The Restorative Health Benefits of a Michigan Summer

Michigan summer green and blue water


Michigan summer…

It’s finally Michigan summer. Last weekend I was mired in a rather “snakey” looking bog on the edge of Big Seven Lake. I could hear, but not see, the frogs with their burping, throaty chirps. There were tiny dragon-flies hovering over the water lilies and my inflatable kayak was listing to starboard. I was trying to get a close-up of wild purple iris growing on the shore and the thick underwater plants were catching on my paddles – the current was strong. But, I have never been happier. Or more in tune to bird song, the distant smell of charcoal lighter and burgers, and the color green.


Green is the color or life, nature, renewal and energy. The color green is also associated with fertility, growth and  harmony. Michigan is where I live. And I am a person in long term recovery. So, what better place to explore than Pure Michigan summer, now that summer with all its shades of green is here.


What better place to recover?


I will admit to being a bit snippy at the end of the long 2019 Michigan winter. And crestfallen by the April and May showers mixed with sleet. But part of Michigan’s charm is that blaze of blue sky after a stretch of gray days. The contrast of technicolor after sepia.


Michigan summer wild iris

Time to back-peddle – Michigan summer!


The Greening of Michigan Summer

And now that it is officially summer, I am spending a lot of time out of doors. There is so much to love about summertime in Michigan. And the brain and body health benefits abound!


The Extreme Scenery on a Clear Summer’s Day

I’ll say it again, the occasional dismal weather and the fierce winter makes the clear days of summer that much better. The extreme beauty distracts you from your troubles. And when you find joy in the simple things, like I did sitting in a sinking kayak, it can improve your attitude permanently.


Beauty tends to feel like something that must be found in special places—parks and museums, galleries and exotic cities… But finding beauty in normal activities can bring deep happiness to life, studies show. The Atlantic – Beauty-Happiness Connection 


And When It’s Raining? Get Creative Michiganders!

Anyone who was born and raised in Michigan will remember that  summer-vacation-feeling when you wake to hear the rain on the roof of the cottage Up North. (Why do you think Michigan is so green?) A chilly wind blows off Lake Michigan into the open window and dreams of swimming and soaking up the sun are dashed.


After the disappointment, it’s time to get creative. And those are often the best and most memorable moments of all. Roasting marshmallows in the living room fireplace, hitting the maritime museum, reading a wonderful book draped in a lap blanket, bundling up and hiking the dunes in spite of the rain are all ways to improvise and enjoy. And creativity improves intelligence; social and emotional success; and kick-starts the development/repair of the executive functions of the brain.


Take a Hike, Walk or Stroll in the Michigan Wild

All manner of recovery and health concerns are positively affected by rigorous exercise. And exercise improves memory formation and focus. It also makes you look and feel better and with the right equipment you can get out of doors rain or shine. There are more than 100 state parks in Michigan! Stroll the paved trails, investigate remote vistas and work up a sweat.


Michigan summer hiking stairs

Rosy Mound staircase over an emerald dune … Michigan summer…


Dark Skies and Starry Nights!

On the shores of Lake Michigan is Headlands International Dark Sky Park  –  the only internationally designated preserve in the state. Spread a blanket and enjoy the Milky Way or aurora borealis and marvel in God’s creation. Or if you’re farther south, get away from the city lights and look up. Just look up.


Michigan Summer dark sky park


And the act of looking up actually produces brain alpha waves. Alpha waves help manifest vivid imagery, creativity, recall and insight.


When Nature Beckons – Michigan Summer

You don’t have to be an extreme hiker, biker or runner to experience the health benefits of Michigan nature. If all you do is sit outside, watch and listen you will improve (and replace) pleasure receptors in the brain.


A 2006 American Scientist study on perceptual pleasure and the brain chronicles how viewing stimulating, dynamic natural scenes triggers an increase in interactions of the mu (opioid) receptors in the brain’s visual cortex—making viewing nature a physically pleasurable experience …  Forbes – The Science Behind how Nature Affects Health


Water, Water All Around …

What is it about gravitating toward water that makes us feel alive? On Friday afternoon during Michigan summer there is an exodus to the lake. And with a state bordered by four of the five Great Lakes, and more than 62,000 fresh water inland lakes there’s enough “waterfront property” for everyone.


Sailing Michigan summer

And Boating too…

There are rivers to canoe and kayak with enough fast water and fallen logs to keep you thinking of nothing but paddle, turn, careful, paddle faster… And whether it’s motoring, sailing or rowing, boating in the clean air is a restorative way to soak up Vitamin D and relax.


Michigan Summer Recovery…

One of the great things about recovery is the ability to appreciate the little things – the lack of urgency. It’s the simplicity of a well stocked backpack. The sound of a woodpecker’s beak against a pine tree. Smelling summer wind across a fresh water lake. A glimpse of eaglets in their nest.


And in the same way a gorgeous Michigan summer day is better because of the long winter that came before it, life in recovery is more vibrant because of the dark days. Green is the color of life, nature, renewal and energy. What better place to be than Michigan, now that summer with all its shades of green is here.



after marilyn head shot bio

Marilyn Spiller is a viral writer, recovery coach, and recovery advocate. She is the Marketing Director at Sanford, responsible for written and creative content, website design, new media, promotions, subscriber outreach, and SEO. Excursions Magazine is a particular source of pride; it serves a wide range of readers, and “excursion” has become part of the company vernacular, describing Sanford’s signature experiential outings for those in treatment. She also developed and hosts the podcast Anatomy of Addiction and is Vice President of the Board of JACK Mental Health Advocacy.