Grief is draining. Not only does it take a toll on your physical energy, it also takes a toll on your mental health. The neurotransmitter serotonin influences your mood, digestion, sleep and social behavior, and becomes significantly affected during a difficult time. After experiencing a loss, you’re likely feeling emotionally and physically depleted, meaning your serotonin levels are low.
The summer months can be a difficult time for those who are grieving, as you’re witnessing others enjoying the season while you’re dealing with difficult emotions, processing and adjusting to a life that doesn’t feel the same as it used to.
It’s okay to not be okay, and don’t have to push yourself to do things you’re not ready for. However, if you’re finding that you’re struggling to get out of bed in the morning, here are five summer activities that can help raise your serotonin levels and help you get up and at ‘em each day.
Even if you can’t do all of these things, pick one or two that resonate with you and give them a try. Sometimes the effort of getting dressed and leaving the house is half the battle already won.
1. Visit Water
Water is one of the most calming things on earth. The sound of waves crashing on the shore, raindrops hitting your window, or even just a little fountain can help ease anxiety and lower stress levels. If you can’t get to an outdoor water source, simply sitting in the tub with the warm water surrounding you can be soothing.
Grieving takes more energy than you may think. Physical exercise can help improve your mood by releasing endorphins, which are the body’s natural painkillers. Taking a walk by a river, going for a swim, or playing sounds of a stream while doing some gentle yoga can increase your energy levels and improve your mood.
If you find that you’re unable to muster up the energy to do any sort of physical activity, that’s perfectly normal too. Just do what you can and don’t beat yourself up over the small things. Floating in a pool, doing some light stretching, or even just laying in the sun can help relax your mind and body.
Alternatively, visiting large bodies of water can give you the space to think, reflect, and spend time with your uninterrupted thoughts. There’s something about the vastness of the ocean or the stillness of a lake that can certainly put things into perspective.
2. Connect with Nature on a Trail
Nature is inherently calming. Perhaps it’s the fresh air, the sound of the birds chirping, or the beauty of the trees and flowers. Whatever it is, spending time in nature can help to ease anxiety and lower stress levels while you deal with your loss.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that plays a huge role in maintaining a balanced mood, and exposure to sunlight helps the body produce more of it. Plus, physical activity has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety, so pushing yourself to finish that hike, walk or run is a great way to improve your mood.
On the other hand, it’s important not to overdo it. Your body needs rest in order to heal; physical and emotional. Make sure to take time each day to relax and enjoy the moment, even if just for a few minutes. A nature trail can also be a great place to do this; simply find a spot to sit or lie down, close your eyes and take some deep breaths while absorbing the sun.
3. Take a Trip
If you’re recovering from a loss, chances are you could use a change of scenery. Travel can be a great way to take your mind off of your current situation and help you feel more connected to the world around you.
There are many different ways to travel. You can go on a big adventure, like hiking in the mountains or exploring a new city, or you can take a more relaxing trip, like lying on the beach or visiting a spa. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s something that will make you feel happy and relaxed.
Even if you’re already starting to feel better, a grand adventure is a powerful way to remind yourself that life is beautiful and worth living. These moments of joy will add up and help your overall outlook on life.
4. Spend Time with Family
Summer is a great time to take a vacation to visit family. If you’re feeling lonely you may self isolate even more, which will disrupt the healing process in the long run. Grief is difficult to deal with, but you don’t have to do it alone; that’s what family is for.
Picnicking, hiking or barbecuing are a few great ways to spend time outdoors with family. Consider taking a trip to the local park, beach or even your own backyard. There are many ways to connect with others, and spending time with those you love and who love you in return is one of the best ways to cope with loss.
Serotonin is the “feel good” chemical of the body. Low levels of serotonin are linked to anxiety and depression, but these summer activities will help get you out of the house and help those feel-good chemicals rise. If you’re grieving the loss of a loved one, getting some sunshine, moving your body or spending time with family are all great ways to help get those serotonin levels back up.
Remember to take things as they come. Grieving comes in stages, and those stages can toss wave after wave of emotion your way. Don’t be afraid to get help if you’re struggling to cope, and don’t hesitate to ask for support from a loved one.