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Should We Really Assume More Sun Equals More Smiles?

The weekend is over but summertime is technically just beginning. Summer solstice was just last week, meaning that even though days are starting to get shorter, this is the time of year when we get the most daily access to sunlight in the northern hemisphere. So how do these longer days impact our health and more specifically our mental health? Let’s dive in.

We all know that mental health takes a hit during the winter months, when the days are short. Rainy day blues, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)—these are all very real things. So does that mean that one summer rolls around, it’s all sunshine and rainbows in terms of mental health?

Ok so maybe it isn’t all purely sunshine and rainbows, but you would expect there to be an improvement in mental health across the country during the summer months. After all, over 40% of Americans are deficient in vitamin D, which has been shown to play a major role in impacting mood and hormonal health, among other things. 

So based on that logic, it should be safe to assume that more sun means that we would see an improvement in some mental health metrics. Well, that unfortunately doesn’t seem to be the case. 

According to a recent study, extremely hot summer days, which seem to be becoming more common due to climate change, actually increase emergency room visits for mental health crises. 

Even Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is commonly attributed to the lack of sunlight during the winter months, has been shown to impact a significant number of people during the summer months as well. Why is that? Well, it turns out that just because the sun is out for longer doesn’t necessarily mean that people are spending more time outdoors. 

We unfortunately live in a society that loves to spend their time indoors. Add to that the fact that longer days will make it easier for people to skimp on the amount of sleep they need, and you get the perfect recipe for a slew of mental health issues. 

Even children seem to be impacted. It turns out that anxiety and depression can become more apparent in our young ones during this time because of the lack of structure in a child’s day. Not that every minute of a kid’s day needs to be structured, but we do know that most people, regardless of age, thrive when they have a routine. 

Now, mental health aside, you should also be watching out for heat related conditions like heat exhaustion or heat stroke during the summer months. Staying properly hydrated, with not only adequate water intake but with proper electrolytes is key to make sure you keep these conditions at bay. Especially during a summer like the one we are having this year!  

The key takeaway? Jeez… who brought Debbie Downer over here (sorry, Debbies, I don’t really think you’re downers)? I know, I know—it seems like we’ve got nothing but bad news. How are you supposed to enjoy the summer months with stressful news like this? 

Well, the reason we share this kind of stuff is because it is good to stay informed and to understand that if anyone is struggling with mental health through the summer months, you are not alone. 

Exercise, building a routine, managing blue light exposure in the pm hours to improve sleep, getting outside during the day, and minimizing your news consumption are all steps you can take to turn down the stress meter this summer and set yourself up for improved mental health, and all the other downstream benefits that come with that!

What do you think?

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