What is it about this beautiful weather that lifts our spirit?
It felt like it would never happen. After a soggy, cold Spring I was certainly thinking: ‘when is summer coming?’ The last week as been glorious, and don’t you feel better? Are you smiling more? Is your mood better? Are you noticing others seem more cheerful?
Sunlight is good for us in moderate amounts and that is because it increases the release of a neurotransmitter (also known as a hormone) called serotonin in your brain. The light-induced effects of serotonin are caused by sunlight that enters through your eye. Here it helps with mood regulation and memory. It is described as the body’s “feel-good” chemical because it helps us to feel happy and calm.
When you don’t get enough sun exposure the levels of serotonin dip. This is why in Wintertime some people can experience or be at higher risk of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). It’s important even in Winter to try and get some exposure to natural light.
What else is this exposure to sunlight doing that helps us to feel better?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that helps the body to absorb certain essential nutrients. These nutrients are important in the protection of our bones. The main source of vitamin D is sunshine hence its nickname “The sunshine vitamin”.
Making sure you go outside and getting enough exposure to the sun is very important in helping to maintain a constant level of vitamin D and this also has a beneficial effect on your mood.
There have been several studies worldwide which have shown that depression is linked to lower levels of vitamin D, and there are higher incidences of depression in climates that have a more Nordic climate.
It is important to remember that moderate exposure with a SPF is the healthiest way of ensuring you get positive exposure from the sun.
We have all heard of the body’s Circadian rhythm (physical, mental, and behavioural changes that follow a 24-hour cycle). Sun exposure, particularly in the morning, helps to regulate this rhythm and reset the body’s sleep cycle.
Exposure to sunlight in the morning helps you feel more alert during the day, and this helps you to feel sleepier in the evening. To prepare us for sleep the body produces the hormone melatonin. Although this does not put us to sleep, it gets the body ready to sleep by relaxing the body down.
In modern society sun exposure may not be enough as we often work against our bodies’ natural rhythms by using screens late at night, shift work, lack of sun exposure in the day, and bright artificial lights. We need to start working with our bodies’ natural rhythms to help ourselves.
We are much more active in the summer because the days our longer and the beautiful sunny weather encourages us to be outside. This again helps to regulate that melatonin, which reduces stress. I am sure you have noticed this; I know, for me, it’s a definite indicator of how the sun helps with stress levels.
Think about when you visit a country like Spain, Greece, Italy or somewhere similar. Life seems much less hectic; people’s body language is more relaxed and less uptight. There is a beauty to this type of lifestyle.
Other benefits are:
A boost to your immune system
Increased life expectancy
Feeling more alert
I am hoping that this sunshine lasts. Make the most of it, get outside daily and use the positive effects of the sunshine to boost your wellbeing.