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6 Healthy Summer Habits (& How to Keep Them Year-Round)

For all of us collegiettes, summer marks a clear change of rhythm. Whether you’re working a job, interning, taking summer classes, traveling or just kicking back and relaxing, you’re bound to have more time to do you – and the beautiful weather doesn’t hurt, either. During the summer, we’re often healthier, happier versions of our school-year selves; we pick up good habits and are just all-around more relaxed. HC put together some of the things we do better May through September, as well as tips from collegiettes and experts for how to carry these good habits into our busy college schedules.

1. The habit: eating a more balanced diet

In college, irregular eating patterns are pretty much the norm. We skip breakfast, stress-eat chips and candy and often go for late-night greasy fare. But over the summer, fresh produce tends to be more readily available, and we also have extra time to prepare meals and sit down to enjoy them. In addition, with our stress levels down to a minimum, we’re less likely to snack erratically.

Sara Heath, a senior at Assumption College and a contributing writer for HC, has noticed some positive changes in her diet this summer. “I’ve been way more apt to eat better foods, like all of the seasonal fruits and even more veggies, as a way to stay hydrated,” Sara says. “I’ve been eating lots of carrots and celery just to snack on. I’m also obsessed with watermelon.”

How to carry it into the school year:

Like Sara, if you’ve been eating better in the past weeks, you probably want to keep it up once school comes around. “I’ve been feeling so much better, so I definitely want to carry [this diet] into the fall when I go back to school!” Sara says. “My biggest concern going back to school, though, is that fresh produce is kind of expensive and I have to pay for my own groceries. I’m afraid I’ll go back to lots of simple carbs because they’re cheaper!”

There are many ways in which your new healthy lifestyle could slip up when you go back to college, but don’t worry! According to registered dietitian Nancy Clark, “you will choose to carry your good habits with you into the school year when you stay mindful of the benefits of healthful fueling and enjoyable activities.”

Remind yourself why you wanted to eat wholesome foods in the first place. “You’ll realize that when you eat (and sleep and play) well, you not only feel better, but you also feel better about yourself,” Clark says. If you remember how good you felt during the summer, it should motivate you to go the extra mile to eat well during the school year, too.

But even with the right amount of motivation, eating right in college can be a real struggle. Luckily, Danielle Kemp, the dining services dietitian at the University of California, Santa Barbara, has some great tips to help you hold on to your healthier summer diet. First, an easy way to avoid eating the same things over and over is to “include different-colored fruit and vegetables to maximize your overall daily nutrition,” Kemp says. So get creative with your groceries and try something new! “It’s fun and you might find something you love,” she says.

Whether you live in the dorms or an apartment, always “aim for a colorful, balanced plate that is full of nutrients,” Kemp says. As for snacking, “it’s okay when it’s done right. Enjoy fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy and whole grains.” This is also a chance to get creative and test new combos. Kemp suggests pairing an apple with almond butter, string cheese with whole-wheat crackers or dried fruit with nuts for some homemade trail mix.

Another important tip? “If you are on the run, don’t skip breakfast,” Kemp advises. If you have a fridge, prepare overnight oats or a smoothie the night before and enjoy it on the go—emphasis on enjoy. “Don’t forget to enjoy your food,” Kemp says. “It provides our bodies with nourishment, so try to make the time to slow down and savor it.”

2. The habit: exercising regularly

Over the summer, exercising can feel more natural than forcing yourself to hit your school gym. For instance, you might go for a bike ride, a swim or a hike and not even realize you’re working out! But even if you love going to the gym or doing workout videos, it’s much easier to find time to do so during the summer months. You could even sign up for that yoga class you’ve always wanted to try!

“This summer, I’ve been working out regularly, which I haven’t done for a while,” says Julia Flaherty, a junior at the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point. “Lately it’s been an average of four to five days per week. It’s the time I take for myself to feel good about who I am.”

