You’ve spent most of winter and spring tethered to your house. Now that the world has fully come out of hibernation, your calendar seems to have too. Children’s birthday parties are now a bi-weekly thing. A special work project has pushed you into overtime, and the grass needs a cut…and you mowed yesterday. You yearn for the days of taking a little time for yourself. While we can’t guarantee that your schedule will be yours entirely, this blog’s purpose is to help shed light on the benefits of self-care and the importance of advocating for that time to reset and relax.
Looking at cascading sunshine through your bedroom window? Get outdoors and take in some sun. It’s something about the summer sun that draws us in. You don’t have to go far to bask in the sunshine. A quick walk to the mailbox, five minutes in your driveway, or a walk can work wonders for your mood.
This exposure to the sun is also good for our vitamin D intake. Direct exposure to the sun can transform a chemical within your skin into an active form of vitamin,1 depending on the time of day, season, and latitude1.
Why is vitamin D critical? It’s the nutrient your body needs to maintain healthy bones, and you can’t absorb calcium without it1. Its absorption supports muscle function, as well as immune and cognitive health1. Speaking of brain health, vitamin D may also have mood-boosting elements. Studies have shown that vitamin D enhances serotonin (a neurotransmitter that affects mood) and controls cytokine (a protein sent to the brain that provokes your disposition). When both are at ideal levels, your mood will follow suit, too2.
Healthy eating habits can go a long way.
Healthy eating is more than the latest social media fad. It should be a way of life. Maintaining a healthy diet is essential to feeling your best inside and out. Imagine that you own a luxury vehicle that requires fuel. Putting low-grade gas into your car may keep you from being stranded on the side of the road, but it isn’t ideal for optimal performance. You need premium fuel to keep your vehicle in tip-top shape. Your body is no different. It needs healthy food (energy) to operate at its best. What foods are we talking about? Power up your day with these fresh summer fruits and vegetables:
Think rainbow when choosing fruits and veggies.
• Orange and Yellow – Yellow peppers, oranges, carrots, and bananas are not only healthy to eat but are good for heart health as well3.
• Green – Spinach, avocados, kale, kiwi, mint, and green tea are rich in vitamin A helping promote immune, brain health, and cell growth3.
• Blue and Purple – Blueberries, figs, purple cabbage, blackberries, and plums have antioxidants that may delay cellular aging and aid heart health3.
• White – Cauliflower, garlic, mushrooms, and leeks contain antioxidants that can help foster your overall well-being3.
Eating well extends far beyond consuming fruits and vegetables. The recommended serving for fruit and vegetables is 4 and 5 servings, respectively.4 (Fruit and vegetable servings, American Heart Association) Here are a few more tips to help guide you down the path to healthier eating:
Keeping it regular – Whole grains help control sugars produced by the body that can help keep you fuller longer and your sugar levels low5. As an insoluble fiber, whole grains also keep you regular, and no, we’re not talking about your personality.
No caffeine. No alcohol. No problem. – When refreshing, multicolored summer beverages come to mind, caffeine and alcohol-infused drinks may be at the top of your list. Both can satisfy our tastebuds but aren’t necessarily good for our gut. Caffeine encourages gut motility; this is when muscles contract along your digestive tract, which may cause dehydration6.
Alcohol, on the other hand, can cause Dysbiosis, a disruption of the good bacteria within your gut, making conditions favorable for your intestines to release endotoxin, a growth of proteins and immune cells that irritate the intestines7. What does this mean for you? Go easy on the caffeine and alcohol for digestion’s sake.
Put on your walking shoes.
Summer can bring great adventure; a nice, long walk is a great place to start. Walking may be considered a “low-impact” activity, but its overall health benefits are anything but.
Harvard University scientists studied weight gain’s effects on our obesity-promoting genes. Yes, unfortunately, there are genes connected to obesity. They found that out of 32 genes identified in each of the 12,000 test subjects, those who briskly walked over an hour a day cut their genes in half8. A similar Harvard study also examined the advantages of walking, but this time, it linked to immune health. Researchers found that people who walked 20 minutes a day, five days a week, had 43% fewer sick days than those who spent less time engaging in the same activity8. The takeaway from these studies? Walking can create great strides in maintaining a healthy weight and immune system. Stroll towards a healthier you, and as always, contact your doctor should you have any questions.
It’s difficult to indulge in self-care when distractions lie at every corner. Work and other daily responsibilities can leave you feeling mentally exhausted and overwhelmed. Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there. Social feeds, news cycles, and unexpected calls inundate our thoughts, contributing to the mayhem. You may be unable to avoid responsibilities; however, you can prevent digital distractions by powering the devices off for a designated time that works for you2.
A breath of fresh air.
The great outdoors is the world’s largest playground. There are endless activities to explore, from beaches, and lakes to its green plush forests. Nature can be a great way to take in the beautiful sights of unseen territories, stay active and create a time to reflect. The great news is you don’t have to travel hundreds of miles or spend money to experience it. Here are a few ideas that will cement the bond between you and nature:
• Picnic by the lake: It’s something about eating outdoors that feels right, especially when cooking out by the lake. Not a grillmaster? You don’t have to be. Sandwiches and chips are just as tasty. Food and fun? Uh, sign us up, please.
• Beach Cornhole: Prepare your bean bag, aim, and toss! This game is all about accuracy. Throw a bean bag through a pre-cut hole to score. Play with friends or by yourself.
• Bike ride: Cycle down your local park trail, city streets, or nature path and enjoy the picturesque views as the wind blows through your hair.
Re-connect with friends.
Catch up with friends by hosting an outdoor barbecue or movie night. Ice up the drinks, throw some chicken on the grill, hot dogs for the kids, and voila! You’re throwing a get-together. Not confident in your skills on the grill? Place a to-go order for barbecue instead. Sure, you may not have cooked it, but the effort to serve it to your guests is there.
Are you feeling like the ultimate host? Make it a 2-in-1 night. After the barbecue has settled, set up a projector screen, pop some popcorn, and watch a movie under the stars. Add games or select a theme for added fun. We have an inkling that having a good time will be the least of your worries.
Summertime is a great time for self-care. By fueling your body, staying active, and embracing the environment (outdoors, at home, or with friends), you’ve detached from distractions, connected with others, and, most importantly, bonded with and cared for one of the most significant people on the planet, yourself.
1 Vitamin D. Mayo Clinic
2 Vitamin D. National Institutes of Health.
3 Phytonutrients: Paint your plate. Harvard Health Publishing
4 Get your fill or fall of superfoods. Mayo Clinic Health System
5 Fiber. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
6 Energy drinks, caffeine and your digestion. Michigan Medicine (University of Michigan)
7 Alcohol and gut-derived inflammation. National Institutes of Health
8 5 surprising benefits of walking. Harvard Health Publishing