6 Ways a Michigan Summer Improves Mental Health and Recovery
It’s Memorial Day weekend and it finally feels like Michigan summertime has begun. After what we’ve gone through the past couple of years, summer has a special meaning; it feels hopeful and restorative. Green is the color or life, nature, renewal and energy. The color green is also associated with fertility, growth and harmony. Blue stands for serenity, stability, inspiration, wisdom, and health. So, what better place to explore than Pure Michigan now that summer is here with all its shades of green and blue?
What better place to recover from what ails you?
The winter of 2022 was long (to say the least). And spring is always a mixed message of warmer days and sleet in the Midwest. But part of Michigan’s charm is that blaze of blue sky after a stretch of gray days. The contrast of technicolor after sepia.
The Greening of Michigan Summer
And now that it is almost summer, it is time to get out of doors. There is so much to love about summertime in Michigan. And the brain and body health benefits abound!
1. 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 more welcoming. The extreme beauty distracts you from your troubles. And when you find joy in the simple things, 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
2. 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.
3. Take a Hike, Walk or Stroll in the Michigan Wild
All manner of recovery and health concerns are positively impacted 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.
4. 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.
And the act of looking up actually produces brain alpha waves. Alpha waves help manifest vivid imagery, creativity, recall and insight.
5. 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 trigger 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
6. 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.
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 from a mental or substance use disorder 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 freshwater 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. After the pandemic, we can all use a physical and mental health boost. If you live where we live, get outside and experience it. Everyone – re-engage in the world with hope, enthusiasm, and full contact!