Summer is a great time of year for many reasons (sunshine alone is something to celebrate). However, just like any other season, life can become overwhelming, especially if you're juggling a mountain of responsibilities and have an increasingly busy schedule.
We believe that by prioritising your wellbeing and indulging in a little self-care, you can make beautiful summer days even more enjoyable, so we've rounded up some simple mindfulness and wellbeing rituals that might help to relax and restore you.
When does summer start? The meteorological first day of summer is always on the first day of June (with summer ending on 31 August).
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Start your day outside
"Light directly impacts our mood, our sleep, our ability to wake up and focus, our hormone levels, our immune system and our ability to cope with stress," he explains.
"Viewing sunlight within the first hours of waking (as soon as you can, even if through cloud cover) increases early-day cortisol release (the ideal time for elevated cortisol) and prepares the body for sleep later that night.
"A morning spike in cortisol will also positively influence your immune system, metabolism and ability to focus during the day.
"Further, morning sunlight helps regulate your 'circadian clock' — the body’s mechanism for anticipating when to wake up and go to sleep — and it manages other biological processes like hunger and body temperature.
"On a sunny morning, get outside for 5-10 minutes. You can do more if you have time, and feel free to use the time outside to exercise, walk, eat a light breakfast or journal in the sunlight."
On overcast days, Dr Huberman recommends increasing this time to at least 15-20 minutes. If the weather prevents you from going outside, switch on plenty of bright indoor lights, then get outside as soon as the sun makes an appearance.
Try a simple breathing exercise
No season of the year is exempt from stressful situations, which means it's always a good time to learn coping techniques. In a recent study conducted by Dr David Spiegel (M.D.) at Stanford University, a controlled breathing exercise that emphasises long exhalations was found to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.
It's known as 'Cyclic Breathing' or 'Cyclic Sighing', and if done correctly, this extremely soothing technique stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system activity and regulates your breathing, thus helping to reduce stress and aid sleep.
Dr Spiegel advises that just five minutes of daily breathwork and mindful meditation is enough to improve your mood and reduce feelings of anxiety.
How to try Cyclic Breathing:
- Take a deep inhalation through your nose until you feel your lungs are comfortably full.
- Take a second, deeper inhale, sipping additional air until you feel your lungs expand to their maximum capacity.
- Slowly exhale through your mouth, releasing everything you previously inhaled.
- Repeat this cycle 2 - 3 times.
"We know that people who are breathing very rapidly feel more anxious, such as during a panic attack," Spiegel adds. "Controlled breathwork seems to be a straightforward way to do the opposite: lower physiologic arousal and regulate your mood."
Stay cool on hot nights
If steamy summer nights and early sunrises sound like a recipe for insomnia to you, we can relate. Not only does heat cause your body temperature to fall more slowly than in cooler months, but more exposure to sunlight can also upset circadian rhythms, making good quality sleep tricky.
“Summer is a very disruptive time for sleep," say the experts at Bed Kingdom. "With longer daylight hours and elevated temperatures, people are always searching for ways to keep cool.
Aside from sleeping with a fan on and wearing little to no pyjamas, there is a slightly more unconventional tip that they suggest trying - putting sheets and pillowcases in the freezer.
Place your bedding into a plastic bag and then into the freezer. A few minutes are all you need to cool the material, and it should stay cold long enough for you to fall asleep - we like the sound of that!
Exercise in the open-air
We all want to be outside in the summer, but how about taking your exercise routine alfresco, too?
"Scientific studies have shown that ‘green exercise’ can improve self-esteem and mood, as well as reduce anxiety disorders and depression," explains the Woodland Trust.
"It’s not just the physiological effects of exercise, such as the release of endorphins, dopamine and serotonin that cause these responses. By comparing different exercise settings, studies showed that regular use of woods or parks for physical exercise reduced the risk of poor mental health, whereas no such pattern was found in non-natural settings like gyms."
Aside from being a great way to increase your Vitamin D (which boosts your immune system, helps fight depression, promotes bone growth and prevents osteoporosis) and alleviate stress, exercising outdoors is generally low-cost, or free!
Cook a seasonal meal
What we eat has a huge impact on our wellbeing, so making the most of seasonal produce by whipping up a new recipe is a guaranteed way to boost your mood.
“Seasonal food supports what your body needs,” he says. “Summer foods, such as tomatoes and stone fruits, contain high levels of carotenoids, which help protect us against sun damage.
“Summer vegetables are also naturally lighter and have a higher water content helping us to stay cool and hydrated. By contrast, winter veggies tend to be rich in starches. These help to provide the extra energy we need to stay warm in the colder months.”
Better still, fresh seasonal produce is truly tasty and needs little fuss to be transformed into a crowd-pleasing meal.
"When you choose ingredients that are naturally in season, you will get fresher, sweeter produce that tastes better," says Toby. "Nothing compares to the taste of tomatoes grown outdoors and ripened in the late August sunshine.
“Fragrant, sweet and juicy, these tomatoes taste of tomato and need nothing more than some salt and pepper to sing on the plate – a far cry from the red bullets that are imported in December.”
If you're feeling adventurous, why not try growing your own seasonal fruit and vegetables, or perhaps some easy-to-manage herbs? Not only will you get to spend time outdoors, but you'll also feel supremely satisfied when it comes to harvesting time. Or, head to your local farmers' market to see what they have on offer.