It’s important to care for our mental health in every season, but summer, marked by warmer weather, longer days and time off, presents a unique opportunity to tend to our mental state.
Here are six ways to make your mental health a priority this summer:
Get enough exercise:
If you like to exercise in the warmth and the winter months left you wanting, summer is a time to venture outside to get your favorite workout in.
The additional time in the sun offers a whole host of benefits, and it all boils down to vitamin D. Adequate exposure to vitamin D helps regulate depression and increase serotonin. Serotonin has been coined our body’s natural “feel good” chemical and is a natural mood-booster, producing a sense of calm and focus.
Whether you love to bike, hike, swim or run, you’ll be doing your body and your mind good by soaking up vitamin-D filled UV rays. As always, be sure to wear sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or above to protect your skin from harmful rays.
Make your exercise routine more fun and effective by working out with a friend. Research shows that keeping company while exercising can increase motivation, reduce boredom and encourage accountability.1 You’re less likely to skip a workout if you have someone counting on you to join them.
Get enough sleep:
Most of us have felt the effects of a sleepless night. Sleep deprivation can cause immediate adverse effects to a person’s mental state, like forgetfulness, increased stress and emotional distress.
Down the line, the consequences of insufficient shuteye can rear their ugly head, too; in extreme cases, prolonged lack of sleep can cause disorientation, paranoia and even hallucinations.
Therefore, it’s vital to make sleep a priority. It might be harder to regulate sleep during the summer because more sunlight later in the evenings can suppress our production of melatonin, a hormone that signals to the body when it’s time to doze off. Hotter temperatures and increased socialization – oftentimes including alcohol – can also disrupt sleep.
Some helpful ways to ward off sleep deprivation include going to sleep and waking up at the same each day, keeping nighttime temperatures cool – whether by propping open a window or turning on a fan – and establishing a nighttime routine. Whether that’s reading a book, listening to calming music or writing in a journal – relaxing the mind is a step toward sound sleep.
Start a garden and walk through it:
Gardening has long been touted as a way to incorporate physical activity into your everyday routine. What’s not as talked about are its numerous mental health benefits.
A green thumb has been shown to improve mood, attention span, self-esteem and encourage social bonds.
Gardening also inherently fosters a growth mindset. Preparing a healthy environment for plants and then allowing nature to take its course is a valuable principle that can apply to other areas of life, too.
If you’re a novice gardener but want to reap the healthy benefits, remember to choose a sunny spot where your vegetables will be exposed to direct sunlight for at least six hours a day and to use nutrient-rich soil. Don’t forget to take a stroll through it once you see some results!
Eat healthily (take advantage of summer fruits and vegetable):
If you’re already actively tending to a garden, this next step will feel natural. Consuming certain summer fruits and vegetables can ensure our gut microbiomes stay healthy. Research has shown that the state of our gut microbiomes can impact the state of our minds.2 When there’s a proper balance of good bacteria, we’re less prone to mood disorders like anxiety and depression.
Prime summer fruits to reach for include pears, raspberries, apples, kiwis and blueberries. Nutritious veggies to eat are asparagus, mushrooms and leafy greens (like spinach and kale).
If you don’t have time to start a garden, heading over to your local grocery store’s produce section will do. Make it fun by trying a new recipe or cooking with a loved one!
Unplug from technology and social media:
If you’ve found yourself mindlessly scrolling through social media on your smartphone, summer time may be your cue to take a break. Excessive use of our smartphones can get in the way of our interpersonal relationships; you’re less likely to interact with those in person if you’re consumed with your screen or paying mind to an endless barrage of notifications. Our smartphones have also been shown to affect our memories. With all the information right at our fingertips, we no longer need to memorize phone numbers or directions.
A smartphone detox is a good practice to adopt to combat these. One 2021 study showed that students who briefly refrained from social media had a positive change in mood, lowered anxiety and improved sleep.3
So, whether you leave your phone in another room while you meditate or relax or put your phone on Do Not Disturb while working, a break from your phone can do you good.
Plan a getaway or staycation:
If you’re stressed at work and have been itching to get away from it all, summer provides ample opportunity to do so. It will calm your body and also do wonders for your mind. One study found that just the act of planning for a vacation can increase happiness because of the anticipation of what’s to come. 4
When you’ve actually made it to your destination, your brain will benefit from the novelty of all that you’re seeing and experiencing for the first time. Research shows that the exposure to new sounds, scents and tastes can improve your brain’s neuroplasticity, or its ability to form and reorganize new connections. These new associations can increase creativity, which will serve you when you get back to your routine.5
You don’t have to spend lots of money on lavish vacations for the positive impacts of getting away. A staycation can be just as invigorating when you include activities like exploring your city, picking up your favorite book or having a movie night.
Everyone has a different idea of what self-care looks like. Whether you’re exercising, gardening, implementing healthy sleep habits and diet, stepping away from your phone or planning for that next trip, seizing the summer months to care for your mind is a good way to go!
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, July 7). 3 reasons to work out with a friend. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved July 17, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/library/spotlights/workout-buddy.html
- The gut-brain connection. Harvard Health. (2021, April 19). Retrieved July 17, 2022, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/the-gut-brain-connection
- El-Khoury J;Haidar R;Kanj RR;Bou Ali L;Majari G; (n.d.). Characteristics of social media ‘detoxification’ in university students. The Libyan journal of medicine. Retrieved July 17, 2022, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33250011/
- Curran, E. J. (2021, May 3). Here’s why planning a trip can help your mental health. Travel. Retrieved July 17, 2022, from https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/article/planning-a-trip-is-good-for-you-especially-during-pandemic
- Burns, R. (2021, March 17). How travel benefits your brain. Brain World. Retrieved July 17, 2022, from https://brainworldmagazine.com/how-travel-benefits-your-brain/