We can’t all be Ferris Bueller. But we can try to make the most of a day off.

Most life coaches agree: There are no “should’s” attached to a day off — except maybe to disconnect from whatever it is you normally do. Being physically away from work doesn’t do you much good if you’re constantly checking email and phone messages.

A break may be just want you need to recharge your batteries. While many people feel guilty taking time away from their responsibilities, whether work, school or taking care of an elderly relative, mental downtime has been empirically shown to boost performance.

Swimming pool beside a tropical gardenHow can you make the most of your next day off? Here are a few ideas:

  1. Volunteer — When you donate your time and energy, the people, animals or causes on the receiving end aren’t the only ones that benefit. The term “helper’s high,” first introduced by Allan Luks, refers to the body’s biochemical response to performing altruistic acts; when people volunteer, the brain releases endorphins, a natural stress-booster. But that’s not all.

Research shows that people who volunteer actually feel like they have more time, even though objectively, they have given some of their time away. Cassie Mogilner, an assistant professor at Wharton University who studies happiness, time and money, explains that people who volunteer feel more “time affluent” because of the efficiency with which they use their time. They also feel more capable, confident and useful.

  1. Indulge — Investing time and money on any type of treatment that helps you relax, rejuvenate or feel better about yourself will pay dividends long after you leave the spa or clinic. A massage, for example, can be very helpful in alleviating stress, pain and muscle tension. It can also complement other medical treatments for a variety of other conditions.
  1. Create a vision — It’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day routine that we often forget to step back and take a look at the big picture. A day off provides a great opportunity to reflect, take stock and plan. Rely on your mind’s eye to project beyond the now, recommends Dr. Carmen Harra, who believes that creating a broader vision is the first step to manifesting your ideal life. She advocates a plan that involves painting a mental image of the self you hope to become, creating a specific strategy and timeline, initiating action, persevering and celebrating achievements along the journey. If it seems overwhelming to tackle on your own, enlist the help of a life coach to help make your vision a reality.
  1. Group huddleSocialize — Spending time with friends may be more important than you realize. In addition to boosting your emotional well-being, studies have proven that people with stronger social connections are healthier — and that, on the flip side, those who are isolated are at a higher risk for a slew of health issues. Have lunch with a friend, register for a class at the gym, join a book club … There are many ways to spend time with old friends and find new friends provided you make the time and effort.
  1. Unwind — Life gets so busy, sometimes we have to schedule time to relax. Turns out, this is a worthwhile endeavor. Reading, for example, makes people happier. Spending time in nature can render you nicer and less stressed. The emotional and physical benefits of focused relaxation — meditation — are abundant, ranging from decreased anxiety to improved concentration and attention span, addiction recovery, slower aging of the mind and more.

A day off can be the perfect opportunity to try something new and different. Or not — it’s up to you. However you choose to spend it, taking a break from the normal routine can halt the cycle of stress, and leave you feeling refreshed and recharged.

What have you done lately to make the most of a day off?

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