How To Stay Happy This Summer
Summer is amongst us and in full bloom. It usually signifies a happy season for most of us. As children Summer meant no school, longer daylight hours and more time to just enjoy youth. As an adult, it usually means vacations, barbeques, and delicious seasonal foods. I remember as a child looking forward to the last day of school because it meant that boating with my family on the Long Island Sound was coming-up.
Unfortunately, sometimes the warmer seasons don’t bring joy to everyone. There have been many studies that suggest that suicide increases in warm weather. Annie Hauser, writing in Weather.com, talked with Professor Grady Dixon in 2014 and writes,
“ Spring is when severely depressed people can be motivated enough to take action and do something. In most people, depression creates overwhelming feelings of listlessness and disinterest, so the idea of putting together a plan to commit suicide is too difficult during the winter, when depression symptoms may be worse in some people, he (Dixon) said. "Another hypothesis: [Patients] know how they're affected by seasonal winter depression. They anticipate they'll feel better when spring and summer roll around," Dixon said. "When they don't, that's a catalyst for suicide." One of the oldest theories holds that people who are depressed and withdrawn during the winter don't bounce back in spring, as other people do.”
According to WebMD, there are several natural things you can do to help with depression, which includes:
Get in a routine. If you’re depressed, you need a routine, says Ian Cook, MD. He's an psychiatrist and director of the Depression Research and Clinic Program at UCLA. Depression can strip away the structure from your life. One day melts into the next. Setting a gentle daily schedule can help you get back on track
Set goals. When you're depressed, you may feel like you can't accomplish anything. That makes you feel worse about yourself. To push back, set daily goals for yourself. Start very small, Cook says. Make your goal something that you can succeed at, like doing the dishes every other day.
- Exercise. It temporarily boosts feel-good chemicals called endorphins. It may also have long-term benefits for people with depression. Regular exercise seems to encourage the brain to rewire itself in positive ways, Cook says. How much exercise do you need? You don’t need to run marathons to get a benefit. Just walking a few times a week can help. Yoga is also great for relieving some of the symptoms of depression.
Eat healthily. There is no magic diet that fixes depression. It's a good idea to watch what you eat, though. If depression tends to make you overeat, getting in control of your eating will help you feel better. Although nothing is definitive, Cook says there's evidence that foods with omega-3 fatty acids (such as salmon and tuna) and folic acid (such as spinach and avocado) could help ease depression.
Get in a routine. If you’re depressed, you need a routine, says Ian Cook, MD. He's a psychiatrist and director of the Depression Research and Clinic Program at UCLA. Depression can strip away the structure from your life. One day melts into the next. Setting a gentle daily schedule can help you get back on track.
Get enough sleep. Depression can make it hard to get enough shut-eye, and too little sleep can make depression worse. What can you do? Start by making some changes to your lifestyle. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. Try not to nap. Take all the distractions out of your bedroom -- no computer and no TV. In time, you may find your sleep improves.
- Challenge negative thoughts. In your fight against depression, a lot of the work is mental -- changing how you think. When you're depressed, you leap to the worst possible conclusions. The next time you're feeling terrible about yourself, use logic as a natural depression treatment. You might feel like no one likes you, but is there real evidence for that? You might feel like the most worthless person on the planet, but is that likely? It takes practice, but in time you can beat back those negative thoughts before they get out of control.
- Do something new. When you’re depressed, you’re in a rut. Push yourself to do something different. Go to a museum. Pick up a used book and read it on a park bench. Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Take a language class.
The good news is that Summer can be a great time to get in-to a new routine. It's also a great time to make new friends and join new groups. I know that depression can be difficult and I’m speaking from my own experiences with it. I have been close to suicide several times, which is one of the reasons yoga and my new book Yoga for Trauma is so important to me. Writing and sharing has helped me a great deal. Knowing and understanding the roots of your suicidal thoughts are very important. Since weather, of course, is not the only factor for suicide.
According to the CDC here are some major risk factors for suicide.
- Family history of suicide
- Family history of child maltreatment
- Previous suicide attempt(s)
- History of mental disorders, particularly clinical depression
- History of alcohol and substance abuse
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Impulsive or aggressive tendencies
- Cultural and religious beliefs (e.g., belief that suicide is a noble resolution of a personal dilemma)
- Local epidemics of suicide
- Isolation, a feeling of being cut off from other people
- Barriers to accessing mental health treatment
- Loss (relational, social, work, or financial)
- Physical illness
- Easy access to lethal methods
- Unwillingness to seek help because of the stigma attached to mental health and substance abuse disorders or suicidal thoughts
Another key risk factor in suicidal thoughts is traumatic experiences. In my book Healing Trauma with Yoga, I discuss the wiring of the brain telling our bodies, we are not safe. I help you explore the science behind trauma and the path to healing practically and effectively. My goal is to help you take back your power and happiness. I hope you enjoy the rest of your Summer and remember to give yourself a smile in the mirror each day.
The advice given in this article is not intended to treat or diagnose mental illness. If you are in crisis or you think you may have an emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately. If you're having suicidal thoughts, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to talk to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area at any time (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline). If you are located outside the United States, call your local emergency line immediately.