Summer, summer, summertime! It's my favorite time of year and pretty much my fave season. So many fun things happen in the summer. Concerts, cookouts, vacations, my birthday… fittingly on the first day of—you guessed it—SUMMER! It seems like everyone is in a better mood during summer. Turns out, that is the truth!
Summer is actually a really good boost for your mental health, and to find out more about it, I reached out to Dr. Aruna Puthota, a family medicine and psychiatry specialist with The Christ Hospital Physicians – Primary Care.
Summer — A boost to mental health
Summer is sooo good for your mental health, but it turns out that's not just because of the sunshine. Dr. Puthota explains, "Summer can be a great boost for mental health. Better weather means more time outdoors. If you add exercise to that outdoor time, then that can provide an even greater boost! One of my favorite things about summer is having more opportunities to spend time with family and friends. Research has demonstrated a positive link between quality social relationships and improved mental and physical health. So, this doctor's prescription? Grab a buddy, put on some sunblock, and take a walk outside."
Walking outside is a great way to get in a better mood, but what about Vitamin D? Isn't that part of the reason why we have a better mood in the summer? Dr. Puthota tells me, "It is commonly known that sunshine can be a great source of Vitamin D. There is a link between low Vitamin D levels and increased rates of depression. But there are also risks of too much sun exposure, including an increased risk of developing skin related cancers. So, always remember to wear sunblock when spending time outdoors. If you are interested in other ways to boost Vitamin D levels, then make an appointment to chat with your primary care doctor."
Get outside and feel good
Getting outside during the summer is so beneficial to you, even if it is hot. Outdoor time can positively benefit mental and physical health. Spending time in green spaces or natural landscapes has been shown to increase pleasure and has a calming effect that reduces levels of anxiety and stress. There is also research that suggests that outdoor time can improve our ability to maintain attention and focus.
When we feel good, we are more likely to make better decisions about our physical health, including what we eat and how we exercise. But how much time should we be spending outside? Dr. Puthota advises, "One research study showed that just 30 minutes a day spent outside can improve mental health. In reality, any amount of time outside is ideal. So, try and take that lunch break outside or take a walk to grab that iced coffee. Just remember to wear sunblock when you do."
Tips for kids in the summer
The summer feel-goods aren't just for adults. Our kids can get in on the action, too. I feel like our family struggles during the summer because our schedules are all over the place. One day we are hanging at home in the sprinkler, and then the next four days are jammed-packed. Dr. Puthota says, "It's true that kids thrive on a predictable rhythm and routine. This can be supported in the summer by simply maintaining regular mealtimes, bedtimes and wake-up times. Having some consistent chores and activities peppered in during the week can further support that routine." She even has some tips on how we can support kids' mental health during summer months:
Try not to "overbook." As tempted as we may be to pack in activities and vacations during those summer months, also allow time for rest.
Switch screen time to outdoor time.
If you do have screen time, try to make it a family/social event.
Support, encourage and schedule activities where kids can interact with other children.
Utilize out-of-school time to connect and communicate more with your kids. Keeping that open line of communication is a great way to support positive mental health going into the school year.
Provide opportunities for your child to learn a new skill or take on a new hobby. Whether it's baking or making a popsicle stick bird-feeder, kids (and adults!) love feeling accomplished!
Cheers to summer! Get out there and have some mood-boosting fun!
Schedule an appointment with Dr. Puthota - or find a primary care expert with The Christ Hospital Physicians near you.