“There ain’t no cure for the summertime blues,” croons country singer Alan Jackson.
To some, this might seem silly — who could feel bummed when the days are long, and the weather is warm? But some people do experience summer seasonal affective disorder. Or just feel a little bit blue because it feels like everyone else is having the best summer ever.
If that sounds like you, take heart: There are a few ways to zap the summer bad moods, even if you can’t spend every sunny afternoon poolside.
For science-backed strategies to put the pep back in your step, read on.
1. Stay Cool
For people who have summer SAD, or clinical depression with a seasonal cycle, excess sunlight and heat are often to blame, Norman Rosenthal, M.D., a psychiatrist who literally wrote the book on seasonal affective disorder (SAD) — Winter Blues, now in its fourth edition — told weather.com earlier this summer.
If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen, literally. Cool off by staying in an air-conditioned environment and taking cool showers, Dr. Rosenthal suggested. If bright, hot sun leaves you agitated, wear dark glasses when you’re outside, and keep your blinds shut tight while indoors.
2. Get a Little Sun
Although too much sun can leave some people cranky, the right amount — at the right time — can help your mood, and your sleep cycle.
The key is getting a few rays early in the morning. This stops your body’s production of the sleep hormone melatonin, helping you feel alert and energized. Plus, it’s often cooler in the early morning — all the better for hot-weather haters.
3. Set a Schedule
Routines help stave off depressive feelings, according to PsychCentral.com, so when summer hits, and school schedules and more are off the table, some people might feel restless.
Waking up and going to bed at consistent times can ease this agitation, as can setting morning (or afternoon, or evening) routines, which help you and your family feel more settled.
“Depression can make you wonder why you should bother getting out of bed at all. Having a routine that feels automatic can give you less time to dwell in that mindset,” according to EverydayHealth.com.
4. Stop Your FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)
The social pressure of summer can leave some people bummed. It might feel like everyone is taking a fabulous vacation, and spending every weekend at a fantastic music festival or a fun backyard barbecue.
“There’s the sense that summertime is this huge pageant that everybody has to be participating in, and if they aren’t having this incredible fun, then somehow there’s something wrong with them,” Dr. Rosenthal recently told The New York Times of people with seasonal depression.
Andrew K. Przybylski, a social scientist who has studied this jealousy, told the Times that prioritizing what you find fun and enjoyable — instead of focusing on what others are doing — can help. Dr. Rosenthal suggested spending time with people and activities you truly enjoy.
5. Brighten Your Space
If you’re stuck at a desk all day, raise your shades to let the sunlight in.
No windows? Try to brighten your workspace another way, through colors or a photograph that reminds you of better times.
A study from the United Kingdom found that all kinds of bright colors lift your mood — and even boost your brainpower. In particular, vibrant reds increase confidence and lift depressive symptoms, researcher Duncan Smith told the U.K.’s The Sun.
6. Hang with Happy Friends
Even if summer vacation isn’t in the cards this year, you can perk up at home if you surround yourself with the right people.
One particularly happy person’s cheer can spread three degrees in a social network — so your mood can lift your friends, your friends’ friends and even your friends’ friends’ friends — a study published in BMJ, which tracked the well-being of more than 5,000 Americans said.
7. Drink Water
Sweltering heat and humidity can wilt you like a flower, so have a big glass of water to perk up.
“There’s recently been a lot of interesting research about how hydration affects our mind, our mood, memory and learning, thinking and reaction time,” Seattle sports dietician Kim Larson, R.D.N., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, told weather.com earlier this summer. “Even if you’re just mildly dehydrated, it can lead to mood changes and fatigue.”
It doesn’t all have to be water, either. Juices, coffee, tea and sports drinks can help, too, as can the foods you eat. Fill up on watermelon, cucumber, berries and more super-hydrating foods for a mood boost.
8. Take Advantage of Summer Foods
A diet rich in fruits and vegetables might help keep bad moods at bay, numerous studies have found, including one from the University of Eastern Finland that reviewed the eating habits of more than 2,000 men middle aged or older.
In summer, eating seven a day (the threshold frequently associated with a consistent mood boost) is easier than ever. Berries, melons, tomatoes, stone fruit, peppers and more are all in season in summer, so finding fruits and veggies you love should be a breeze.
9. Live in the Moment
Mind-wandering can make you unhappy, Harvard psychologists Matthew A. Killingsworth and Daniel T. Gilbert found, after asking more than 2,250 volunteers at random intervals to track what they were doing, and how engaged and happy they were.
The happiest times were when participants were truly in the moment — demonstrating it’s not what you’re doing, but how immersed you feel in it.
“In fact, how often our minds leave the present, and where they tend to go is a better predictor of our happiness than the activities in which we are engaged,” Killingsworth said in a Harvard press release.