Oh summer! How we miss you when you aren’t here! If you are lucky, you live in a place where you get to experience the delights of all four seasons. And if you’re really lucky, you live in a climate where summer seems to last most of the year. Sunshine does wonders for the body, mind and spirit!
For many years scientists and researchers have been studying the positive effects of sunlight. It doesn’t take a medical degree to know how sunshine feels as it gently kisses your skin, brightens your mood, awakens your body and changes the way you live versus the other seasons.
There isn’t much surfing, boating and swimming going on in the winter months. But during the summertime, many of us get the itch to be outdoors, soaking up the rays and being active.
Sunshine & Vitamin D
The sun provides us with a good dose of vitamin D. It’s natural. It’s free. And it’s healthy. In small doses, 15-20 minutes of daily sunshine, the sun triggers the production of vitamin D in our body. And vitamin D has been scientifically linked to all sorts of benefits.
– Improved bone and teeth health.
– Aids in healing skin disorders: psoriasis, eczema, jaundice and acne.
– Facilitates the absorption of calcium and phosphorus.
– Builds a stronger immune system.
In addition, much research has shown a direct link between depression and vitamin D-deficiency. This is why many doctors order a vitamin D level on patients with symptoms of depression.
Sunshine & the Circadian Rhythm
We all have an internal clock (not the same at the baby-fever causing biological clock) called the circadian rhythm. It is the 24-hour cycle of light and dark is what our brain uses to determine if we are alert or tired.
Also called the sleep/wake cycle, our brain knows when it’s time to rise and shine and when it’s time to hit the sack. In a healthy circadian rhythm, when the sun is up and beaming, our brain is also sending signals for us to be active.
Sunshine & Serotonin
Serotonin, the “happy hormone,” is produced in our brain when we are exposed to sunlight. Likewise, when it is dark the brain produces melatonin, the sleepy hormone.
Therefore, during sunny days it is safe to say the increased production of serotonin is good for our mood and happiness. Serotonin isn’t nicknamed the “happy hormone” for no reason!
Sunshine in Relation to Anxiety & Depression
During sunny seasons, we live differently. The sunshine influences how we live our lives. We spend more time outdoors and in nature. Starting in early childhood we are also taught to love and look forward to the summer months when school let out.
Playing outside until the street lights came on, hanging out with our friends and playing kickball in the street. We couldn’t get enough time outside! It was pure joy!
For someone with anxiety, being outside and experiencing nature at its finest has a calming effect. There is such an incredible and natural beauty in the sunrise. Slowly, minute by minute, the sky brightens, birds begin to chirp, the dew on the grass twinkles as the sunlight peaks over the horizon to feed and nurture the planet. It’s mesmerizing to say the least.
Also, those with depression, as mentioned above, might also have a vitamin D deficiency. And even if that’s not the case, mental health counselors often prescribe “sunshine therapy” for those battling depression.
They urge their clients to get outside and go for a walk when the depression is dictating them to veg on the couch or sleep all day long. The idea is to break the cycle of depression and push the mind into a different state of mind; occupy the mind with an activity versus sitting idle and feeling even worse.
Sunshine & Happiness
It’s not hard to see the correlation between sunshine and happiness with all of the above-listed positive effects. Have you ever heard the saying “Fun in the sun”?
There’s a lot of fun to be had under the warming rays of the sun. There are countless happy vibes come spring that continue throughout summer and into early fall. People begin to plant their gardens, community pools open for the season, and public parks are bursting with people.
Leaves are all shades of green and flowers are blooming. It’s the beginning of the life cycle; a new day, new life. It’s symbolic to the core. And though we may not process the beauty in every moment anew, we are sure happier when the sun is shining!