As temperatures begin to rise and summer has officially begun, the temptation and need to go outside can feel even higher than usual. You’ve probably seen tons of advice (including on here) about how spending just a few minutes outdoors, especially during quarantine, can have a huge impact on mental health, but right now, the sunlight and summer as a whole can cause some mixed emotions.
Sunlight itself can play a powerful role on our moods. Studies have continuously shown that natural light can help increase serotonin, which is a chemical in our brains that put us in a good mood. It’s why people are more likely to experience seasonal affective disorder in the winter, when skies are more grey and there’s less sunlight, and why light therapy is often recommended as a result. And as we’ve spent the past few months indoors in the same place, the reduced amount of sunlight we may have otherwise have gotten from waiting at bus stops, being out in parks, and even running errands may have contributed to symptoms similar to SAD.
That’s why it’s incredibly tempting to want to spend more time outdoors now that the sun is flourishing and the days are longer. However, even as places are opening up to take advantage of that, the pandemic is still around and it’s still important to stay inside and socially distance as much as possible. But spending even more time indoors, especially as it continues to be bright and as even more sunlight flourishes throughout the summer, can worsen our mood. Missing out on otherwise normal summer activities can spark feelings of loneliness and nostalgia. For some, the sunlight might not be good for us, but make us sad instead for the things that we long for and miss. For your child, this may particularly be true, since school is no longer in session and activities that they may have had planned for themselves are no longer possible.
The tips that we and other places have shared about finding ways to spend time outside during quarantine still apply, however. In fact, you and your child can spend even more time outside because of the summertime too! If you live in an area that has trails or is walkable, recommending to your child to put some headphones in and walking around while listening to a funny podcast or your favorite songs beneath the summer sun can make a huge difference. There are options for you and your family to spend more time together as well, such as having dinner in the backyard. Summer might be different this year, but that means that this can be an opportunity to find new ways to make it positively memorable by trying outdoor activities that you may not have considered before.
How is your child spending their summer so far? Has their mood changed? What outdoor activities do you think you can encourage for them to do that’s still safe?