The 1 Downside Of Summer We Don’t Talk About Enough

Social media can exacerbate sunshine guilt.

It’s easy to curl up inside with a book or binge-watch a Netflix show when it’s dreary outside. Who wants to go for a hike or garden when it’s lightning and thundering? It’s a universally accepted truth: rainy days equal lazy days.

But being a sloth when it’s beautiful outside? That can feel like a faux pas. The intrusive thought of taking advantage of the sunny weather can affect your mood and make you feel bad about yourself.

If you feel guilty lounging indoors when the weather’s gorgeous, you’re not alone. “Sunshine guilt,” or the self-imposed shame you feel when you stay inside on a sunny day, is a common experience. The term went viral earlier this spring after TikTok user Renee Reina posted about her experience with the phenomenon.

It can lead to feelings of guilt, anxiety, regret, FOMO, and for some people, even shame,” Emily Hemendinger, an assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, told HuffPost. People might also end up thinking they’re worthless for not being productive or wasting time, Hemendinger added.

Here’s why you feel bad doing nothing when it’s nice out and how to show yourself some grace next time you want to take it easy on a sunny day:

Why you feel so ashamed about being lazy on a sunny day

When it’s nice out, people tend to feel like they should be making the most of the day. If they don’t, they might feel as though they’re letting themselves down or aren’t properly taking care of themselves, said Dr. Gail Saltz, a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

People can also experience FOMO, or fear of missing out, when it’s sunny out. You might tell yourself, “I feel that everyone else is out enjoying or benefiting from this sunny day, but I am missing it,” Saltz said.

Another factor contributing to sunshine guilt is having a scarcity mindset, or believing the idea that there’s a limited supply of something ― in this case, sunny days. This can, understandably, make people feel even more desperate for whatever the limited commodity is, Saltz explained. Although there are endless sunny days, a scarcity mindset can make you feel awful about letting even one day go to waste, pressuring you to get outside and enjoy it.

Guilt, in many cases, can be helpful. It can show you that you need to work on yourself, apologize for something you said or change your behavior. But in other instances, such as with sunshine guilt, it can be confusing and unhelpful.

“Sometimes it’s due to an irrational story you are telling yourself, and it needs reframing,” Saltz said.

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Social media can exacerbate sunshine guilt.

Social media and society’s obsession with productivity intensify sunshine guilt

Sunshine guilt is exacerbated by the fact that our society rewards and encourages productivity ― not just at work but in all areas of life.

From the time we are children, we are told to not waste time, not sit around — otherwise, we are deemed lazy,” Hemendinger said.

As a result, many people wind up equating their self-worth to how busy they are, what they achieve or what they are doing, Hemendinger explained.

That striving mentality in our go-go-go society is common,” she said. “However, it also commonly leads to anxiety, depression and shame.”

It doesn’t help that social media bombards us with images and videos of other people enjoying their lives. We typically see photos of people enjoying nice weather — going on a bike ride, picnicking in a park or sitting outside for happy hour ― and not their movie night at home or their sluggish morning sleeping in.

On top of the internalized capitalism values of productivity and not wasting time, when we see others doing all the things, it taps into our human need to be one with the pack, to fit in,” Hemendinger said.

This can be exceptionally painful for people who are prone to anxiety and depression, Saltz said, along with those who frequently compare themselves to other people. The self-criticism and negative self-talk can quickly become unbearable.

How to cope with sunshine guilt

First, you want to figure out why you’re feeling guilty about staying indoors. Are you experiencing FOMO or are you worried you won’t get another chance to be outside again soon? Or, perhaps, are you anxious that you’re not reaching your potential? Once you’ve identified what’s behind the shame, you can tackle the feeling head-on, Saltz said.

If you’re feeling FOMO, you want to show yourself that you’re not actually missing out. Tell yourself, “I’m doing what I’m meant to do, and I can have this other opportunity of being out in the sun at a better time for me,” Saltz suggested.

Practicing gratitude can also lift your spirits. Grab a journal and jot down a list of things that have recently brought you joy. This might help you see that you aren’t missing out or lacking activity in life.

And if social media is making you feel worse, log out of your apps for the day. If you’re struggling with the uncertainty of when the next beautiful day will be, know that there will be more sunny days soon.

“Remind yourself that more sun will always be coming,” Saltz said.

For those who feel like they’re not doing enough, Hemendinger suggested that showing yourself some grace may help.

Practicing self-compassion in this case looks like giving yourself permission to show up how you need to show up in life in that moment,” she said.

It’s OK to not be super productive every day. In fact, it’s extremely beneficial for our physical and mental health to carve out time to rest and refuel.

“People need to consider how they best feel they can recharge their energy,” Hemendinger said.

Listen to your body. If you want or need rest, give yourself permission to lay low and take it easy.

It’s a common misconception that we need to have fun throughout the summer, but this isn’t fair or even true.

“Fun is where you make it, fun is where you find it, fun is not a limited commodity, and therefore [there] are many ways to have fun,” Saltz said.

So, ditch the idea that you need to be busy when it’s nice out. Expand your definition of fun to include relaxing at home and enjoying it.

“It will help you all around,” Saltz said.

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