Importance of Sunshine
What do you think of when you hear the word “sunshine”? Do you think of summer days, a picnic in the park, or a tan by the beach? Do you think of bringing out your favorite pair of shorts or your new sunglasses?
For me, I always associated the word with warmth; the heat I felt on my skin on a sunny day. To me, the word sunshine was always a bright yellow or orange color. It was comforting, and always promoted feelings of positivity. I connected the word to happiness, cheerfulness, and brightness.
While the significance of sunshine in our daily life is certainly felt, especially in times of seasonal or weather changes, the importance of sunshine to your health is not always commonly highlighted.
Here are some ways sunshine can play an important role in your health:
3 Ways Sunshine Can Improve Your Health
1) Increases Vitamin D
Often referred to as the “sunshine vitamin”, Vitamin D is necessary for healthy physical development and mental wellness. This vitamin is produced in your skin when it is directly exposed to sunlight, and is one of the reasons sunshine is so vital to our physical and mental health. Vitamin D plays a key role in regulating the absorption of calcium and phosphorus in your body. It also facilitates bone growth and immune system function. Vitamin D helps your body build its resistance and fight off diseases like the flu and heart disease.
The “sunshine vitamin” is also shown to play an important role in warding off depression and regulating mood. Have you ever been having a bad day and decided to go for a walk outside? The Vitamin D produced in your body when exposed to sunlight can help boost your mood and clear any possible mind fog or fatigue.
Although taking Vitamin D supplements can be helpful for those who are deficient, there is no better source for getting your required dose of Vitamin D than from natural sunlight.
2) Improves Mood and Mental Health
Sunshine is one of the easiest ways to quickly improve your mood and overall mental health. Sometimes on a down day, all you need is a bit of warmth and a dash of brightness to kick yourself back into gear. In addition to providing your body with Vitamin D, which can boost your energy levels and your mood, sunshine also triggers an increase in serotonin, also known as one of the body’s main “happy hormones”.
Serotonin is a hormone and neurotransmitter that is key to mood stabilization. People with low serotonin levels often develop mental health disorders like depression and anxiety, or experience extreme fatigue or irritability. Although certain foods and exercises can trigger a release of the amino acid tryptophan, which is later converted to serotonin, there is no other way to obtain serotonin directly than by being exposed to sunlight. 15 minutes of sunshine can be all one needs to feel better when they are feeling low. A walk outside on a sunny day can jumpstart your body’s serotonin production better than any supplements or medications can, and without the added chemicals or potential side effects. Consider sunshine as nature’s most natural antidepressant.
3) Better Quality of Sleep
Getting your daily dose of sunshine can help your body create melatonin, also known as the sleep hormone. The hormone is produced by your body when it gets dark out, which is why you usually feel more tired at night than in the morning. Sunshine helps regulate your circadian rhythm by telling your body to increase or decrease its melatonin levels. The more sunshine you get in the day, the better your body can produce and regulate melatonin when it’s time to sleep.
The hormone is critical to your sleep, and is known to lower stress and reactivity at night. Getting a good night’s sleep is crucial to overall hormone regulation, metabolism, blood pressure and blood sugar stabilization, weight loss, and mental health. Getting a healthy dose of sunshine in your day encourages a more restful sleep. Working with serotonin, melatonin helps you avoid depression and anxiety, and makes it easier for you to manage your stresses.
To enjoy the maximum benefits of sunshine, make sure your skin is in direct exposure to sunlight. Try to aim at getting at least 5-15 minutes of sunshine 2-3 times a week. During those times, avoid wearing sunscreen or clothes that cover your skin, since Vitamin D is only produced when sunlight can penetrate the skin.
If you are planning to go outside for more than 5-15 minutes, it is recommended to wear sunscreen to avoid burning or harming your skin. Protect yourself by wearing a sunscreen that has a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15. Wearing protective clothing or gear like hats or shirts can also help avoid skin cell damage.
Overall, the benefits of sunshine definitely outweigh the risks, and it is heavily encouraged to go out and enjoy the sunny day. From improving your Vitamin D levels, to boosting your mental health, to improving your immune system and sleep, sunshine is key to improving your health.
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