August 3, 2021
Summertime is when we typically give ourselves permission to have more fun and engage in activities purely for pleasure. It’s a mentality that is likely ingrained in us from childhood, when summer represented time off from school, and the months ahead were filled with freedom and possibility.
Most adults don’t have summers off, but we tend to prioritize rest and play in a way we don’t other at times of the year. As a psychiatrist, I often emphasize with patients the importance of establishing self-care habits for good mental health. What may feel indulgent—taking a break from work, having fun, spending time outdoors—is actually an investment in your mental and physical well-being. These behaviors can help reduce stress, improve your outlook, sharpen your mind and enhance your relationships.
There’s no need to dread the end of summer when you can maintain a summer vacation mindset throughout the year. Here are three tips to try.
During the summer, regardless of our workloads, many of us disengage from workaholic behavior and allow ourselves to step away from the constant barrage of emails on evenings and weekends. Taking a break from the responsibilities of the office is vitally important for mental health.
While easing up in the summer seems to happen more organically, doing so other times of the year (the holiday season being the exception) usually takes more deliberate planning. My advice is to schedule downtime for yourself. Block out evenings and weekends for self-care or for spending time with family and friends. You may find yourself more productive during work hours after stepping away to refresh your mind.
Say Yes to Fun Experiences
From simple pleasures like afternoon naps and ice cream cones to vacations at the mountains or beach, to exploring new cities or outdoor trails, summer is when we often say yes to fun adventures. There are endless ways to expand this playful vacation mentality into the rest of the year.
- Instead of saving that page-turner for your next vacation, make time to read during the week.
- Act like a tourist in your own town and visit the museums, boutiques and cafés you’ve passed dozens of times without stopping in.
- Sign up for an online cooking or art class.
- Go outside your comfort zone and reserve tickets to a play, movie, live music venue or sporting event you wouldn’t ordinarily consider.
Planning ahead has the bonus advantage of giving you something to look forward to, much like we look forward to the promise of summer.
Indulge in Fresh Air and Sunshine
The simple act of taking a 10-to-15-minute walk outside several times a week is a great way to protect your mental health and is good for your physical health as well. When the weather is milder and daylight lasts longer, many of us naturally gravitate outdoors, seeking fresh air and sunshine.
Think about ways you can regularly spend more time in nature:
- Take an early morning walk to start your day with a clear head and an energized body. Bring along a neighbor, dog or your favorite podcast or audiobook.
- If you work from home, take your lunch break on your porch or deck, or try working on your laptop in the park.
- Make plans with a friend to hike or ride bikes, or meet up to hit tennis or golf balls.
- Sign up for a 5K and train with a running group.
- Explore your local farmers’ market on weekends.
- Even relaxing around a fire pit under the stars with your loved ones can be a rejuvenating form of self-care.