6 Ways Michigan Summer Improves Mental Health & Recovery


Michigan Summer

It’s Memorial Day weekend, and it finally feels like Michigan summertime has begun. Green is the color of 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 2023 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 gray days—the contrast of technicolor after sepia.


Michigan summer flower garden

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 repeat it: the occasional dismal weather and the fierce winter make summer’s clear days much more welcoming. Extreme beauty distracts you from your troubles. And when you find joy in the simple things, it can improve your attitude permanently.


Beauty feels 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 


rock and sand depicting self-care


2. And When It’s Raining? Get Creative Michiganders!

Anyone 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.


michigan summer

Rain creates rainbows!


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 an excellent book draped in a lap blanket, bundling up, and hiking the dunes despite the rain are all ways to improvise and enjoy. And creativity improves intelligence, and social and emotional success; and kick-starts the development/repair of the brain’s executive functions.


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. In addition, there are more than 100 state parks in Michigan. So stroll the paved trails, investigate remote vistas, and work up a sweat.


Michigan summer hiking stairs

Rosy Mound staircase over an emerald dune.


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. So spread a blanket and enjoy the Milky Way or aurora borealis and marvel at 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 produces brain alpha waves. Alpha waves help manifest vivid imagery, creativity, recall, and insight.


Michigan Summer dark sky park

Look up.


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? There is an exodus to the lake on Friday afternoon during Michigan summer. And with a state bordered by four Great Lakes and more than 62,000 freshwater inland lakes, there’s enough “waterfront property” for everyone.


Sailing Michigan summer

We are sailing on a perfect blue-sky day.


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 refreshing 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. We can all use a physical and mental health boost. So if you live where we live, get outside and experience it. Everyone –  re-engage in the world with hope, enthusiasm, and full contact!



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.