Dr Tom MacLaren, Consultant Psychiatrist at Re:Cognition Health shares an insight into the mental health benefits of summer: 

Waking up to bird song, sunshine and warmth of the summer months can be hugely uplifting, evoking the happiness, optimism and positivity that many of us struggle with in the depths of winter. Summer can bring lots of psychological, physical and mental benefits. 

Nature connectedness can help improve our mental health with the fresh air, longer days and calmness of open spaces offering a retreat and distraction from our standard routines. Being closer to greenery, gardens and parks that will provide a boost to your energy and sense of wellness. The colourful, fragranced Summer blossoms can also be uplifting and make us appreciate the beauty of nature.

Finding the motivation to go out for a run in cold, dark and miserable conditions of winter can be very difficult, but the longer, brighter days of summer afford no excuses, meaning we are more likely to be physically active. Walking or cycling short distances, rather than driving, becomes a joy, not a chore and just by walking outdoors, the risk of heart disease, diabetes and even depression is reduced. Being outdoors is especially safe if you’re worrying about Covid, as these areas are naturally well ventilated, open and less crowded that the indoors.

Watching the sunrise and changing light during the day is a great way to re-set that body clock if you have missed sleep. Watching the sunset is also a very beautiful and therapeutic experience, helping us unwind, relieving stress and providing us with inspiration – many authors, painters and poets have used sunset as their muse.

Those longer and sunnier days will be toping up your vitamin D, a great boost to your immune system which also helps keep your bones healthy. Vitamin D deficiency has also been linked to depression, so this sunshine vitamin is not only beneficial for our bones but also our mood and mental health.

The summer is a great time to get work done and be more productive. With the sun rising earlier, you will have more energy to meet friends, take time off, complete DIY projects and even travel. The longer day means you’ll have time to gradually wind down in the evening and even enjoy eating outdoors, socialising with friends and fitting more into the day.

All this activity provides a lot more cognitive stimulation than the winter months. Your mind and brain will be busier processing your increased activity levels and this boosts your memory and helps protect against conditions like dementia.

We also tend to be much more social in the summer months, which is crucial to our mental health. Friendships help reduce stress and anxiety, improve self-confidence and can also help reduce the risk of many health conditions including obesity, blood pressure and even dementia. Although we should be investing in our friendships all year round, Summer provides the perfect platform for walks outside, BBQ’s and long alfresco lunches. 

The longer hours of sun have well-known effects of improving chronic skin problems, like eczema and psoriasis, but make sure you take care in the sun. Wear sunscreen, sunglasses and enough clothes to protect your skin, so you don’t get too much sun!

Enjoy the summer! 

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