The cold and bleak winter months are behind us, and the sun has peeked out from behind the clouds. The summer days are longer, and the temperature is warmer. It is the perfect time to go outside and enjoy everything that the summer months have to offer.
One of the many benefits of the summer is the positive effect that it has on many people’s mental health. The sun gives us more vitamin D, which raises energy levels and just simply makes us feel happier. So, how can we take advantage of the summer months and manage our mental health? And what can we do when the season starts to change from summer back to the cold, dark fall and winter?
The Sun and Vitamin D
During the winter, when the sun is not shining as brightly as it is in the summer, we find ourselves lacking the vitamin D that we need to give us energy. It is estimated that more than 40% of Americans have a vitamin D deficiency. Being out in the sun during the summer months can help us get back some of the vitamin D that we might be missing.
A lack of vitamin D has been linked to osteoporosis, cancer, muscle weakness, and depression. Therefore, getting a healthy dose of vitamin D is imperative.
The best way to get vitamin D is through the sun, and the best time of day to go outside is at mid-day when the sun is at its highest point in the sky. Luckily the summer also gives us the summer solstice—the longest day of the year—which is June 21. So take advantage of those extended daylight hours, and soak in as much vitamin D as possible that day.
Even though exposure to the sun is beneficial to us for the vitamin D provided, remember that the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays are harmful to your skin. When you are outside be sure to protect it with a high-SPF sunscreen to avoid the damage those UV rays can do to your skin if exposed for too long.
Go Outside During the Summer Months
Since a daily dose of vitamin D is so important for maintaining a good mental state, as well as a healthy body, take advantage of the warm summer months, and go outside whenever you can. The summer weather begs for you to enjoy it, so make the most of it.
Some of the ways you can take advantage of the sun during the summer months are to play in the backyard with your children, sit on the patio by yourself with a good book, or simply enjoy the sun’s warm rays hitting your face. You can also invite friends and family over for a barbecue if you are so inclined.
Many communities host outdoor events in the summer. Make sure you take advantage of as many of those opportunities as possible. Even finding something that you would normally do indoors and taking it outside would be beneficial. Anything that gets you outside to enjoy what the summer has to offer will help.
Take Time for Yourself
Another great thing about summer is that, in many cases, the world seems to slow down. Children are out of school, and families tend to take vacations during the summer because of the warmer weather.
With the ease of the summer months, take some time out for yourself. Take a calming walk by yourself, and use that time to meditate or reflect. (The exercise and vitamin D are an added bonus.) Go to the pool and enjoy the warmth of the sun and the cool, soothing water.
If you are not one for outdoor activities, find an indoor activity like doing a puzzle, playing music, or making art. Simply find an activity that makes you happy and relaxed. There are so many ways to take time for yourself, even if just for five minutes. Take advantage of the relaxed nature of summer, and find little ways that you can slow down and de-stress.
No Quick Fix
Vitamin D may be an important factor in your mental and physical well-being, but it is important to note that it is not the quick fix to all of your physical maladies and mental health concerns. Sometimes, no amount of sunlight will make us feel better, and that is okay. Standing out in the sun, while having its benefits, has not cured anyone of clinical mental-health conditions like depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, or any behavioral or anxiety disorders.
Working with a therapist in the summer can be beneficial, as they can offer more suggestions for how to take advantage of the summer months. A therapist can also help with the things that the sun can’t provide. There is no quick fix to any mental illness that you may be facing, and even the many positive aspects of summer can not change that fact.
Preparing for the Winter Months
As we all know too well, the warm and bright summer months will not be with us forever—unless we want to switch from living in the northern hemisphere to the southern hemisphere every six months. Eventually, we will have to go back to the cold, dark winter months. We will return to the stress of school, the holidays, and the frigid outside chores that can sometimes overwhelm us.
So, what can we do to make sure that we are ready to take on winter with the same ease that we took on summer? We certainly cannot go outside as often as we would like, and warm sunlight in the winter is in short supply.
One of the ways you can prepare for the winter months is to research how to get vitamin D from sources other than the sun. There are plenty of foods, such as eggs, salmon, beef liver, and tuna, that are high in vitamin D, but you would need to have those every day to get your daily recommended dose of vitamin D. This is certainly not the most sustainable way to get vitamin D—especially for the vegans and vegetarians out there.
Another way to get vitamin D is to take daily supplements. During the winter months, vitamin D pills become a staple in many medicine cabinets across the United States. Talk to your doctor about how much vitamin D you need to take, and then take it daily. There are many factors, such as age, gender, and even skin color, that can have an effect on how much vitamin D you need to take in order to maintain a healthy level.
You can also prepare for the winter months by remembering to take time for yourself as you did in the summer months. Even if just for five minutes, take the time to do the things that you enjoy.
Just because it may feel like time slows down in the summer doesn’t mean that it really does. There are still 24 hours to each day, and the winter is no different. Find time in your schedule to set aside for yourself. You deserve it and need it.
Finally, as the weather grows colder, remember that there are people to help you through the bleak winter. It may be beneficial to seek the guidance of a therapist through the tough winter months. A therapist can help you better manage your emotions during the winter and provide a more tailored approach to handling the “Winter Blues.”
When life seems to get too hectic in the colder months, remember that there are people who are eager to help. At Keri Powell Therapy, we offer individualized plans, catered to our client’s needs, no matter the season.
If you would like to find out more information about the services we provide, or if you would like to schedule an appointment with one of our qualified and compassionate therapists, please give us a call. We are eager to hear from you!