your own moral and ethical compass and let it guide your words and actions.
- Podcasts. For some, they’re the coolest invention since sliced bread.
List IV – things to play.
- Spiel des Jahres (Game of the Year). This annual award for board and card games was launched in 1978 to reward excellence in game design and promoting high-quality games in the German market. It’s also financially lucrative for the nominated and award-winning game-makers. The 2019 winners haven’t been announced yet, but the 2018 best game winner was Azul, the best children’s game was Funkelschatz and the best connoisseur game was “The Quacks of Quedlinburg”. Happy playing!
- Chess by Mail. This is the ultimate antidote to our fast-paced lives and social media addictions: play a game of chess with a buddy by mailing each other your moves. Of course, there’s an app for that, but resist the temptation and do it the old-fashioned way: using chess postcards. And yes, there is also a club for that, specifically the German Club for Chess by Post.
- An instrument. If you’re already a virtuoso, great, keep it up. If not, then perhaps you’d like to learn to play an instrument. Research indicates it helps ward off dementia and other forms of cognitive impairment. Depending on the sounds emanating from the instrument, it might not ward off angry family members or neighbors.
- Nothing. Boredom has, unfortunately, become somewhat undervalued. It has its benefits, among them giving us a higher sense of appreciation of what’s meaningful and significant. It makes room for finding new goals, interests, and pursuits. It’s motivating. And it lets cognitive and emotional circuits recharge. Embrace it from time to time.
- Improv. It might make you nervous, even anxious at first, but it’s so much fun, builds confidence, and is a real dread-buster.
List V – things not to do (very incomplete and unordered).
- Point out people’s grammar mistakes.
- Sing your locker combination out loud.
- Try every sample at Bath & Body Works.
- Put a lawn chair in your tree and do your homework in it.
- Sing in the bathroom stall.