Summertime loneliness: How to keep mentally healthy and happy during summer

Summer is typically the season for socialising, with long evenings spent in the park or enjoying a BBQ with friends in the back garden. However, for many people, summer can trigger feelings of anxiety and loneliness.

Psychology Today research suggests loneliness and ‘psychiatric difficulties’ can actually intensify during the spring and summer seasons. While winter usually finds everyone in a similar situation – hibernating indoors – the summer months can make those who are socially isolated feel as though they are missing out. 

“During the summer, we’re surrounded by images and expectations of people having a good time,” says Stefan Walters, BACP member, Systemic Psychotherapist and Certified Brainspotting Practitioner. “Television ads are full of families on luxury holidays and people out in glamorous locations. For people on their own, it can be difficult to be bombarded by these images, which can be a painful reminder of their own loneliness.”

This can feel more intense if you live with mobility issues or a chronic illness; you may struggle to get outside as much as everyone else, so the summer months can feel even more challenging. 

To help keep you happy and healthy at home, here’s a couple of ways to overcome feelings of loneliness and to enjoy the summer months more.

Drop the comparisons

In 2022, almost half of all adults surveyed in the UK (approximately 25.9 million people) reported feeling lonely occasionally, often or always. But, a quick peek at your social media feed would make you think otherwise. 

While it can be hard not to feel left out or lonely during summer when seeing others enjoy music festivals or trips away, the healthiest option is to drop the comparisons. 

Everyone is different – some people have much more energy, while others have more disposable income which allows for more summer getaways. Social media highlights the best bits of people’s lives, and it may be healthier to take a break if this is impacting your mental health in a negative way. 

“Having a break from negative loops of thoughts and behaviours is very helpful in breaking cycles of low moods,” Stefan explains. “Making an effort to stay away from negative stressors and instead focusing on positive influences – a cheery TV show or some happy background music –  can help to improve your mood.”

Man pushing an older man in a wheelchair down a path

Find ways to stay social

While summer may be the season for outside socialising, you can still invite people to you. If you have access to a garden, invite a friend or a couple of family members around to enjoy the sunnier weather. Or, if the weather isn’t so nice (this is England, after all!), why not invite friends round for a film night, or to enjoy a takeaway together?

If your social circle is small, or if you’re looking to meet new people to enjoy activities with, there are many options to explore. “Joining a social group is the best way to counteract loneliness,” advises Stefan. “In summer, there are lots of outdoor groups that advertise activities and are seeking new members, such as hiking groups, local walking and nature groups, or even book clubs.” 

Meetup is a great site to find groups of people that share similar interests to your own – simply search for a group in your area, and you’re one step closer to meeting new friends. The charity Marmalade Trust provides plenty of ideas and resources on how to make new connections, too.

You could also look at volunteering, if you have the availability to do so. Volunteering is not only great for getting you out of the house, into the community and increasing your confidence, it’s also a lovely way to meet new people. Check out Reach Volunteering or Volunteering Matters to find a list of opportunities in your local area.

If leaving the house proves a challenge, you can always socialise online. Check out our article on staying connected and building your community for suggestions on how to do so.

Head out when you can

If you live with chronic illness, mobility issues, or if you’re a bit older, getting out and about may pose challenges that others may not need to think about. However, there are support services that can make leaving the house easier for you.

Age UK runs door to door transport services for older people across certain parts of the UK. This includes wheelchair-accessible minibus services, but also befriending schemes, where the ‘befriender’ serves as a travelling companion for an older person.

As well as providing transport to GP or hospital appointments, Age UK can also help older people get out to visit loved ones in hospitals or homes, help them attend one of their dedicated ‘lunch clubs’, or provide transport to one of their day centres to help widen their social circles.

Keep active in your own way

Exercise is always good for lifting the spirits, which can help if you’ve been feeling sad or lonely lately. The warmer weather also brings more opportunity to exercise outdoors, which is a great way to increase your vitamin D intake and improve your mood. 

“Getting outdoors and going for a short walk around the block can be a positive activity, just to get some fresh air and see some new sights or faces,” says Stefan. 

Walking around your local park or neighbourhood also provides an opportunity to strike up casual conversations with those in your community, too. 

If you’re looking to become more active while meeting new people, you could head to one of Forestry England’s  Feel Good in the Forest walks. Alternatively, Time Outdoors and the Ramblers websites are good places to find sociable walking groups in your area.

Focus on personal projects

If you’re unable to venture out much this summer, why not focus your energy on activities within the home? Summer is a wonderful time to potter about in the garden, for instance. This enables you to enjoy the warmer weather while still staying close to home comforts.

Similarly, you can focus on home projects on days when you’re not able to leave the house. Plan your days to include hobbies, projects or activities that help you to feel good, such as doing something creative like painting or DIY; reading, or listening to music.

Reach out for professional support

The summer can bring with it an interruption to routine, which can cause problems for some. “There may be a lack of support available for isolated people over the summer months, as their usual networks may take holidays and be unavailable,” Stefan explains. “Grandparents may not see their grandchildren as much, or carers may take summer breaks. This break in the usual routine can also be difficult for many.”

If you’re struggling with this, or if your mental health has taken a dip during the summer, Stefan recommends reaching out for professional support. “Therapy can be a vital resource for anyone who feels they are struggling,” he explains. “Therapy sessions provide a safe space to explore these feelings and to start to think about how to counteract them.”

“You can also establish a secure and meaningful relationship with your therapist, which can be transformative. This in itself may begin to provide a resolution to the feelings of isolation; you’ll have someone to confide in and trust. Just remember to make sure your counsellor or therapist is a member of a Professional Standard Authority body, such as the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy.”

Further reading

Additional support at home

Alongside reablement, staying independent is about having peace of mind that you’re not going to be left cold or in the dark if the heating or electricity fails.

The Priority Services Register (PSR) is an important, free support service which is designed to support those who need a little extra help in the event of interruptions to their gas, water or electricity supply. If you or someone you know has extra communication, access or safety needs, signing up to the PSR will help ensure you or they can access the best possible services at all times, and feel safe and independent at home. 

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