Summer is an amazing time to boost your mental health. The increased sunlight decreases or disappears Seasonal Affective Disorder symptoms as well as improves mental health overall. It’s easier to get and spend time outdoors now that the white stuff is gone and temperatures have increased. It’s also a gathering time for families and communities. Picnics, BBQs, camping, weddings, festivals are much more likely to take place creating an abundance of opportunities to connect with others. Here are my top ten ways to spend those summer months that most enhance your mental health:
10. Work Outdoors - Unfortunately the season of summer doesn’t signal summer break for all of us. So for those who do have to go into that office still, take that report you need to read out under a tree. Walk around the block to brainstorm. Meditate in a garden when you have a spare moment. Hold your meetings in the grass under a large tree. It’ll give you a little taste of summer breaks long past that’ll not only make the work day more bearable but also increase your productivity.
9. Plant a Garden - Summer is prime gardening season for many regions of the world. Gardening reduces stress, grounds you to the earth, and ultimately provides you with deliciousness to put in your mouth. For those of you in which being still and present is difficult, gardening is also a more active method to quieting your mind.
8. Eat locally - Even if you choose not to garden plenty of people around you are and it’s the only time of year for much of the world to eat fresh, local produce. There’s just something extra special about biting into a large, sweet, juicy strawberry straight from the plant. It nourishes both body and soul, as well as supports your local community and lessens your carbon footprint.
7. Play Outdoors - Start a game of tag. Or hide and seek. Dig out the old croquet mallets. Play with children. Play with grownup friends. As adults many of us don't play on a regular basis. We've bought into this myth that adulthood needs to be serious. Yet play not only enhances your mood but also increases creativity and innovation. Summer provides the optimal conditions to let that myth go, at least a little, and if you've forgotten how to let loose Buzzfeed has some great ideas.
6. Attend Festivals - Music or otherwise there are no shortage of fun and often silly events in the summer. Roswell, New Mexico has a UFO festival. Austin, Texas has an ice cream festival. And of course there’s the Testy Festy in Montana where you can eat Rocky Mountain oysters (No, I’m not going to tell you what those are if you don’t already know.). Festivals give you the opportunity to step outside your comfort zone, as well as connect with your community.
5. Take a nap - Under your favorite tree. In an open field. On the beach. In a hammock. A short nap (20 minutes) improves alertness, decreases stress, and boosts the mood as well. Since summer can often be quite busy it's important to take some time to relax and relish in it, rejuvenating yourself in the process. And if napping isn't your thing simply sitting or lying quietly can also provide you with the same benefits.
4. Go Camping - I know this isn’t for everyone. The thought of bugs and dirt are enough to keep some far, far away from any semblance of wilderness. Still there’s something irreplaceable in tramping around the great outdoors all day, cooking a meal over a fire (always much tastier than at home), and sleeping under the stars. Breaking free from your regular routine and communing with nature and others is a great stress buster. Even if the bugs and dirt aren’t your thing perhaps a day hike and then retiring to a cabin would still do the trick.
3. Go to a Baseball Game - Also, not everyone’s favorite activity. But there’s something so wholly summer about sitting in those stands. Even if the actual game isn’t your thing it’s a great opportunity to spend time with your tribe (I mean, how much attention do you really have to focus on this sport.) and eat some junk food while the summer breeze blows across the field. Also, many ballparks offer other forms of entertainment such as fireworks after the game or in the case of minor league teams all kinds of silliness between innings.
2. Get into Some High Quality H2O - Water has naturally healing properties. Whether it's the placebo effect or not, our bodies are made up of mostly water and many people report feeling rejuvenated after being submerged in it. Water's used for many religious rituals after all. So get to that beach, pool, river and jump in it for your own holistic cleansing. Swimming is also a good way to get some exercise when it’s too hot for anything else.
1. Take a vacation - Go somewhere you’ve always wanted to. Or somewhere that makes you feel at home. Even if you can’t afford to actually get away take at least a little time off and enjoy a staycation. It’s important that we take respite from our usual activities and responsibilities. Rest is what allows us to be able to continue on doing what it is that we do. And if there’s one thing summer is full of of besides mosquitos it’s free activities! Many community events are free of charge. Or simply pitch a tent in your backyard (Maybe I've done this once or twice... ). Or if there isn't rain in the forecast just throw down a tarp and blankets. You’re only limited by your imagination.