When California enjoys its sunniest time of the year, many people take the opportunity to spend more time in their gardens, parks, or on the coast. But what if you can’t or simply don’t want to? Under the pressure of expectations from childhood or the opinions of others, you might experience what’s called “sunshine guilt” – the shame of not enjoying the good weather. It’s that feeling when you know you should go outside but, for some reason, you don’t, and it causes you to feel uneasy. And judging by discussions on social media about “sunshine guilt,” you’re not alone.

What is sunshine guilt?

The term went viral this spring when TikTok user Rene Reyna posted a video explaining this feeling: “I’m experiencing sunshine guilt right now. It is an abnormally beautiful day outside, but I’m tired. So now I feel this pressure to go outside and go for a walk and enjoy the weather while it lasts. I can’t enjoy myself indoors now because the whole time I’m thinking that I should be outside. So basically, my days are ruined.”

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Another girl describes the feeling as if she’s stuck outside after sunbathing from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. “I’m exhausted. I’m hot. I’m starving. But I can’t go inside because look how beautiful it is today,” she said in her video.

Let’s explore the scientific basis of sunshine guilt and how to cope with it.

The term went viral this spring when TikTok user Rene Reyna posted a video explaining this feeling

What is sunshine guilt?

When the weather is good, people tend to feel they should make the most of the day. If they don’t, they might feel pressured and think they are letting themselves down or not taking proper care of themselves.

Whether you’re stuck indoors due to obligations like work or you simply prefer to relax at home, sunshine guilt is that quiet voice in your head that whispers, “Everyone else is outside enjoying the sunshine except you, so get out as soon as possible.”

Experts believe there are many potential reasons for this. Psychotherapist Rachel Goldberg says, “There are both societal and personal expectations to enjoy good weather, creating a sense of duty to be outside and make the most of it.”

“Another factor contributing to sunshine guilt is scarcity thinking or the belief that there is a limited supply of something—in this case, sunny days. This can understandably cause anxiety,” says psychiatrist Gail Saltz.

This is also known as the Fear of Missing Out (FoMO). FOMO also arises when we see others enjoying a sunny day on social media or through our windows at work.

This is also known as the Fear of Missing Out (FoMO). FOMO also arises when we see

Why do we suffer from FOMO?

At a time when social media offers endless opportunities to compare ourselves to others, FOMO has become all too familiar. Social comparison theory suggests that people have a natural tendency to compare themselves to others. Ultimately, this can make you feel bad.

“From an evolutionary perspective, being part of a group was necessary for survival. Missing out on group activities could mean missing out on important opportunities or resources needed for survival,” explains Goldberg.

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 childhood, we’re told not to waste time and to avoid idleness-otherwise, we might be considered lazy.

As a result, many people start equating their self-worth with how busy they are, what they’ve achieved, or what they’re doing. This often leads to anxiety, depression, or shame.

Dr. Saltz believes this can be especially painful for people prone to anxiety and depression, as well as those who frequently compare themselves to others. Self-criticism and negative self-talk can quickly become overwhelming.

And while FOMO brings discomfort, it’s not always bad, experts say. In fact, it’s an “indicator” or signal that tells us we’re not acting in accordance with our values. This signal can be positive, providing the necessary push to meet our most important needs.

And while FOMO brings discomfort, it's not always bad, experts say. In fact, it's an “indicator” or signal that tells us

How to cope with sunshine guilt

First, you need to figure out why you feel guilty staying indoors. Are you experiencing FOMO, or are you worried that you won’t have another chance to go outside soon? Or maybe you’re concerned about not realizing your potential. Once you identify what’s behind the guilt, you can directly address that feeling, experts say.

Here are some tips to help you cope with anxiety and guilt and enjoy the present moments of life:

1. Reframe your perspective: Instead of focusing on what you’re missing, think about what you’re gaining by staying indoors.

2. Avoid strict self-imposed limits: Even a small amount of time outside can have a positive impact.

3. Find ways to integrate elements of nature into your daily life: music, plants, and nutrition.

4. Practice self-compassion: Allow yourself to feel disappointed and accept it to move forward.

5. Plan future outdoor activities: This can help manage guilt and create something to look forward to.

6. Accept that not every day has to be perfect: Don’t let guilt prevent you from enjoying the present moment.

7. Identify the reasons for guilt: Anxiety about missing opportunities or not utilizing your potential.

8. Let go of the idea that you always have to be productive: Rest and recovery time is also important for health.

9. Practice gratitude: Keeping a journal of pleasant moments helps you see the positive aspects of life.

10. Temporarily step away from social media if it negatively affects your well-being.

Photo: freepik.com

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