Summer is here! Finally, the snow and cold temperatures are gone. This provides great opportunity to get outdoors. Not only do you get to enjoy the sunshine, but outdoor activities can help improve positive mood. Now, that doesn’t mean that you will go outdoors throw a frisbee around and immediately start feeling GREAT. However, being outdoors and having sunshine does increase opportunities of free activities. Here are a few suggestions of topics that can help increase mood during the summertime.

1. Movement- whether you go for a walk, play a yard game, or participate in a rigorous sports, summertime increases the chance of active movement. Even if you have limitations, find a way to introduce movement into your day and/or weekend. Just get out of the house,  off of the couch and out of routine. Below is one study that supports exercise for mood improvement for those persons with mild to moderate depression.

2. Find Free activities- Cities often have websites and calendars of free events: concerts, gardening clubs, yoga classes, neighborhood spots, vendor fairs, hikes, Meetup groups, celebrations, learning labs, artistic endeavors, and other art walks/shows. Take advantage of these events and see what your city has to offer.

3. Be Mindful about smells and sounds- Fresh cut grass in the park, the blooming flowers, sometimes we notice those things.  When one pays attention a little more we notice amazing smells around us all of the time. Well there are also some, not so amazing smells too. But these free smells are part of the joys of life that we forget to remind ourselves that we like. Don’t like smelling nature? Make sure to wear you favorite perfume or cologne throughout the day and take a whiff! While you are smelling take a moment to think to yourself what you like about the smell and/or what the smell reminds you of. Sounds work the same way. Wherever you are right now, listen to what you hear…buzzing cars, music, office chatter, the hum of the air conditioner? Pay attention to what your environment exposes you to, good and bad. We forget that we tune out things to focus on other tasks. We forget that those things might provide pleasure, for instance, music. Other noise may produce discomfort such as, construction noise. Find ways to tune into what you like and find a workaround for the sounds you don’t. For instance, your office has a lot of nearby construction, take a break and get away from the noise.

4. Reduce time spent on technology- Put down the phone, i-pad, and/or laptop! Take time to be outdoors enjoying life or spending time connecting with others. Even if you are just sitting in a park bench for 5 minutes away from texts, emails, Facebook, Twitter, Tumbler, Candy Crush, Clash of Clans, two dots, and so on. Technology is a big distraction that takes people away from moments in life. And I might add, don’t provide much genuine connection to yourself or to others.

5. Get outside- Not a nature person? You can still get outside without having to connect with nature. Sit at a coffee shop and have some, “me time”. Meet up with a friend or family member to enjoy a new experience in a new part of town. Sit at the park, find a corner in the city to watch passersby, or find a new patio restaurant. Explore!

6. Enjoy- Monitor how you are feeling and what activities you enjoy more than others. Find a way to incorporate enjoyable tasks, even if it is only a few mins of your 30 minute lunch break. The small reliefs you provide yourself help give space for new experiences and relationships. We can’t have 100% perfection but, creating room for having a positive attitude and being appreciative about the time set aside for your self care, this may help increase your mood.

You do not need much money, if any, to participate in these suggested activities. Some people experience the onset of seasonal affective disorder during the summer.  It makes it difficult to get outdoors, throws off your sleeping schedule, and creates more stress. If your symptoms of depression symptoms are more severe and/or increase, please contact my practice or seek a professional mental health counselor in your area.