How to carry it into the school year:

Our college schedules can get insane at times, but it’s important to remember to incorporate exercise into your school routine. “Being physically active regulates the body in so many ways,” explains Andrew Ames, a certified personal trainer, barre instructor at the University of California, Los Angeles and creator of Butt N Gut fitness. “Fitness fuels the brain with endorphins and other chemicals that help improve overall performance, including on an exam or presentation.”

You don’t necessarily need to block off a whole hour to exercise, especially during busier times like midterms or finals. “Walking and taking stairs, even in 10-minute bouts, is far better than just sitting and studying,” Ames says. “Walk the campus while you study your flash cards, park further away and take the stairs wherever you need to go…Remember, working on your fitness doesn’t mean you HAVE to go to the gym. Find something fun that gets you moving.”

Another great way to ensure you continue to exercise regularly once the summer is over is to enroll in fitness challenges. Some colleges offer programs to help you reach your fitness goals, like the team-based challenge at the University of North Georgia, or programs in which you pay a deposit that you get back upon completion, like at the University of Missouri – Kansas City. If your school doesn’t offer fitness challenges, you can use apps like MapMyRun, on which you can win prizes for completing the challenge. Workout calendars like this one are also an effective way to motivate yourself.

3. The habit: getting your beauty sleep

You know what they say – you can’t sleep, study and have a social life in college. You have to choose two. But since many collegiettes skip the “study” part over the summer, sleeping is much easier to do, and the benefits are endless!

Besides feeling more energized overall, going to bed early could mean waking up earlier and being able to enjoy what the morning has to offer! Aparna Vancheswaran, a junior at the University of California at Los Angeles, says that during the school year, she never goes to sleep before 2 a.m. Since she has been able to go to bed earlier in the summer, she gets to try new breakfast recipes when she wakes up. “And I’m rather enjoying not looking like a zombie,” she says.

How to carry it into the school year:

You’ve probably noticed that when you’re sleep-deprived, everything seems more difficult. You feel sluggish, less productive, in a bad mood and more prone to mindless snacking, among other things. “Remember that your mood, your focus, your metabolism and your grades all require adequate sleep,” says Michael A. Grandner, PhD, an instructor of psychiatry and member of the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology at the University of Pennsylvania. “So it is important to make sleep a priority.”

Finding the time to sleep in college can be horribly challenging, but there are a few things you can do to make it easier. “Avoid caffeine within six hours of sleeps,” Dr. Grandner advises. “Avoid screen time in the middle of the night. Try to minimize noise and light, even if it means using an eye mask and earplugs.”

Even following these tips, chances are you won’t be able to get the recommended amount of sleep every night (between seven and nine hours, according to Dr. Grandner). In that case, “naps in the middle of the day can be a great way to recharge and make it through an afternoon of classes or work,” he says. So allow yourself that power nap, because you’ll most likely do what you need to do better afterwards anyway.

4. The habit: being a social butterfly

The summer is the perfect time to step out of your friendship comfort zone and meet new people. Whether you’re home, at school or abroad, there are plenty of occasions to connect with friends of friends or total strangers.

Garance Merholz, a junior at the University of California, Los Angeles, is taking summer classes and loves making new friends. “I’m being more social!” she says. “I decided to just go for it and talk to people whenever I want. It’s been pretty awesome.”

While meeting new people is lots of fun, summer is also your time to strengthen your relationships with old friends from home or from school, like Sarah Estephan, a sophomore at the University of California, Los Angeles, has done. “This summer, I’ve decided that I can only have positive and loving people in my life,” Sarah says. That being said, this summer has made me realize who my true friends are, and I couldn’t be more thankful for them.”

How to carry it into the school year:

Unfortunately, we don’t always allow ourselves quality time with our good friends during the academic year. So whenever you feel tempted to blow off your friends to get ahead on next week’s homework, remind yourself that you need to prioritize people sometimes. For Sarah, spending more time with her real friends is “the only way [she] can guarantee next year will be successful.”

