elderly man looking pensative

Though summer time is often characterized by beach vacations and outdoor barbecues, for some seniors the season can trigger a state of lethargy rather than glee. Since many people think of winter as the typical time for seasonal depression, few realize that summer can bring on deep feelings of nostalgia and sadness as well. Sometimes the heat, the bright colors, the shouts from neighborhood kids, or the late night music can cause anxiety and stress in place of excitement. For the estimated 10 million American seniors already suffering from depression, these months may aggravate their feelings of sadness or frustration. To help fight off these summer blues, here are a few tips to naturally defend against depression:

Get enough sleep

Long summer days can sometimes throw off your sleep patterns, which makes summer the most common time of the year for sleep deprivation. And since aging generally brings more fragmented sleep patterns, many older adults may aggravate the situation in summertime, which often worsens depression. Reports show that 80% of people who are depressed suffer from sleeplessness. An important step to treating depression is to resolve any kind of sleeping problem through good sleep habits. During the summer, consider using heavy curtains to block out the light, go to bed and get up at the same time each day, and try to cut out those tempting summer naps.

Be social

Isolation is a trademark of depression. To limit the loneliness, make the most of the vacation season by taking the grandkids to the beach, going to see a summer blockbuster with friends, or getting the family together for dinner. Friends and family make us happier, and people with strong social networks (and not just online) are less susceptible to depression and anxiety. Dedicating quality time to social activities each week can reduce the likelihood of depression and generate a support group for when times get tough.

Use the Internet

If friends and family live too far away or limited mobility keeps you from joining the camping trips, the Internet is a great way to keep in touch. A recent study shows that Internet use among seniors can reduce the probability of depression by more than 30%. Being able to stay connected with loved ones and old friends helps fight off feelings of seclusion and promotes greater social interaction, even when it can’t be in person.

Get involved in a good cause

Aristotle once said that the essence of life is “to serve others and do good.” Finding a way to “do good” helps to create a sense of purpose in life and provides another opportunity to socialize. Many seniors report that volunteering lowers stress and offers a “good feeling” aftereffect that will have ripple out to all aspects of life. Taking time to concentrate on someone else’s needs can make your own worries an afterthought.

Drink less

Though summer television ads may glamorize excessive drinking, alcohol has a markedly negative effect on seniors with depression. Alcohol may momentarily numb loneliness or anxiety, but it is actually a depressant that will only intensify the problem over time. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), adults over 65 who are healthy and not taking medication should not drink more than 3 drinks a day and 7 drinks a week. Seniors with health problems or who take medication may need to drink less or cut out alcohol entirely.

If you find yourself suffering from feelings of depression for an extended period, it’s best to contact a doctor for more specialized help. No one wants a summer of anxiety, and by trying a few of these tips, hopefully it can be a little brighter.