30 Ways to Practise Wellness This Summer

Life's complicated, but your journey to better health doesn't have to be. We've gathered a bouquet of easy, affordable and sustainable ways to help you reclaim your health, one day at a time.

1. Get lost in the weeds

There’s definitely a physical aspect to gardening—all of the squatting, lifting and carrying involved in yardwork torches lots of calories. But that’s not why gardening expert Tara Nolan loves it. “It’s very meditative,” explains Nolan, author of Gardening Your Front Yard: Projects and Ideas for Big and Small Spaces. “Weeding typically sounds like such a bane-of-your ­existence type of activity, but there’s something really soothing about putting on your gardening gloves, pulling away and getting lost in your thoughts.” Studies show that getting out in the garden has a myriad of health benefits, from increasing quality of life to reducing anxiety.

2. Jot on the spot

Writing down your feelings in a journal reduces activity in the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for controlling the intensity of your emotions.

3. Be a pop star

Indulge in the nostalgia factor of a Popsicle. There’s nothing like this sweet treat to bring back some of your best memories and cool you down on a warm summer day. To up the wellness factor, make it homemade. Try blending berries, yogurt and almond milk—basically anything you’d put in a smoothie—for a hit of antioxidants, suggests Dr. Jessica Cardona, a naturopathic doctor at Kleinburg Integrative Health.

4. Dig in the dirt

Growing your own food can not only save money but is also mentally and physically satisfying, says Nolan. “There’s a really great feeling that comes from doing it yourself and connecting to the earth.” Plus, you can enjoy lots of delicious dishes made with seasonal veggies, like salads with freshly picked lettuce, tomatoes, onions and herbs. Whatever Nolan doesn’t grow, she picks up at a local farmers’ market.

5. Go om

Meditation studios, salt caves and hot yoga classes are wonderful, but they can also be a big splurge. Trial a mindfulness app (like Insight Timer, which offers tons of freebie sessions) so that you can take 10 minutes to reset every day. Even a single mindfulness meditation session can reduce stress in the body and have positive effects on your mental well­being and health conditions like blood pressure, say researchers.

6. Run a bath

Turn your nighttime cleansing ritual into a mini spa experience. Fill your tub with essential oils or muscle-soothing, magnesium-rich Epsom salts. Spend some time winding down by reading a book, meditating or playing a podcast while you soak. Research has found that tak­ing a warm bath one to two hours before bed can significantly improve your quality of sleep and help you fall asleep faster.

7. Dive into a beach read

There’s no better escape than getting lost in a juicy book. Head to your local public library, if it’s open, or download a book if they offer that. Studies suggest that people who read books have longer lives than non-readers. Keeping your brain active also helps you fend off cognitive decline as you age. Join a book club — it’s great motivation to keep up this healthy habit and meet new people. (Here are the books to read to call yourself a book lover.)

8. Catch a sunrise (or sunset)

There’s nothing like watching the world tum to give you perspective and calm. Grab a coffee (or a cock­tail if it’s evening) and bask in the special moment. Watching a sun­set can also help reset your body’s internal clock, or circadian rhythm, says Dr. Cardona.

9. Stretch

Muscles need to be flexible to stay healthy. Stretch every day to keep your mobility and main­tain your range of motion. Without stretching, mus­cles get short and tight, and begin to limit what you can do in a day. (Check out these stretches that’ll improve your flexibility.)

10. Hit the trails

Going for a walk or taking some deep breaths of fresh air at your local park or hiking trail stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system, says Dr. Cardona. Spending time in the great outdoors helps reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and stress, according to a number of studies. These long-term effects on well-being are more reason than ever to leave your office at 1 unch and find some green space.

11. Create a water bar

Staying hydrated is key to good health, but some­times it can seem a bit, well, boring. Thankfully, there is no shortage of ideas to keep your relationship with water fresh. Store a pitcher in the fridge at all times and jazz it up with slices of cucumber, watermelon, orange, lemon or lime. You might even want to add a few drops of a food­grade essential oil, too. Better yet, cut up fresh fruits and herbs and let the fam be their own H20 mixologists by picking and choosing their own add-ins. (Here are a few more flavoured water recipes.)

12. Indulge in a massage

While facial rollers might not have all the science to back up their skincare benefits just yet, there is clearly something to these popular tools. Smooth on your favourite serum and try a nighttime rolling ritual with a rose quartz or jade facial roller, moving upwards from your neck. Touted as helpful for lymphatic drainage and circulation, facial massage is a great excuse to give your skin a little TLC. You can also try a gua sha crystal for the same if not better results.

13. Dance solo

There’s nothing quite like working up a sweat while listening to some tunes. Blast your go-to Spotify play­list solo or invite some friends over for a dance party (dancing is also a great workout for anyone who hates exercising). Music is known to have many therapeutic benefits: Research shows that listening to your favourite songs can help your functional brain connectivity and has powerful beneficial effects on your overall health.

