When Independence Day rolls around, we know that summer is truly here. Maybe that’s why it’s one of our favorite holidays. But there are so many fun things to do on the Fourth of July that it’s hard to choose.
That’s why we’re bringing you this list. Our Fourth of July ideas are not only fun but also give you an actual, science-backed happiness boost. (And no, they’re not all about beer. Though you can throw some of that in for good measure, we won’t stop you.)
It turns out that many of the ways we usually celebrate are mood-lifters, so it’ll be easy to keep that festive feeling going long after the fireworks fade.
Let the celebration begin.
7 Happiness-Boosting Things to Do on the Fourth of July
From running to socializing to getting cozy with your partner, these seven things to do on the Fourth of July all have deeper benefits backed by social science research.
1. Run a Fourth of July 5k
There are a bunch of reasons why exercise makes you happy. One meta-analysis looking at research on exercise and depression, for example, found that aerobic activity was particularly good at making people feel less depressed.
In other words, getting your cardio on is great for your mood as well as your body.
Now, being the Fourth of July and all, we’re not suggesting you chain yourself to a treadmill as a way to pass the hours. There are so many pre-organized activities you can sign up for so you don’t have to go it alone. Search online for what’s happening in your city — it may be a 5k run, a bike race or ride, even a triathlon (if you’re that daring) — and go join in.
2. Get outdoors for the perfect pick-me-up
Or should we say picnic-me-up? Because then we’re really marrying two of our favorite things (three, if you count bad puns): Food and the great outdoors.
Getting outside is one of the best things to do on the Fourth of July because nature is a proven happiness-booster. There are a bunch of studies that say as much, like this meta-analysis which found that “those who are more connected to nature tended to experience more positive affect, vitality, and life satisfaction”.
Without boasting too much, this country has plenty of breathtaking national and state parks to offer, too. But even your local park will give you a breath of fresh air and the benefits of nature, so pack up your picnic basket, your friends, and your celebratory mood, and away you go.
3. Get social
Okay, so getting together with friends and family on the Fourth of July is kind of a given. But just in case you needed an extra reason to get social, here it is: Social connection is a key to happiness.
So make it a priority not only to spend time with others but to make it quality time. Use the holiday to strengthen your bonds with loved ones by throwing a party, talking, listening, sharing meals, dancing, forgiving, and helping each other out. Everyone will feel better for it.
And P.S., do get the young ones of the family involved: Research shows that kids who are more socially connected grow up to be happier adults.
4. Pay someone a kindness
It’s well-documented: When we do good, we feel good. And what better opportunity to pay out some acts of kindness than when the whole country is in a celebratory spirit?
As for kind things to do on the Fourth of July? You could invite someone who would otherwise be spending the holiday alone to join your family barbecue. Or how about complimenting a stranger at your local fireworks show on their patriotic gear. Or while you’re out and about, throw a few coins into someone’s parking meter.
Get creative, be kind, and feel great.
5. Give an expression of gratitude
We know that gratitude has a laundry list of benefits for health and happiness. And research shows that we reap more of those benefits when we express gratitude to others rather than keep it to ourselves.
But we get it: It’s not easy to manifest a heartfelt expression of gratitude out of nowhere. That’s where holidays and special occasions come in.
Use the Fourth of July as a platform for showing thanks to someone in your life. Bake a neighbor one of your famous apple pies and drop it around (send us one while you’re at it?). Surprise a family member by decorating their yard with red, white, and blue ribbons. Or by giving their house a post-party cleanup. Tell them you’re grateful they exist— it might just make their day as well as yours.
6. Have a date night
We’ve already established that the company of others is a good thing. Another idea? Have an Independence Day date night with your significant other.
Watch some fireworks together, go to an outdoor film screening, cook together, go to your neighbor’s barbecue as a couple… Hey, you could even go for a long weekend road trip together.
In a nutshell, do something that nourishes and strengthens your relationship. A landmark Harvard study on happiness, which tracked people across 80 years, found that “close relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives” and, bonus, those who were happiest in their relationships were also the healthiest.
7. Look up
We couldn’t possibly talk about things to do on the Fourth of July without talking fireworks. Yes, there’s a reason why vibrant bursts of pyrotechnics against a night sky fill your heart with mini-explosions: Beautiful things make us feel good.
Research by HTC found that beautiful objects trigger positive emotions and simultaneously reduce negative emotions by 29 percent. A study on urban design found that people who live in aesthetically beautiful cities are happier. And another study found that when people develop the ability to appreciate beauty, they get a boost in well-being.
So go watch the sky, and you may just find that things are looking up.
To sum it all up…
Holidays are a great way to celebrate the things that make us happy and conveniently enough, celebrating them gives us even more to be happy about. So get out there this July Fourth and enjoy the mood-boosting benefits of a holiday well spent.
Your turn: What are your favorite things to do on the Fourth of July? Tell us how you plan to celebrate in the comments.
For more reasons to celebrate, check out our post on why we’re happier in the summer.
Author: Tania Braukamper
Tania Braukamper is an Australian-born writer and photographer. She believes in curiosity, kindness, and adventure as a state of mind.