Summertime Activities to Foster Mental Health
Summertime presents an excellent opportunity for us to make the best of the beautiful outdoors and warm weather to foster our mental health and sense of wellbeing. After many months of avoiding our exposure to freezing temperatures, and for some of us hunkering down in warm and cozy ‘hibernation mode’, the summer sunshine and a warm breeze are a welcome invitation to get outside.
There are many ways the outdoors can support our mental health this summer, from trekking peaceful and serene landscapes for some quiet reflection time, to tackling sporty challenges on trails or fields demanding extreme physical exertion. Whatever the activity, if it is your intention to get outside to ‘destress’ or ‘decompress’, you will not be disappointed with the outcome.
Getting outside involves moving around and in most cases – some form of physical activity that takes us away from screen time. “Excessive screen time” has been shown to negatively impact our mental health (Madhav et al., 2017).
Even when taking a leisurely stroll or short walk – when we get moving, we are activating our neurophysiological faculties and ‘firing up’ our internal systems that we may have placed on extended rest during periods of inactivity. Moving our bodies by participating in a physical activity is shown to have a positive impact on our emotional well-being and mood. Guidelines for suggested periods of activity and exercise to reap physical benefits vary, and there are many online resources available to reference in this effort.
What is important from a mental health perspective is that the timing and the activity we choose be deliberate and intentional. When taking care of our mental health, physical activity has also been shown to reduce our reliance on medication. When we make physical activity an element of our personal wellness plan – we acknowledge the significance of our effort to be active, and this helps us to uphold our commitment to practicing self-care.
When developing a mental wellness or treatment plan, including physical activity can be a great introduction to exploring SMART goals (goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time bound). Summertime outdoor opportunities provide us with a large menu of activities that we can:
• specifically describe
• choose that are achievable within our ability
• find relevant to our desired outcome
• commit to a planned duration
• commit to completing within a reasonable timeframe
Summertime is a great time for us to take in the fresh air, comfortable temperatures, the variety of urban and rural landscapes as well as the beauty of nature within our communities.
Getting outside and being physically active on our own terms is known to improve our:
• Tension, stress and mental fatigue
Let’s remind ourselves of the benefits the summer season brings to assisting us in taking care of our mental health. Enjoy the summer everyone!
Keeley Treloar is a Registered Psychotherapist (Qualifying) through the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario, and one of our Therapists Under Supervision at CMAP Health. Keeley is oriented towards the use of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy as a proven approach to navigate a variety of mental health concerns including anxiety, depression, and trauma. Visit her profile to book an appointment today.