Make the Most of Your Summer with These 10 Mental Health Tips
Mental health challenges just don’t disappear because the days are longer, the weather is warmer, and vacation season arrives. In fact, the expectations to be happier in the summer, as the giddiness of others begins to soar, may actually increase the pressure on those suffering with their mental health issues to do the same.
According to The Mighty community, summertime can be a real downer for a number of reasons, including:
- Difficulty seeing everyone else have fun
- The heat, depending on where you live
- Lack of routine – for teachers, students, and parents of students
- Pressure to have a summer body
Amanda M. perhaps sums it up best, saying, “Everyone accepts depression in the winter — it’s hard with the holidays and the cold and lack of sun. You hold out hope that once the sun is out and it’s warmer, you’ll feel better; but then summer comes, and nothing’s changed in your mind. And people who don’t suffer from depression don’t always understand how you can be depressed in the summer.”
This lack of understanding is maybe the biggest hurdle of all.
If you feel the same about summer as Amanda, keep reading. Perhaps one of these 10 mental health tips will help you turn the corner and find some joy during a time when most others around you seem to find it so easily.
10 Mental Health Tips to Find Some Joy This Summer
1. Exercise and Activities
Yes, exercise has shown to help reduce anxiety and depression for a number of reasons that are well-rooted in science. And yes, the increase in daytime hours can feel a bit overwhelming, as you struggle to fill all those hours. So, why not fill those hours with a new activity you always wanted to try, or one you already really enjoy?
New activities, in particular, help stimulate the brain, which is never a bad thing. Here are three areas to focus on:
- Physical – sports, hiking, biking, walking, swimming
- Creative – arts and crafts, dancing, singing, writing, making music
- Reflective – time in nature, spiritual pursuits, meditation
2. Set a Goal
We won’t get into the art of goal setting, as in the strategies that will help you achieve your goal. Our focus is on creating a goal for now. Having a goal means that there’s something out there you want to achieve or do. You could even call it a dream, if the strength of what you want is great enough.
Think about it like this: According to many smart people, who we were as children is really who we should have been as adults, before life and responsibilities began chipping away at our dreams until they were unrecognizable or forgotten. Sit down and make a list of all the things you loved to do when you were a kid. And see if you can find a goal in there that will help you get back to being a version of your truer self.
3. Plan a Vacation
Grab a road atlas or find a map online of the U.S. (or world), and let your eyes wander a bit. Is there any place you’ve always wanted to visit? Are there any activities you always wanted to do in a particular place – hiking through a rain forest, taking a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon, getting your picture taken with Mickey Mouse at Disney World.
As you look at your map, notice if there’s some enthusiasm percolating. Enthusiasm is a good sign!
4. Get Outdoors
OK, you’ve likely read this before. But there’s something in nature that’s soothing to the mind, body, and soul. And let’s not discount the effects of breathing fresh air and getting some much-needed vitamin D in the form of sunshine, both of which have been known to increase serotonin production – also known as the feel-good chemical.
5. Practice Mindfulness
Your mind can’t be in two places at once, even though a racing mind might feel that way. Which means if you’re hiking, or painting, or planning a vacation, and your mind is solely on that activity, there’s no way to be focused on whatever issues are causing you distress.
Use your senses. Notice the smells, sounds, textures. And see if you can enter what others have called the flow state. When you’re doing something you truly love, everything else disappears, and your mind is fully engaged and focused. The more we can learn to live this way – though it’s not easy – the happier all of us would be.
6. Maintain a Healthy Sleep Schedule
Sleep is the forgotten nutrient. Getting 7-9 hours of high-quality sleep each night can do wonders for your mental and emotional states, as you probably already know. However, the change of seasons (and also those pesky time changes), especially for those in northern locations, can present some challenges and disruptions to your sleep schedule. Try to normalize this schedule, and you just may notice a normalization of your mood as well.
7. Relaxation Strategies
There are a lot of different strategies for relaxing body and mind, but our two favorites are deep breathing and meditation. (And bonus points for doing both together.) Deep breathing can be part of a greater wellness routine, but it’s also a great fix for when times get tough and you feel particularly stressed out.
Simply stop what you’re doing and take five really deep breaths. Make sure you’re inhaling from your diaphragm and hold the breath for several seconds before exhaling very slowly.
Meditation is a great long-term strategy and one with many proven benefits. However, it can be tricky. If you try meditating and feel helpless to quiet your mind, give guided meditation a try, especially those that incorporate binaural beats that put your mind into the best brainwave state for meditation.
It’s sometimes easy to feel disconnected, particularly if those around you have little understanding of what you’re going through. However, feelings of connectedness are important for your mental health. Join a group, take a class, put yourself in a position to meet new people. Or get a pet. Who says socialization can’t include animals? It’s amazing the effect a cat or dog can have on your emotional state.
9. Practice Gratitude
You’ve probably read this a hundred times – how being grateful for what you have can lead to more things to be grateful for. And it’s true.
The science of gratitude has been proven again and again. The problem for some is the beginning. How to be grateful when you don’t feel like you have anything to be grateful for. But if you’re reading this, you have eyes that work, a brain that also works. Surely you can look around your life and find a few things to be grateful for. And make a list, just so you don’t forget.
The best times to practice gratitude are upon waking or just before bed. And attach some emotion to this exercise, because that’s the key to unleashing the power of gratitude.
10. Pamper Yourself
We should always aim to treat ourselves well, but that’s not what we mean by this. Treat yourself to something you really want from time to time – a spa day, a great meal at a restaurant you always wanted to try, a hot bath while the kids are out of the house … it could be anything.
Hopefully this list spawned a few great ideas. There’s no reason you can’t enjoy summertime. It just might take a bit of thought and effort to get the ball rolling. But once it does, don’t discount the wonderful effects of positive momentum.
One in 5 adults report an unmet need for emotional and psychological support. If you need help, don’t wait. Join Emote Life today!