Jeannie Peters, LMFT

The summer is quickly passing by and Chicago’s winter tundra is getting nearer and nearer. As someone who loves the sunshine, I am trying to maximize the rest of my summer as I know I will miss it this Fall. So why not put together a list of things to do and start checking them off? I know people get busy with work, kids, friends, weddings, birthdays, etc. but if you cannot find a time to get out and do something by yourself, then bring everyone along; this doesn’t just need to be a list for one!

You might be thinking: “I have already tried the new hip restaurants” or “I’m on a budget — what is there to do?” This list doesn’t need to break the bank. Think of this list as a way to reflect, be mindful of your own experience, and as a way to boost your mental health. Everyone needs a mental health boost at some point in their lives- here are some easy and affordable ways to do that!

I have provided a list of summer mental health booster ideas below but make this list your own!

Get Outdoors | Get vitamin D! Too little Vitamin D can lead to symptoms of depression. Being outside can decrease anxiety and can increase serotonin levels, allowing us to feel more pleasure.
• Find a park by your office and take your lunch break outside
• Bring a picnic to the beach/park
• Watch the Navy Pier fireworks from the beach
• Pick up a book and read in the park
• Bring your computer and work outdoors
• Journal outdoors vs. in your bedroom
• Check out your local parks for their free movie night schedule (bring dinner,
wine, snacks, friends.- make it your own!)

Exercise | Being active for at least 30 minutes a day has been found to have significant mental and physical health benefits. I am not saying sign up for the Chicago Marathon (do if that fits your experience!) but try and get active. It is hard to get home after a 9-5 and motivate yourself to go to the gym. Give it a go or add these activities to your summer bucket list.
• Walk/run/bike on Lake Shore path
• Leave a little earlier so you can walk to work every day
• Rent a divvy or borrow a bike from friends/family
• Walk to do your errands
• Go on a walk/run/bike ride with a friend

Focus on Your Relationships | When Winter comes, people become less social. When you walk to work in the summer, you might receive a quick smile or a ‘good morning’ from a stranger but in the Winter, Chicagoans might put their heads down to fight the grizzly wind. Embrace the warmth, and socialize with friends and neighbors. These friendships increase a sense of belonging and come winter, these friendships may increase your mood.
• Meet your neighbors; invite them over for dinner/appetizers/a drink
• Reach out to those you have lost touch with
• Ask a coworker to lunch
• Write an old friend a letter/email
• Call a family member/friend on your commute to/from work

Reflect | The year is halfway gone and that can be scary. It is okay to be fearful about what lies ahead and it is normal to sit and reflect on what has/or has not happened within the last 7 months. Try to appreciate the beauty in your life and be mindful and accepting of who you are and what you are doing.
• Watch the sunset/sunrise
Sit back and take a deep breath
• Sit and watch the waves on Lake Michigan
• Reflect on personal goals (short term and long)
Establish new personal and relational goals and write them down for you to see
• Share your growing edges with a friend