Once we have waved goodbye to our colder months, we have the longer, brighter and hopefully warmer days ahead of us.
How can we ensure the Summer can psychologically, physically and mentally make us feel freer, more balanced and motivated?
TAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF
Another great thing about summer is that, in many cases, the world seems to slow down. Children are out of school, and families tend to take vacations during the summer because of the warmer weather.
With the ease of the summer months, take some time out for yourself. Take a calming walk by yourself, and use that time to meditate or reflect. (The exercise and vitamin D are an added bonus.) Go to the pool and enjoy the warmth of the sun and the cool, soothing water.
If you are not one for outdoor activities, find an indoor activity like doing a puzzle, playing music, or making art. Simply find an activity that makes you happy and relaxed. There are so many ways to take time for yourself, even if just for five minutes. Take advantage of the relaxed nature of summer, and find little ways that you can slow down and de-stress.
Make the most of fresh produce
Summertime brings sun and warmth (well, we can all hope!) and that of course stimulates growth. Because of this fruits and vegetables are in abundance at the moment. What a great opportunity to incorporate these into your regular diet and try to boost your vitamin levels.
Seek out farmers’ markets or greengrocers where you’ll be provided with the freshest produce. If there aren’t any locally, then you can still source fresh ingredients in your local supermarket. Try to buy produce that’s produced locally whilst it’s in season.
Fruit and vegetables are a great option for a summer diet. When the weather is warmer we tend to shy away from heavy meals so fresh produce is ideal. From salads and smoothies to delicious soups there are a variety of options to make the most of everything that’s currently in season.
Maintain a healthy sleep schedule
Just because school is out for summer and your kids can stay up late and sleep in does not mean they should. As parents, try to maintain a healthy and steady sleep schedule for ourselves and our kids, regardless of our work and school schedules, have become more lenient. It is recommended that we obtain 8-10 uninterrupted hours of sleep, as sleep hygiene is an essential component of our mental health.
Dr Tom MacLaren is a Consultant Psychiatrist states that ‘Waking up to bird song, sunshine and warmth of the summer months can be hugely uplifting, evoking the happiness, optimism and positivity which many of us struggle with in the depths of winter. Summer can bring lots of psychological, physical and mental benefits.
Nature connectedness can help improve our mental health with the fresh air, longer days and calmness of open spaces offering a retreat and distraction from our standard routines. Being closer to greenery, gardens and parks that will provide a boost to your energy and sense of wellness. The colourful, fragranced Summer blossoms can also be uplifting and make us appreciate the beauty of nature.
Finding the motivation to go out for a run in cold, dark and miserable conditions of winter can be very difficult, but the longer, brighter days of summer afford no excuses, meaning we are more likely to be physically active. Walking or cycling short distances, rather than driving, becomes a joy, not a chore and just by walking outdoors, the risk of heart disease, diabetes and even depression is reduced. Being outdoors is especially safe if you’re worrying about Covid, as these areas are naturally well ventilated, open and less crowded that the indoors.
Watching the sunrise and changing light during the day is a great way to re-set that body clock if you have missed sleep. Watching the sunset is also a very beautiful and therapeutic experience, helping us unwind, relieving stress and providing us with inspiration – many authors, painters and poets have used sunset as their muse.
Those longer and sunnier days will be toping up your vitamin D, a great boost to your immune system which also helps keep your bones healthy. Vitamin D deficiency has also been linked to depression, so this sunshine vitamin is not only beneficial for our bones but also our mood and mental health.
The summer is a great time to get work done and be more productive. With the sun rising earlier, you will have more energy to meet friends, take time off, complete DIY projects and even travel. The longer day means you’ll have time to gradually wind down in the evening and even enjoy eating outdoors, socialising with friends and fitting more into the day.
All this activity provides a lot more cognitive stimulation than the winter months. Your mind and brain will be busier processing your increased activity levels and this boosts your memory and helps protect against conditions like dementia.
We also tend to be much more social in the summer months, which is crucial to our mental health. Friendships help reduce stress and anxiety, improve self-confidence and can also help reduce the risk of many health conditions including obesity, blood pressure and even dementia.
The longer hours of sun have well known effects of improving chronic skin problems, like eczema and psoriasis, but make sure you take care in the sun. Wear sunscreen, sunglasses and enough clothes to protect your skin, so you don’t get too much sun.’
Dr Tom MacLaren, Consultant Psychiatrist at Re:Cognition Health www.recognitionhealth.com