4 Ways The Sun Impacts Your Mental Health
While it is true that there are some negative effects with too much exposure to the sun, the fact is that sunlight is actually good for you in the following ways.
1. It boosts Vitamin D.
While there are foods high in Vitamin D, such as salmon, herring, canned tuna, egg yolks, mushrooms, milk, and oatmeal, it is called the “sunshine vitamin” for a reason; it’s the only nutrient your body produces when exposed to sunlight.
But, why his this important? Well, Vitamin D has been found to improve the immune system, reduce heart disease and multiple sclerosis. It can also aid in weight loss. And, it can also reduce anxiety and depression. Best of all? You only need 5-15 minutes of sunlight a day to get a healthy supply of Vitamin.
2. Sunlight increases serotonin.
Sunlight also affects circadian rhythms by trigging the release of serotonin. This is important because that 24-hour cycle helps keep our bodily systems in check by knowing when it’s time to be awake and when to sleep. If this system goes out of sync, that can also impact your mental health.
“Depression and sleep are well-known to affect one another,” Sujay Kansagra, MD, director of Duke University’s Pediatric Neurology Sleep Medicine Program, told Greatist. “Insomnia is a common complaint amongst those experiencing depression. Similarly, having an underlying sleep disorder or chronic sleep deprivation can make you more prone to mood dysfunction.”
Also, serotonin is considered a mood-boosting hormone that can make you feel calmer and less stressed.
3. It improves your mental well-being.
Researchers from BYU found that that “seasonal increases in sun time were associated with decreased mental health distress.” Most interesting, however, the researchers also “found that days with a high amount of sunshine, even when they were interspersed with cloudy or stormy moments, appeared to have the most positive impact on our well-being.”
“On a rainy day, or a more polluted day, people assume that they’d have more distress. But we didn’t see that. We looked at solar irradiance, or the amount of sunlight that actually hits the ground,” Mark Beecher, clinical professor, and licensed psychologist in BYU Counselling and Psychological Services, told The Huffington Post.
“We tried to take into account cloudy days, rainy days, pollution . . . but they washed out. The one thing that was really significant was the amount of time between sunrise and sunset.”
4. Lowers blood pressure.
“Anyone who's ever encountered terms like ‘cabana’ or ‘swim-up bar’ knows that sunshine-saturated days bring on feelings of relaxation, but it turns out that the process is physiological as well as mental,” writes Elizabeth Millard, C.P.T. “When sunlight touches the skin, a compound called nitric oxide is released into the blood vessels, a process that brings blood pressure levels down—which can lower the risks of heart attack and stroke.
While exposure to sunshine can benefit your health and well-being, this is only possible when in moderation. Too much exposure to sunlight could result in heat exhaustion, heatstroke, sunburn, heat rash, or skin cancer. So, make sure to protect yourself by applying sunscreen and wearing sunglasses. If you plan on being outside for an extended period of time, try to give yourself a break from the sun by going inspire or sitting under the shade.