14. Grow your awareness

It seems like there’s some new environmental issue to worry about on the daily. One way to keep on top of the news—and sort fact from fiction—is to bookmark this website: environmentaldefence.ca. This Canadian advocacy organization works with government, industry and regular folks to help create healthy communities, clean water and a safe climate. Get involved or just read up on what’s going on—they’re both healthy ideas!

15. Wash your face

Yeah, it’s one more thing to add to your list, but washing up before bed keeps your skin healthy. If you let the day’s accumula­tion of pollution, grease and oil bake in overnight, you’re denying your skin a clean slate on which to work its restoring and renewing magic.

16. Get your greens

Delicious and nutritious cold-pressed juices can blow your weekly grocery budget. But that doesn’t mean you need to miss out on these antioxidant-packed refreshments. Use your blender to make your own green juices by simply mixing your veggies (try kale, cucumber and celery) with some crushed ice and an apple, suggests Dr. Cardona. Plus, there’s plenty more fibre that your juicy coun­terparts are missing.

17. Pump up the jams

It’s a win-win! Music, especially live music, can decrease stress and increase happiness. It can also improve your workout performance.

18. Get some vitamin Sea

Spending time in and around water can be a boon to our health, providing an affordable antidote to stress, says Wallace J. Nichols, author of Blue Mind. “Chronic stress and anxiety can cause or intensify a range of physical and mental afflictions, including depression, ulcers, colitis and heart disease,” he writes. “Being on, in and near water can be one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce stress and anxiety.”

19. Shop sustainably

Do something for the good of your community, like finally making the switch to reusable bags for your groceries. When we do good, we feel good —period. Here are some sustainable wellness products health editors love.

20. Get lost in a puzzle

Piecing together jigsaw puzzles contributes to brain health in a variety of ways: They help you disconnect from the world and fire up your neurons, challenging your brain in new ways. Plus, they’re satisfying — well, most of the time (looking at you, missing corner piece!).

21. Pet a pet

Research has found that petting a dog for just 15 minutes releases happiness hormones (such as serotonin, prolactin and oxytocin) and lowers stress hormones (such as cortisol). Don’t own a pet? Borrow one for the day or visit a local shelter.

22. Become a birder

Watching our feathered friends is good for our mental health. A UK study of 270 people found that casually watching neigh­bourhood birds results in reduced depression, stress and anxiety.

23. Pickle up!

Not only are pickles a great summertime condiment but their juice can also cure muscle cramps. A study published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that they relieve cramps in around 1 1/2 minutes — 45 percent faster than if people don’t take anything. While scientists aren’t sure why this happens, they theorize that pickle juice causes a muscular reflex when it hits the back of your throat, turning off misfiring neurons throughout the body and cramps. The vinegar may be responsible forth is phenomenon.

24. Eat the rainbow

If there isn’t a lot of colour on your plate, you’re not getting the biggest bang for your food buck. The brighter the fruit or vegetable, the better — colour indicates that the food is rich in phytochemicals, which keep your body healthy. Different colours provide different benefits, so aim for diversity.

25. Bring the outside in

Plants clean the air for a lot less money than fancy plug-in purifiers. Every plant serves a purpose, but we like bamboo palms, which remove formaldehyde and benzene impuri­ties while keeping the air moist. Here are the best houseplants for your home.

26. Buy the next round

A study from Harvard Business School found that those who spend their money altruisti­cally have the greatest happiness overall. By the way, having a glass of red wine a day boosts heart health. Cheers!

27. Eat an apple

While an apple a day probably won’t keep you from catching the common cold, a number of studies suggest that it could provide even greater health benefits. Researchers from the University of Oxford estimate that if every adult over 50 eats an apple a day, it could prevent or delay about 8,500 vascular deaths from heart attack and stroke every year in the UK.

28. Practise safe pillow talk

When it comes to good sleep hygiene, you know the basic rules: Keep your room dark, cool and free of electronic devices that can wreak havoc on your circadian rhythm. But here’s something new to add to your list: your topic of choice for late-night conversations. According to Dr. Robert Rosenberg, author of The Doctor’s Guide to Sleep Solutions for Stress & Anxiety, talking about serious subjects before bed is a no-no. Whether it’s a solemn phone call with a friend or a late-night tiff with your partner, a heavy conversation can disrupt the quality of your sleep. “Confrontations lead to a stress response, causing your adrenal glands to produce cortisol and adrenaline,” he says. “This is the exact opposite of what you want if you’re trying to fall asleep easily. In fact, once your body starts producing these stress hormones, you can’t wave a magic wand and get them to return to normal levels.”

29. Go nuts

Here’s yet another reason to spread almond butter on your toast or sprinkle walnuts on your salad: Both contain melatonin, the hormone that regulates your sleep/wake cycle and helps you sleep soundly.

30. Pick a posy

There’s a good reason why flowers are one of the top gifts we bring to loved ones in the hospital: They are an instant mood booster. Why not treat yourself? You don’t need to spend a cent; just head to the nearest green space and pick a handful of wildflowers.

Next: 12 Perfect Recipes for Summer Picnics

Originally Published in Best Health Canada