Take control of your Sunday afternoons and evenings with this adventure strategy.
This article is cross-posted from my weekly newsletter, The Sunday Soother, a newsletter about modern spirituality and useful tips for creating more meaning in your life that goes out every Sunday morning. To get more content about how to infuse your life with thoughtfulness, reflection, and meaning, subscribe here. I am also a holistic personal development coach. You can learn more about working with me here.
The Sunday scaries are a meme for a reason — everybody’s experienced them at one time another, if not each and every Sunday each week since you’ve been 12 years old. If you haven’t heard of them, basically they involve existential angst, dread, anxiety, and low-level panic all in one delightful emotional package that starts approximately around 1pm on Sunday afternoon and rolls straight through into however long it takes you to calm your mind by scrolling through endless Instagram posts with your face scrunched into a pillow and you pass out in a cold sweat.
They’re so common that there’s a line of cannaboid gummies branded Sunday Scaries: CBD Gummies for Anxiety (this is peak 2018) and they’re part of the reason that I relaunched my newsletter to be called the Sunday Soother, full of links to distract your mind every Sunday evening about the impending week.
I’m no stranger to the Sunday scaries — or Smondays, if you prefer — myself. Mix a healthy dose of perfectionism, a panic disorder, and an ability to convince myself I’m not ever spending this time on earth meaningfully or fulfillingly enough, and I’m basically on the floor for seven hours straight every Sunday afternoon until I shuffle myself to bed, mad that I’ve let this sense of anxiety and impending doom ruin what are my few legally-mandated hours free from the 9–5 grind yet again.
But I think I’ve come up with a solution does the following: has me looking forward to Sunday afternoon and evening; takes as much or as little work as I want it to; and leaves me with a sense of happiness and productivity by the time I get into bed Sunday night.
I call it the Sunday Adventure.
In short, the Sunday Adventure is an activity that I choose earlier in the week, planned ahead of time, and as complicated or as easy as I want it to be. The point is it has to be something I’m looking forward to. That something could be a trip to a new museum; it could be cooking a new recipe; it could be watching 32 episodes of Say Yes to the Dress; it could be a 30-minute run; it could be a nap on my couch. Honestly, it can be anything, as long as it’s intentional, not passive.
Let me explain why I think the difference between passive and intentional activities is so critical to the success of your Sunday Adventure (and honestly, to life, but I’ll write more about that later).
The reason the Sunday Adventure works for me is because it is not a passive choice of entertainment.
Passive choices are situations that happen to us. We submit to them, but we did not plan for them to take place. They just seemed like the best or easiest choice at the time or a situation that our circumstances presented to us, rather than one we meant to do.
And oftentimes, passive choices or entertainment are just fine. You may think the best way to spend your Sunday afternoon is by just doing whatever you feel like in the moment. And for the blessed few of you out there who aren’t filled to the brim with existential dread and enjoy your life on the regular, that may be just dandy. You may be fully satisfied with an evening browsing Netflix or napping in front of HGTV just because. No judgment here.
But I think one reason the Sunday scaries are so prominent is the fact that many of us are looking back at the all-too-brief weekend and regretting that we haven’t done enough meaningful with our time off. Sure, we had free time that we spent on the couch, but maybe that wasn’t how we planned our weekend going. It just seemed like the easiest thing at the time. And we submitted. And then with Monday morning looming, we look back with regret at that choice of how time was spent. We could have done so much more. Why didn’t we?
The reason we probably didn’t is because we think having a weekend devoid of plans is magical enough in and of itself, and so we might expect that magical things will just… happen. Come along unexpectedly like a butterfly alighting on your shoulder. Unfortunately, the cold, hard reality is that unplanned time often ends up wasted time, and the serendipitous adventure we thought would take place of its own accord never materializes. And we’re disappointed.
So that’s what the concept of Sunday Adventures solves for me. I don’t expect serendipitious adventures (I’m old, boring, and uptight; this is the advice I’ve got to give you here). I’ve given myself control and intention and purpose over what I’ll be doing before the Smondays set in, and so my Sundays don’t feel wasted or like I just sat around anticipating an adventure. I created my own.
But you have to plan it right for it to work. To that end, a good Sunday Adventure has two important elements: it is intentional, as opposed to passive; and you can anticipate it throughout the week.
My Sunday Adventure last week was cooking a lasagna. I had a new cookbook coming in the mail, and ahead of time I picked out the recipe I wanted to make. That was it. I knew I’d be cooking it starting around 4pm; then I was gonna eat it. Maybe I’d have a fine fine glass of wine with it, then I’d package it up and portion leftovers out for the week. Woo. I thought about that lasagna for at least a couple of days beforehand, so it was like the holy flipping grail by the time I got around to making it.
Perhaps that sounds boring to you. Don’t you dare judge me. My life these days is all about the little joys, like pants that still fit, or dislodging a particularly satisfying particle of food while flossing. And my Sunday Adventure for this coming week is a bit more exciting. I’ll be leaving a weekend-long yoga retreat with a couple of friends, and we’ll stop by a winery on the way back. I’m going to buy myself a nice bottle, and drink a glass while editing and sending my Sunday newsletter. Done and done!
I suggest choosing your Sunday Adventure by Wednesday or Thursday at the latest. This will give you enough time to plan out the logistics, and, more importantly, to anticipate it. In addition to the importance of intentionality around your Sunday Adventure, anticipation is key as well. You’ve probably read all the research around anticipation and happiness — you may be even happier in the time leading up to an event you’re looking forward to than the actual event. Lots of great things could happen on a Sunday afternoon spontaneously; but the things you’ve planned for a Sunday afternoon ahead of time will give you joy for an extra few days, too. What a bonus.
Some other ideas for a Sunday Adventure: going to see a movie. Going to a museum. Taking a trip to Sephora (YASSSSS). Hiking. An afternoon cocktail with a girlfriend. Heck, a nap can be a Sunday Adventure if you so choose, as long as you decide that’ll be the thing ahead of time.
Brainstorm a list and keep it pinned on your calendar. Take control of your Sunday afternoons with this adventure strategy. Don’t submit to the resigned passivity of the last hours of your weekend. Make it something special. You deserve it.