How to spend more time outdoors on your patio

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When Summer comes, getting outside more often is like re-learning a language. It may take a few stuttering steps to get into a routine that includes more time outside, but once you get into the swing of things you’ll remember how much you loved it.

Changing a few of your habits can ensure you have a regular dose of fresh air while you can. Remember: the priority in the summer is to get some great use out of your outdoor room. Spending time outdoors is a major stress reliever and is good for your family’s health.

In their book Nudge, experts Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler note how tiny changes in your environment can “nudge” you toward certain behaviors. For example: grocery stores design check-out aisles with small, impulse-purchase goods; restaurants place the least expensive vegetables first in a salad bar because people tend to load their plates with the first few offerings. You can also use this quirky human trait to your advantage. Design a few nudges into your weekly routine to help get you and your family out on your patio. Here are some examples:

Designate one weeknight as a grill-out night. You can marinate the meat or poultry on Sunday night and it’ll be ready to grill after work on Monday. Grilled chicken takes about 20 minutes to cook. Grab some interesting sauces during the weekend shopping trip and you’ll level up a simple meal to a delicacy.

Keep flatware and dishes outside and ready to use. According to Sunstein and Thaler, any tiny roadblock – like having to lug an entire table setting outside – may be enough to stop you from “going through the trouble.” Take away as many of these “hassles” ahead of time so they don’t serve as resistance on the days you come home tired. A bit of time relaxing outside is exactly what you need on those days!

Remember: Take out can be eaten outside too! There’s no reason to do pizza, Chinese, Indian or Thai inside in the summer. Why not institute a summer rule: all take out is *taken out* to the outside dining area. Most take out can be eaten in the package it comes in, which makes dining al fresco almost effortless.

Dorm room size refrigerators are great for holding drinks. Tuck one in the garage somewhere to knock out the “lugging the big pitcher” roadblock you may encounter. Try to find ways to cut down on carrying. Salt and pepper shakers, condiments, etc., also can be kept in the small fridge.

Let neighbors and friends know about your grill-out/take-out nights. You’ll be nudged out there if you have guests coming. Tell them it’s BYOF (bring your own food) and tell them a time. The best thing about summer nights is the late sunsets and warm weather. No need to save all your visiting for the weekends! Weeknights out on the patio are what you want!

Take a look at your routines and see how you can design in some of your own nudges. Viva la patio!