Once the long and often harsh winter months have finally come to an end, many people are anxious to get outside and participate in a host of favorite summertime activities. Whether you enjoy time on the lake, backyard barbecues, or simply time spent soaking up the sunshine, summer has something available for every lifestyle.
However, this doesn't mean that all of your mental health woes will suddenly dissipate and you'll be the healthiest possible version of yourself. While seasonal affective disorder (SAD) symptoms may begin to lessen as the weather warms up, you can implement some positive habits that will strengthen your mental health this summer.
1. Getting Outside and Exploring Nature
The sun provides an all-natural (and free!) way to get your daily allotment of vitamin D, which is vital for general health and wellbeing. A deficiency in this key vitamin may lead to symptoms of depression in some people.
Ensuring that you spend regular time outdoors in the sun's rays can be an effective mood-booster -- whether you choose to lounge in a beach chair or take a walk at the nearby park. Studies also show that time spent in nature can boost creativity, increase serotonin levels, and reduce general stress and anxiety in certain people.
2. Stay Active Each Day
It's common knowledge that at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day can improve both physical and mental health, whether it's spent casually walking the dog around the neighborhood or going on a strenuous run. Don't place limitations on what you consider "exercise" just because it doesn't fit a particular standard.
The most important thing is to choose an activity that motivates and excites you enough to get up and participate each day. After all, something is better than nothing, and it's all too easy to get stuck inside doing chores or looking at screens all day.
3. Planning a Vacation (or Weekend Getaway!)
If your schedule and budget allow for a vacation, they can provide a great opportunity to switch up the daily routine and create new memories with loved ones. They can act as both an opportunity for self-care and a way to develop and deepen relationships with those traveling with you.
However, you don't have to go far to reap these benefits. Taking a quick weekend trip to a nearby city and staying in a new environment can have the same effect while allowing you to save money on travel expenses. Even staycations are all the rage, with gas prices soaring to unprecedented levels.
4. Setting Limits On Screen Time
In the modern age, it can be difficult to set hard and fast limits on how much time is spent dedicated to screens each day. There are always more emails to check and Instagram photos to like. It's important to be aware of the addictive nature behind this seemingly harmless screen time, which can rise to similar levels as drugs and alcohol.
Luckily, many phones allow users to set limits and reminders on how much time they spend on certain apps daily. If you find yourself "doomscrolling" on Twitter during the evening hours or endlessly scrolling through Facebook, you may want to consider setting a boundary to protect your mental and emotional health.
5. Working Toward Personal Goals
During the warm months, having goals that you're striving to reach can be a great way to stay productive with your time and energy. Of course, if you want to sit back and relax during your well-deserved time off, there's no shame in that either.
Making a general outline of what you want to achieve while you're on break or simply dedicating more time to focus on your personal journey can help you stay motivated. Perhaps you've been wanting to dedicate more time toward developing your green thumb, in which case you get bonus points because gardening has been shown to have therapeutic qualities and can reduce general stress and anxiety.
6. Spending Extra Time With Friends
Often, the summertime equates to extra time off work and school holidays, making it the perfect setting for making plans with friends and family. Having a frequent face-to-face connection with your loved ones can drastically improve mental well-being as well as provide a stronger sense of emotional support. Trading digital messages can't replace the sense of connection in the same way as in-personal interaction.
If you've been cooped up inside for the winter, you may have felt increased levels of loneliness and anxiety. This is a completely natural effect of time spent away from those you enjoy spending time with, and it's important to combat this sensation with regular get-togethers.
7. Creating New Routines
If you're someone who thrives off of a daily routine, you may find that summer throws you off course. If you're on break from school or taking time off work to spend time with the kiddos at home, it's important to create a new sense of structure as your obligations shift.
For individuals experiencing anxiety, having no organization to their days can cause their symptoms to increase and intensify. Creating a calming morning routine can go a long way in providing you with a sense of control over your schedule during the often carefree days of summer.
Stay Mentally Healthy This Summer
It can be easy to forget that mental health needs to be tended to in the summertime, despite the reprieve from daily routines and the stress of school and work. Taking care of yourself mentally along with physically should be a top priority during these months to ensure that you're ready to take on the rest of the year.
If you're struggling to find a sense of balance during the warmer months, the tips outlined above can help you create a new routine and sense of purpose -- such as getting outside and spending time in nature each day for a naturally positive serotonin boost.
What type of activities do you usually like to do during the Summer months?