Summer’s here! It’s the season of sunshine, beaches, and fun. Whether you’re an ocean lover or prefer lakes and forests, you’re likely to be outside a lot more.
For some, it can be a challenging time and introduce stress. Having the kids home over the holidays might mean there are childcare issues or clashes with more people sharing the same space. For others, it might mean deadlines in a very heated office.
Whatever your lifestyle brings, research shows that “outdoor nature-based activities are effective for improving mental health”.
You can have the ultimate summer by approaching it with a healthy mindset doing things you haven’t done before and developing a super summer mental health bucket list. Getting outdoors is a great way of lifting your mood.
There are lots of activities you can try that support mental health and physical health, and with some nurturing can become lifelong hobbies that bring fulfilment.
Imagine Summer Fun and Indulge
There are so many cool ideas and activities to explore in summer. With the warmer weather comes more opportunity. Suddenly, the sun is bright enough for you to head to the beach, a river or lake, to wander around day markets and other towns, to hit a festival or two.
As well as outdoor activities in the community, you can do things at home. There are ways of making life more interesting right on your doorstep.
Come Up with A Bucket List of Ideas
Summer is the perfect time to try new things. Think outside of the box to things you’ve seen or heard about that have tickled your fancy, throw your mind back to when you were a kid, what did you want to try that you never got around to?
For some, it might be a summer of paragliding, for others it could be arts and craft time! Don’t be held back by limiting beliefs. Many people think they “just aren’t sporty”, but where did that belief come from, and can it change?
Trying new activities, being adventurous in your approach and challenging yourself are great ways to make life more fun and to stimulate new neural pathways in the brain, keeping it young.
Ideas For Your Summer Mental Health Bucket List
For inspiration, take a look at our mental health bucket list of ideas. Anything that sounds good, add it to your list and set some dates to get started!
1. Be In and Move Your Body, Outdoors
Physical activity is an amazing way to get that beach or bikini body you’ve been imagining. As well as this, it looks after respiratory and cardiovascular health. A healthy body is a happy one and this has synergistic effects for the mind.
In the summer there are lots of great things you can do:
- Wild swimming in rivers, lakes, or the ocean
- Fishing with a friend
- Hike the coast, forests, or mountainous regions
- Cycle a beautiful cycle path
- Try park or beach yoga or tai chi classes
2. Explore Nature
Trying an outdoor activity brings the benefits of nature. It brings the sound of birds, the rustling of trees, the calming effect of rolling waves, and the great influence of the sun. As well as needing the sun to make vitamin D (a mood lifter), it also has a positive effect on the immune system and cardio-metabolic health.
From a relaxed walk in the woods, to exploring the depths of a cave, or getting out and doing a bit of gardening, the benefits are great.
Research shows that being out in nature improves the following aspects:
- Mental health
- Cognitive function
- Brain activity
- Blood pressure
Be sure to check out the British Walking Federation’s website to learn more about connecting with nature.
3. Try and Grow Your Own Plant
Whether it’s part of gardening, or you do it indoors, growing a plant from a seed can be a very rewarding experience. You might opt for an indoor spider plant, a patch of poppies, or perhaps something that will fruit, like a tomato plant. Consider where in your home or garden it will go and what kind of light and water it needs.
The warm weather provides a wonderful opportunity to see how green-fingered you are. Connecting to nature and life is a wonderful way to find a grounding space in the mind.
4. Make an Effort to Drink Water
With the hotter weather, it’s really important to stay hydrated. Get lots of water into you! It’s useful to have a bottle on you at all times and to drink when you eat and exercise. Some people will take it with ice or opt for carbonated water.
It’s also important to keep your energy levels up. The heat can really take it out of you, so make sure you eat a balanced and healthy diet. Salads and cold dishes are great in the summer to keep all those essential nutrients going in.
A balanced diet is important for both physical and mental health.
5. Try New Food and Cooking New Dishes
The summer brings all its seasonal fruit and vegetables. It’s an excellent time to try new dishes in pop-up and regular cafes and restaurants. As well as this, you can get to local farmers’ markets and buy fresh ingredients.
Perhaps turn your hand to some new dishes, get in the kitchen and experiment. Find some recipes that you love the sound of and get out the chopping knives or mixing bowl.
6. Connect To the Self
It’s really important in life to come to know the self in a deep way, seeking honesty and healing. Understanding yourself and your reactions, your internal world and the experience of the external and how that relates to you.
Creating a daily routine which focuses on connecting to your inner world and your hopes, likes, and dreams has a positive effect on life in general.
Feelings of depression that can hit as part of the winter blues (seasonal affective disorder) are easier managed when you have strong mental health habits in place.
Your routine might include journalling, reading your favourite book genre, getting arty with pencils and paints, a skin-care routine, breathwork, and meditation.
If you suffer from mental health issues or have issues with addiction, mediation and holistic therapies can really help. You connect with an addiction treatment provider, for example, Rehab Recovery’s website, explains the type of help you can benefit from with these types of therapies.
7. Develop a Mindfulness Practice
Developing a mindfulness practice is an excellent way to nurture your mental health and connect to life in a present and spiritual way.
You might opt for one conscious activity to focus on every day, or try to spend time throughout the day connecting to the moment.
You might use deep breathing to ground to the present moment, connect to the senses labelling what you experience in a particular moment, you might keep a gratitude diary. You can learn more about this via the Mindfulness Association.
8. Begin A Gratitude Diary
Begin your days with gratitude. Treat yourself to a nice diary and do a daily gratitude entry. Take a moment to really think about something you’re grateful for and why. It’s good for mental health to focus on what you have (rather than what you want).
9. Take Time to Do Body Scans
When people are emotionally triggered, they can feel physical sensations in the body. It’s very easy to miss these sensations. A way of connecting to these feelings and sensations is through doing a body scan.
You can tune in to different parts of the body, start at your toes and move up to your head, noticing how it feels; are there any pains, any tension?
When you do this regularly, you’re able to identify what areas require some nurturing. It’s a great way to begin processing emotions.
Set Aside Time to Relax
With the arrival of summer, things can get a little hectic, especially during school holidays. It’s really important to make sure you set aside time especially to relax. Stopping and letting go of the need to be productive is essential in preventing burnout, stress, and in bringing refuelled energy.
Perhaps you’ll start a book you’ve been wanting to read for ages, listen to your favourite album, sit in a pretty, shaded spot outside and watch the world go by, maybe you’ll take yourself on a “self-care date” to the new cafe in town.
Connect To Others In Healthy Ways
You might connect to friends and family over social activities. A trip to a waterpark or hosting a barbecue is always fun.
A games night often brings a giggle and a way of getting to know your close ones in a deeper way. Ball games and walks bring both mutual connection and the presence of nature.
Maybe you want to meet new people, summer jobs provide an opportunity to do this, or start a new class or activity. It’s a great time of year to explore foraging, for instance, or maybe book clubs are more up your street.
Communicating with others through special and new activities brings real meaning and purpose to life.
Connect To the Community and Help Others
Summer days often uplift mood because of the boost from the sun. Share the mood with others by connecting to your community. You might donate to charity, volunteer at a soup kitchen or animal shelter.
As humans, we thrive on human connection. Supporting others not only helps them, but can bring about a lift in how we feel about ourselves.
There are many ways of nurturing a positive mental health space over the summer. Coming up with a list of activities to try makes all the difference in having a relaxed and meaningful time.
It’s really beneficial to get out in nature, develop mindfulness practice, and explore new potential hobbies.
Some of the activities you begin and love can be turned into habits that support you to look after your mental health throughout the rest of the year.