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Making the most of summer and the holidays: Activities to curb your boredom

Added 25 Nov 2018

With the summer season arriving here in Australia, people are beginning to retire from their hibernation caves that shielded them from the crisp wintry cold and are swapping their beanies for sun hats. The warm weather means each day will be the perfect opportunity to get out, start exploring and even begin preparing for the Christmas holidays that are quickly approaching. In case you’re stuck on how to spend your sunny season, here are a few ideas to help you to make the most out of summer and your mental wellbeing:

1. Get down and dirty – start planting some summer veggies and herbs

Take advantage of the delightful radiant weather and get a head start on growing herbs and veggies that’ll add a fresh kick to your dishes. Mediterranean herbs such as rosemary and oregano, beetroot, eggplant, cucumber and carrots all thrive in the warmer soil. Remember to keep them well hydrated in the balmy weather though (just like yourself!) to avoid wilting. December is the perfect time to plant seedlings and reap the benefits in a few months’ time. A meta-analysis study by Soga, Gaston and Yamaura (2017) investigating the effects of gardening on human health showed a positive association between gardening and beneficial health outcomes. The benefits included reductions in stress, fatigue, depression and anxiety. Increases in cognitive function and physical health were also highlighted, so go get your gardening gloves on and watering cans ready!   

2. Grab your hessian bags and explore fresh & local farmers markets

If gardening just isn’t quite for your forte because you weren’t blessed with a green thumb, why not get down to your local farmers’ market instead to help support local produce and families.  Markets are a great place to gather and meet members of your community while picking up fresh seasonal goodies that’ll make your tastebuds happy. Not only are farmers markets eco-friendly and cost effective but consuming fresh, in-season produce packs just as many benefits for your brain as it does for the rest of your body. Polyphenols are a micronutrient packed with antioxidants and originate in certain plan-based foods such as blueberries, apples and red grapes. Current studies conducted suggest a diet consistently rich in plant polyphenols offers protection against neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Who can say no to a juicy summer berries or farm fresh eggs to spruce up your Christmas Pavlova? You can even add some holly on top to decorate and keep that holiday spirit buzzing.

3. Unleash your inner Picasso and get painting

Popping up around Melbourne and cities across the globe are what’s being labelled as “paint night”. Art studios are throwing their doors open and getting their brushes ready for tutorial-led social painting classes. There are no prerequisites, nor is previous experience required, so if your last brush with paint was in kindergarten or during home renovations, you fit the bill! Your wonderfully painted canvas can spruce up your living space or even be the perfect Christmas gift – that’s certainly one way to beat the bustling shopping centre crowds.

Engaging in art programs and creative expression has revealed improvements in mental health. Dr Christina Davis, a Research Fellow from the School of Public Health at The University of Western Australia led an award-winning study in 2015. The art of being mentally healthy (Davies, Knuiman and Rosenberg) found evidence of an association between recreational arts engagement and mental wellbeing in the general population. Those who engaged in 100 or more hours of arts activity in a year, about 2 or more hours per week, reported significantly better mental health wellbeing than others with lower levels of art engagement. 

4. Uncover history and stories that have shaped our world

Whether you’re an art, history, media, sport or science buff, there’s a museum here in Melbourne that will tickle your brain cells. From the National Gallery of Victoria that boasts free entry alongside Monet and Australia’s very own Sidney Nolan pieces, to Scienceworks that is bursting with technology that challenges even the most inquisitive of minds, there is something for all – young and old alike. The Smithsonian Institution has discovered that museum guests cite viewing rare materials, gaining knowledge, imagining other times and interacting with materials to be the most rewarding experiences when visiting.

Dr Jan Packer is an Associate Professor and Research Fellow at the University of Queensland who investigates visitor experiences at tourism and leisure settings, such as museums. Dr Packer’s analysis of behaviour at museums has demonstrated many psychological and cognitive benefits. Museums can be calming environments that assist relaxation and decrease anxiety by removing oneself from everyday demands. Viewing new material and interacting with different mediums can also be inspirational and provide a sense of identity. 

5. Get Stuffed - with crumbly mince pies, festive breads and gingerbread

Fire up the oven because ‘tis the season to get baking some Christmas goodies! Gingerbread, fruit mince tarts, chocolate peppermint slice and shortbread dusted in icing sugar are all reminiscent of the joyful holidays (and a great excuse to devour some dessert). Shake out your aprons and sieves because your kitchen is going to be smelling delightfully delicious in no time.  Donna Pincus, an Associate Professor of Psychological Science at Boston University attributes baking to benefit overall wellbeing and stress relief. Baking enables an outlet for people to express themselves and can boost a sense of connection with others. Who doesn’t love sharing or gifting their freshly baked goodies to others?
Moreover, food is not only about the nutritional benefit or to satisfy hunger needs; the gathering of ingredients and mixing them together is just as important. Researchers at the University of Canberra have attributed present-time concentration whilst baking or cooking to assist in lowering anxiety, increased mood and mindfulness. Happy baking – brownie points if you use Christmas-themed cookie cutters!

Now you’re all set to make the most out of your summer with these ideas to help kick-start your sunny season and boost your mental wellbeing - happy holidays!  

 

Written by Athina – ADAVIC Volunteer

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