Want to have a better summer? These summer sensory activities can help. The summer can be filled with sensory triggers. Longer days, louder outings, lawnmowers, and other sensations can make the world seem like a hectic blur. Thankfully, there is no better time of year to find sensory regulation — sometimes right in your backyard. Sensory regulation is a strategic mix of activities that help your body organize, calm down, or energize when you’re feeling lethargic. Best of all, most sensory regulation is fun. Sensory diets are a mix of activities used by occupational therapists to help avoid meltdowns and shutdowns. Proprioceptive (pressure) and vestibular (movement) inputs can be calming and organizing.
Sensory diets should include calming, energizing (alerting), and organizing activities. Sensory diets should be unique to the individual, but the following fun activities may be helpful if you’re having trouble keeping calm, energized, and organized in the summer months. The trick is to find what you like! The best way to find out if an activity is helping you, is to pay attention to your body.
As Occupational therapist Susan Nesbit puts it, “Any activity with pressure (proprioceptive input) can be normalizing (calming and alerting). AND, finding activities that bring joy can lessen the impact of the noxious triggers. Some persons lose track of time when immersed in joyful activities with goals. E.g., walking to a destination via a new route. While people watching and window shopping in a city. Or smelling the pine trees and listening to the crunching needles and birds in the woods.”
The following summer sensory activities could have a great impact on your misophonia and/or SPD.
Swinging: Swinging is the ideal source of vestibular input. The effect in the brain from 15 minutes of swinging is reported to last up to eight hours. Other types of sensory input affect the brain for one-to-two hours. Some experts recommend swinging for at least 15 minutes, 2 times per day (e.g., early morning and late afternoon). Because a swing hung from one hook can be moved at varying speeds (e.g., fast) and in more directions, using a swing hung from a single hook gives more intense and longer-lasting input than a swing hung from two hooks. Slow, linear, and rhythmical movements are calming and fast, rotary, and erratic movements are excitatory.
Swimming: Depending on your style of swimming, it can be organizing, energizing, and calming. While swimming in high-population areas can be overwhelming, if you can find a relatively private place to swim, this activity can be incredibly therapeutic. After swimming, my entire body feels different. A heavy calmness comes over me after roughly 30 minutes of swimming. Even a quick dip can be beneficial when I’m overwhelmed and going through a sensory battle.
Nature hike/Walking On The Beach: Nature hikes can be great for sensory regulation. Walking on the beach can also be a great activity, with the sound of waves, the pressure of sand on your feet, and the scent of the ocean. Nature hikes are also beneficial, but if you can’t get to nature — you can get some benefits from walking around your neighbourhood. The fresh air, activity, and breathing can be enough to help. If you live in a loud area, earplugs and calming music played through headphones may help.
Yoga: Organizing and calming, yoga can be great for sensory regulation. If you can do yoga in a quiet area, you may be offering your brain a great relief. Different benefits can be had depending on the type of stretching used. If you’re going to try yoga, you should ensure that your mood afterward is what you expected from the routine — if not, be sure to try different styles.
Canoeing/Kayaking: I often start my own mornings with a canoe ride. This activity puts the pressure of moving a canoe (the weight of it against your paddle), and the calming and serene presence of the water. I try to canoe in the early dawn, before loud noises radiating from the highway becomes prominent. I also wear headphones and listen to inspirational or calming music. I’ve noticed my tolerance levels are significantly higher after this activity, more-so than many others.
Bonfires: Bonfires can be mystifying for the senses. Watching the flames, the calming sound of the cracking wood, and the fresh smell of burning firewood are all beneficial for sensory calming. The dark night can also be mellowing for the senses, and is an activity I personally find very relaxing.
Camping: camping can include many sensory activities. Depending on your location and circumstances, a trip can include swimming, canoeing, and campfires. Other than these staples — the sensory break that comes from time away can be an amazing reset for the sensory system.
In order to have a sensory-effective summer, you should make sure that every day is filled with fun and interesting sensory activities. Any activities that you find relaxing and energizing could have potential sensory benefits. For more information on sensory diets, you can view Susan Nesbit’s Sensory Diet.