10 Ways to Be Well this Summer
Summer’s here, the sun is out, school is out of session, which means you may just have some extra time on your hands. A surplus of free time comes with its blessings but also its curses. You and I both know how it goes; it’s easy to misuse all that spare time after all, getting stuck online, sitting at the TV, staying up too late. And without the daily structure school provides, it’s common to feel a bit adrift and restless, which can make mental health challenges like anxiety and depression feel more pronounced.
If you feel like summer puts a new strain on your mental wellbeing, you’re not alone! Now is a good time to set some wellness goals for yourself. Read on for a bucket list of things to keep yourself engaged in a healthy, mindful lifestyle this summer.
- Exercise: Exercise has been proven effective in treating mild to moderate symptoms of depression, and can be used in coordination with other treatments to help treat more serious conditions. So go stretch your legs, however you like to, whether it be running or strolling, playing basketball or playing ping pong—as long as it gets your blood pumping!
- Get in touch with your artistic side: Whether you prefer to paint, sing, write, bake, garden or what have you, studies have shown that engaging in artistic activity has a variety of health benefits; it helps to relieve stress and symptoms of depression, as well as boosting positive emotions and even staving off cognitive decline further down the line. Summer time is the perfect time to take up a new artistic pursuit.
- Journal: People struggling with mood conditions like depression and anxiety often find that journaling helps them gain control of their emotions by giving them the chance to recognize symptoms, triggers, as well as a chance to practice positive self-talk. So if your head is gets overcrowded this summer, get some of those thoughts out of your head by jotting them down onto the page instead.
- Find the humor: Laughter may not be the best medicine for every ailment, but it’s certainly the cheapest and the most enjoyable. Studies have shown laughter and humor have a variety of benefits to your health, including improvements in mood, circulation, and even the immune system. Hey, that’s no joke…
- Sleep well: A good night’s sleep is a requirement for strong mental wellbeing. Once viewed only as symptoms of psychiatric disorders, recent studies suggest that sleep problems can actually contribute to psychiatric disorders as well. You may not have to wake up for early classes this summer, but don’t let that stop you from getting to bed at a reasonable hour.
- Meditation and other focused-relaxation techniques: Meditation helps ease symptoms of anxiety by calming our cluttered minds, and giving us the clarity to distinguish what is a constructive, action-oriented thought, versus what is just an unconstructive worry. Maybe you don’t think you’re the meditating sort of person, but it doesn’t hurt to try it out, does it? Yoga is another great focused-relaxation technique, which also has the added benefits of physical exercise. Try starting your summer mornings from a focused, calm place of mind
- Enjoy the sunlight: Studies have shown that spending time outdoors reduces our tendency to brood over the negative aspects of our lives, and increases positive feelings overall. When we pair the soothing effects of nature with a little bit of exercise and a dose of Vitamin D from the sunlight, we have a potent recipe for wellness.
- Eat well: More and more we’re learning that a healthy, nourishing diet is not only a foundational requisite for good physical health, but key for good mental health as well. Maybe it seems obvious at first—the brain is part of the body after all and needs its nourishment just like any other organ—but research on diet and mental health is still a relatively young effort. And although there is still much we have to learn, in recent decades the evidence linking diet to mental health and wellness has continued to grow stronger. Taking the time to slow down and prepare a healthy meal is a great, easy way to prioritize your overall health this summer, and destress while you’re at it. Learn more about the link between diet and mental wellness here.
- Practice kindness: When we do someone else a kindness, we’re also doing a kindness for ourselves. Altruism helps us to foster gratitude, and to think less about our own problems. Plus, acts of altruism release endorphins, resulting in what has been dubbed the “helper’s high.” Spend some of your free time this summer thinking up something nice to do, and then go on and do it. A compliment, for one example, doesn’t cost a dime to give, but it can be such a gift to receive. Be someone’s silver lining today.
- Stay Connected: Healthy, loving relationships help us thrive by supporting us in times of adversity, and by encouraging us to pursue new challenges, and lead purpose-driven lives. In one study, a low level of social interaction was found to have a negative impact on lifespan that was equivalent to smoking nearly a pack of cigarettes a day! Without the school term to keep you engaged socially, it can be easy to lose contact with friends. So call someone up for lunch. Make social plans for the weekend. Have some fun with it. Who says self-care always has to be hard work?
We want to know how you’re putting your mental health and wellness first this summer. What will you do with your free time? Join the conversation online by using the hashtags #BeWell, #BeHeard, and #BeThere. Share your mental health story at WellBeingTrust.com, because it may just be the story someone else needs to read right now.