Why do we love summer? It's for the months-long school breaks, late sunsets, picnics in the park and warm rays of sunshine. It's an opportunity to recharge our bodies and minds, especially before the gloomy season starts again. In this article, we guide you through mindful mental health habits you can try out this summer!
Spend time outdoors
In the summer, we feel happier and more energetic and rarely get sick because we get more sunshine exposure – which is the primary source of vitamin D.
Vitamin D, the sun vitamin, plays an important role in supporting our mood, nervous system and immunity. Some studies link vitamin D deficiency to the development of depression, as it contributes to the production of serotonin, the happiness hormone. That is why summer is the best time to naturally boost your vitamin D levels. Take an early morning stroll before work, ride a bike on the weekend or read a book in the park. Try to feel present in the moment and pay attention to the sensations around you – the warmth of sunshine on your skin, the sounds of birds chirping on the trees and the bright colour palette in the scenery.
Switch from processed foods to clean eating
They say that we are what we eat – and it's not only about our bodies but the state of mind. In fact, even a new form of psychiatric studies, nutritional psychiatry, has emerged, aiming to investigate the relationship between nutrition and mental health. Researchers link the quality of the food we consume with the state of our mental health, underlining the importance of a balanced diet on our mental health. A review published in the Harvard Health journal shows that a diet high in refined sugars may impose adverse effects on your brain and nervous system, slowing down some processes in your brain and stimulating inflammation in your gut. High temperatures also make it harder for the body to digest foods high in saturated fats, promoting feelings of fatigue. On the other hand, a diet consisting of unprocessed foods, lean meats, fresh vegetables, and fruit may help you balance your mood, sleep quality and overall wellbeing. Summertime might be an excellent opportunity to dive into clean-eating habits and take advantage of fresh farm-grown vegetables and fruit.
Take time for yourself
In the summer, we may have an opportunity to tone down the hassle of the workload we get, thanks to the school break, public holidays and vacation opportunities. Even if you decide to stay in town, you can still take time for yourself and dedicate at least a day of the week for your needs and emotional recharge. Make a list of activities you can try this summer and take a break on your "me" day! Think carefully; what have you always wanted to do but never had time for? Is it a relaxing breakfast date with a friend or a weekend hiking trip in the countryside?
Staying active can benefit both your body and mind. Studies show that exercising, including jogging, walking, cycling, swimming, or dancing, has been proven to reduce anxiety and depression. Physical activity increases as blood circulation to the brain and helps the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis form more links with other regions of the brain, like the limbic system and hippocampus, improving mood and response to stress and motivation. It may especially benefit those who follow sedentary lifestyles and are involved in intellectual activities most of their time – physical activity will mobilise other parts of your brain and help you to stay present in the moment. It doesn't matter if you go for a light stroll or a high-intensity workout; staying active is always good to keep yourself energetic and uplifted.
Maintain a healthy sleep schedule
Following a consistent sleep schedule is key to regulating stress levels and improving mood. On the one hand, summer can be the time when we are more likely to disrupt our sleeping schedules as we stay up later than usual due to the longer days and social gatherings. On the other hand, we have an opportunity to improve our sleeping habits as we can use earlier sunrises to our benefit. To regulate your sleeping habits, stay more active throughout the day to release your energy and try to wake up early to make the most of the day. Try to go to bed at the same time consistently and slow down your physical activity at least 3 hours before sleeping. Mindfulness rituals, such as journaling, will help you easily relax your mind to fall asleep.