As for meeting other people, college campuses are full of fascinating people with lots of different backgrounds and interests. The problem is, once you’ve settled into a friend group, you don’t necessarily feel the need to go out and meet people as much, when you could actually benefit from it a lot.

Because she’s enrolled in summer school, Garance has noticed how rewarding being more of a social butterfly can be in college. “Now I have study buddies in my classes, and I’m making new friends everywhere!” she says.

Joanne Cantor, Ph.D., the outreach director of the Center for Communication Research at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, advises: “Have fun! Don’t be a workaholic. Your work will be of higher quality – and you’ll be healthier and happier all around.”

5. The habit: finding new passions

Whether you’ve been meaning to make that DIY lamp you spotted on Pinterest or you dream of learning to play the guitar, summer is the perfect time to develop new skills. Kasia Jaworski, a senior at Villanova University, tried her hand at cooking last summer. “Something that I picked up last summer that I continued through the school year (and up until now!) was trying a new recipe every week,” Kasia says. “During the summer, I had the time to look through my Pinterest board and cookbooks I had and I picked out a new dinner recipe every week!”

Achieving new goals will not only spice up your summer routine, but it will also make you proud and give you skills to show off. Just do it!

How to carry it into the school year:

Hopefully you’ll love your new talent so much that you won’t want to give it up just because classes are starting. “I liked [cooking] so much that I did it all last year as well,” Kasia says. “The recipes don’t have to be elaborate or difficult, but I wanted to try something new to switch up what I was eating week to week.”

If you love doing something enough, you should find time to do it. It will make you happier and healthier, which means you’re bound to do better in school and everything else as well!

Set aside a time every few days or every week, for instance, to pursue your newly found hobby. By working it into your schedule, it won’t feel like something you can do without.

6. The habit: disconnecting from social media

Let’s face it – we’re all pretty much addicted to our smartphones and social media. But in the summertime, it gets somewhat easier to not use technology all the time; we spend more face-to-face time with our friends, and we don’t have to set constant reminders for all our busy-girl obligations. It’s liberating to find out just how much we can get done when we’re not constantly checking Facebook.

Claudia Dimuro, a senior at New York University, finds that “during the summer, it’s extremely relaxing to take time out of the day to separate yourself from your phone/any other type of social media tool.” And we couldn’t agree more, but it’s often easier said than done to keep that up once fall rolls around!

How to carry it into the school year:

If disconnecting from time to time is so relaxing, why don’t we do it in college, too? Well, it’s easy to get into the bad habit of constantly scrolling through our Instagram feed, and a boring lecture can seem like a great place to do it. But be careful! “Multitasking (checking Facebook or surfing the web, for example) while in class or while studying dumbs down your brain, makes things take longer, reduces your memory for what you’re doing and makes you do a poorer job,” Cantor warns.

Concentrating is difficult, and technology can get in the way. Instead of always having your phone on hand, “turn off your alerts or leave your smartphone behind even for a short period of time,” Cantor advises. “Don’t overload yourself with information or trivia from the Internet. Make sure important people can reach you in emergencies, and get back to everyone else when you have time.”

There’s a reason we love the summer – life just seems so much easier with fewer obligations. We get into healthier habits, we have more fun and we feel great! That’s why it’s a good idea to carry your summer habits into the school year so that you can feel more relaxed in a time of high stress. So keep on doing things you love and making time for your friends and for yourself, and you’ll improve every other aspect of your life in the process.

Iris was the associate editor at Her Campus. She graduated from UCLA with a degree in communications and gender studies, but was born and raised in France with an English mother. She enjoys country music, the color pink and pretending she has her life together. Iris was the style editor and LGBTQ+ editor for HC as an undergrad, and has interned for Cosmopolitan.com and goop. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @irisgoldsztajn, or check out her writing portfolio here.
Gabriella Diniz is an Art student concentrating in Graphic Design at Bridgewater State University.