HomeArticlesHow to Boost Your Mental Health During the Arizona Summer

How to Boost Your Mental Health During the Arizona Summer

As the Arizona sun gets hotter and the days get longer, many fathers are scheduling time off work for family vacations, as well as spending time in the evenings and weekends with their loved ones.

Here are seven ways for you and your family to enjoy this summer while also boosting your mental health:

1. Outdoor Adventures Strengthen the Brain

Outdoor adventures can provide a fresh perspective and a mental reset. Researchers Mitchell and Popham (2008) and Stamatakis, Hamer and Dunstan (2011), found that “being in nature reduces anger, fear and stress and increases good feelings. Exposure to nature not only makes us feel better emotionally, it contributes to our physical well-being, lowering blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and production of stress hormones. It can even reduce mortality.”

Spending time in green and blue spaces in nature has been linked to restoring optimal mental health. Challenge yourself and your family with new experiences. Hiking in Flagstaff or Sedona, camping in the Arizona White Mountains, attending a baseball game, boating in a local lake, tubing down the Salt River, or exploring an Arizona cave such as the Karchner Caverns or Peppersauce Cave are all great ways to keep the body moving and the spirits high.

2. Sleep Patterns and the Summer Nights

With the sun setting later, our sleep patterns can suffer. It’s tempting to stretch each day to its fullest, but rest is equally important. Finding time for rest during the day and a solid seven to nine hours of sleep at night is crucial for maintaining mental health. The routine I use involves keeping the shades up, so I wake up with the sun and go outside each morning while the sun is rising. I also limit lighting at night after 8 p.m. If your schedule requires late nights, consider blackout curtains and a sunrise lamp alarm clock to maintain a full sleep schedule. Staying off electronics late at night will give you the emotional reserves to be the support your wife and kids need.

3. Limit Screen Time

Just as important as improving sleep patterns is avoiding too much screen time as a family. Researchers Weinstein, Przybylski and Ryan in a 2009 study found that, “deprivation of nature, lack of time in the natural world, mainly due to hours spent in front of TV or computer screens, has been associated, unsurprisingly, with depression or loss of empathy and lack of altruism.”

4. Focus on Nutrition

Not only is it important to limit screen time in summer months, but it is also important to limit junk food. While summer screams for ice cream, candy bars, sodas, and hot dogs, it’s also the season for fresh fruits and vegetables. Dads can encourage healthy eating habits by incorporating these into your family’s diet.

Micronutrient deficiencies are caused just as often by eating the wrong foods as not eating the right ones. Micronutrients and minerals such as Omega 3, B vitamins and magnesium are key for optimal mental health. Eating foods that are fresh, preservative-free, and non-processed, as well as all the colors of the rainbow, is an excellent start to improving mental health.

5. Sunshine: A Natural Mood Booster

Rates of depression in AZ are among the lowest in the country and a key reason for that is that vitamin D from sunshine is a natural mood booster. Vitamin D increases tryptophan which is necessary for sufficient production of serotonin. Signs of low serotonin include anxiety, irritability and poor sleep. It’s essential for dads to take advantage of the longer days by engaging in outdoor activities. Whether it’s a family hike, a game of catch, or simply tending to the garden, getting outside more can lead to improved mental health.

6. Heat and Stress Hormones

As temperatures rise, so do stress hormones. The heat, especially in Arizona, can be taxing on the body and lead to increased irritability and stress. While environmental stressors like cold and heat are incredibly healthy in moderate doses, it is essential to find ways to get outside despite extreme temperatures. Find ways to beat the heat like enjoying outdoor activities during mornings and evenings, or taking the family to a cooler adventure during peak sunlight hours such as the pool, the Arizona Science Center, the Idea Museum, Arizona Museum of Natural History, a zoo, ice rink, or aquarium.

7. Be Present

There are so many things that keep us busy during the work year while our kids are busy at school. How do you relax into summer with your family without worrying about the work you have to get back to? How do you reconnect with your wife and kids when you have been so focused on working to support them? That is a big struggle for a lot of dads I work with. With increased family time in summer, there are more opportunities to bond than other times of year and more emotional peaks. These peaks lock in memories, and this summer I want them to be good ones. Get your rest, get outside, go on adventures and remember to be present with your loved ones.

If you or a loved one is struggling with physical or mental health, remember that it’s okay to seek help. At Denova, we offer care within 24 hours of the initial request, and appointments can be done virtually from your own home or at one of our eight in-person locations. If you need further assistance with setting up therapy, mental health medication, or a primary care check-up, please reach out at Denova.com

Thomas Silva is a Physician Assistant at Denova Collaborative health. His special interests include complex cases, nutritional psychiatry, and supporting fellow dads on their fatherhood journey. Silva believes in tailoring medications to the needs of the patient and where they are in their lives. Thomas’s passion is driven by the bonds he has with his patients and loves to see clients recover their marriages, jobs, and enjoyment of life.



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