Summer is typically seen as a time of happiness and relaxation. However, for some individuals, this is not the case. The summer months can bring unique challenges that may impact our mental health, leading to feelings of depression and anxiety. Individuals can avoid these feelings and enjoy their time in the sun by learning to prioritize their mental health in the summer.
In this guide, we address how summer can affect mental health, what seasonal affective disorder is, the differences between mental health in summer and in winter, and how to prioritize mental health in summer.
How Does Summer Affect Mental Health?
Summer can have both positive and negative effects on mental health, as it brings changes in weather, daylight, activities, and routines. During the summertime, individual responses to seasonal changes can vary widely, with some individuals thriving while others face challenges. By understanding how the seasons may affect mental health, individuals can prioritize their well-being and live happier, healthier lives.
Positive Effects of Summer
During summer, increased sunlight exposure due to longer daylight hours contributes to improved mental well-being by boosting mood through the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with positive emotions. Engaging in outdoor activities such as running, hiking, swimming, or picnics takes advantage of warmer weather and extended daylight, reducing stress and anxiety while promoting relaxation. Additionally, the season encourages social interactions through gatherings, vacations, and holidays, which enhance a sense of connection and support, thereby reducing loneliness and fostering a greater sense of belonging.
Negative Effects of Summer
While summer has some positive effects on mental health, the negative effects create various challenges for individuals. High temperatures and humidity can induce heat-related stress, increasing anxiety and irritability, while sleep patterns and mood swings may occur. The social pressure on having a “beach body” can fuel body image concerns and lower self-esteem, particularly among those struggling with body dysmorphia or eating disorders. Summer’s disruption of routines, such as school vacations, can cause individuals to feel restless and affect their mood stability. Additionally, summer depression, a form of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), can occur, leading to symptoms of depression, despite its typical association with winter months.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that typically occurs during the fall and lasts throughout the winter. This condition is thought to be linked to reduced exposure to natural sunlight during these seasons. This can cause disruptions to the body’s internal clock, the circadian rhythm, and affect the balance of serotonin and melatonin. SAD can lead to a range of emotional and physical symptoms that impact an individual’s overall well-being, which can differ depending on when an individual experiences it.
Summer SAD vs. Winter SAD
To understand how summer affects mental health, seeing how other seasons can impact mental health is important. While summer SAD and winter SAD share similarities, there are specific symptoms and causes for each. As both of these conditions are caused by an individual having major depressive disorder, they share some similar symptoms. These symptoms include:
- Little to no interest in activities, hobbies, or work
- Trouble concentrating
- Thoughts of suicide or death
Symptoms that are specific to summer SAD include:
- Reduced appetite
- Weight loss
- Episodes of violent behavior
How to Prioritize Your Mental Health During Summer
Prioritizing your mental health during the summer is a vital way to recognize and acknowledge how the seasons can impact your emotional well-being. By being aware of the potential stressors in the summer months, you can tailor your self-care practices to benefit your overall health and mental well-being. While these strategies may not work for every individual, the most common ways to prioritize your mental health in summer include:
- Engage in Outdoor Activities: Take advantage of the warm weather and longer days to engage in outdoor activities that you enjoy. This can be taking leisurely walks, hiking, having a picnic in the park, or simply basking in the sunlight. Spending time outdoors can increase vitamin D levels and provide a rejuvenating effect on mental health. Physical activity also releases endorphins, which are natural mood boosters, and being surrounded by nature can reduce stress and promote relaxation.
- Build Social Connections: Summer is a time of increased social gatherings, so make an effort to build and maintain your relationships with others. Spend quality time with family members and friends, participate in social events, and engage in meaningful conversations. Connecting with others provides emotional support, fosters a sense of belonging, and strengthens your overall mental health.
- Maintain Healthy Routines: While summer may cause problems with regular routines, strive to establish and maintain new healthy habits. Having consistent sleep patterns, prioritizing regular meals, and incorporating self-care activities into your day can give a sense of structure. This can contribute to a stable emotional state and a greater sense of control.
- Prioritize Self-Care Practices: Self-care practices are essential in maintaining overall wellness and happiness. Self-care can look different for everyone, and some ways to practice self-care can include journaling, deep breathing, physical activities, and spending time with loved ones.
- Speak to a Therapist: If an individual is still struggling with their mental health in the summer, it may be beneficial to consult a mental health therapist. By utilizing the support and guidance of a medical professional, individuals can gain coping skills, address the root causes of depression, and receive support during their low periods.
- Stay in Mental Health Housing: Staying in mental health housing during the summer can provide a safe space for individuals to attend therapy sessions, develop healthy routines, and create supportive relationships. With mental health housing, it can be easier to prioritize mental health without any outside distractions.
Premier Mental Health Housing in Los Angeles, CA
By prioritizing mental health in the summer, individuals can enjoy the warmer months without worrying about their mental wellness. For some, this may be difficult, but by utilizing the necessary tools and resources available, individuals can improve their overall well-being.
At Riviera Recovery, located in Los Angeles, CA, we provide premier mental health housing all year long to ensure our clients can have support during any season. Our housing programs, which are separated by gender, offer a safe and welcoming space for our clients to attend therapy sessions and connect with like-minded individuals. Our programs allow clients to readjust to society and improve their mental health while learning valuable life skills.
If you or a loved one are struggling with mental health disorders, contact our team of specialists today to learn more about our program.