The days are longer, the temperatures are warmer, and all of a sudden, you’re a lot happier than you were during the dark of winter. Sound familiar? We all probably have a lifetime of personal experience that tells us that we’re just plain happier in summer. …at least those of us who live in places with legit winters (hello, Boston). But it turns out that there’s also scientific evidence to support that idea.
Intrigued? Read on to find out why exactly you’re happier in the summer and how you can take advantage of the weather and daylight.
5 Reasons You’re Happier in Summer, According to Science
Here are some scientifically-proven things that may make you happier in summer. Together, they can account for your mid-year mood lift and also help you figure out how to bring some of that joy into your other seasons.
1. Getting out into nature
There’s so much evidence that getting outside can make you happier, healthier, and improve your general mental well-being. Being in nature can even make you more social (which, hello, is a happiness booster itself) and motivate you to exercise.
While this is equally true for winter activities, like skiing or snowshoeing, it’s hard to deny that there are more options for getting outside in the summertime. From outdoor sports to hiking to even just sitting outside enjoying the nice weather, most of us find ourselves spending a lot more time outside once summer comes around.
And that’s a clear path to feeling a little happier in summer.
2. Enjoying summer produce
We know you know that eating fruits and vegetables can make you physically healthier. But it can also make you happier, says science.
Studies with huge sample sizes, as in upward of 12,000, have found that eating more fruits and vegetables can increase your happiness, life satisfaction, and general well-being. If you’re more on team buffalo wing than Brussels sprouts, this may require a bit of adjustment.
Even better? While you can get these benefits pretty quickly, there’s also evidence they last long-term. So the more fruits and vegetables you eat, the happier you’ll be now and in the future. Happiness spiral.
So what does that have to do with summer? Well, you’ve probably noticed that the produce aisle only gets better in summer, especially if you live in a place with cold winters. You know what else gets better? Farmer’s markets. Fresh, local produce is at its peak in summer, so get out there and enjoy it.
3. Boosts in vitamin D
Another reason you’re happier in the summer? Vitamin D. And that’s no little thing.
Studies suggest that low levels of vitamin D are correlated with depressive symptoms regardless of age, lifestyle factors, and general health. It makes sense then that increasing your vitamin D can reduce depression and make you happier.
Supplements can help increase your levels of vitamin D, but the best way to get more of this essential vitamin is to get some sun. If it’s sunny out most of the time — like in summer in much of the U.S. — you can get all the vitamin D you need by just getting outside a few times a week.
Just don’t forget to wear sunscreen if you’re going to be out for a while.
4. Spending more time outside of work
Even those of us who aren’t lucky enough to get summer Fridays probably spend more time on activities outside of work during the summer. More sunlight means that there’s more to do after hours, and nice weather may be a good excuse to take a longer lunch break. Plus, summer months are common times to take vacation for most of the workforce. And fact: We all need more vacation.
Put all that together, and it means that summertime can bring some much-needed breaks to your working life. And no matter how much you love your job, taking a break — from short breaks during the day to full vacations — is crucial to happiness.
5. Higher levels of serotonin
There are many factors that can lead to depression, but one is low levels of serotonin, a type of neurotransmitter. While most people naturally have normal levels of serotonin, not everyone does.
If you have low serotonin levels, increasing them can make you happier, less anxious, and calmer. Everything from antidepressants to exercise can help boost serotonin — and so can sunlight. In fact, sunlight’s effect on serotonin is one leading theory on what causes seasonal affective disorder.
But make sure you play it safe. In other words, slather on some sunscreen when you’re outdoors this summer.
To sum it all up…
So whether you struggle with your mood or just find yourself in need of a boost, there are so many things that can make you happier in summer.
From spending more time outdoors to more choices of fruits and vegetables, you can find the happiness-maker that works for you. And one more time — don’t forget the sunscreen. (We had to.)
Your turn: What makes you happier in summer? Share your favorite way to get a mood boost this season.
Want more happy? Check out our post on ways to be happier this summer and all year long.
Author: Erica Hersh
Erica Hersh is a health writer, editor, and communications strategist based in Boston, MA. In 2014, she fulfilled her lifelong dream of being on Jeopardy. She did not, however, fulfill her dream of winning on Jeopardy.