Most of us are spending far more time indoors this summer than we’d like. While social distancing and abstaining from as many non-essential outings as possible will continue to be critically important for the foreseeable future, you should also be sneaking in some sun where you can.
This season carries a lot of warm memories for people—school breaks, family vacations, lazy days by the pool—but there’s more to the story.
Read on to find out three ways the sun can still help us out this summer amidst a partial lockdown.
While it’s true prolonged exposure to the sun can cause problems for human health—burns, eye damage, skin cancer, heat exhaustion—a little bit of it can go a long way toward fighting all sorts of physical problems.
This is thanks in large part to vitamin D: an essential hormone our bodies produce in response to sunlight. Here are just a few things this super vitamin contributes to:
- Boosting the immune system
- Keeping bones strong
- Aiding cardiovascular health
- Reducing flu risk
- Managing blood pressure
Without vitamin D, your body is at a higher risk for developing a number of adverse problems. And while you can make up potential deficits by taking supplements, direct sunlight is still the most effective way to get this vitamin’s full impact.
The human body has a natural cycle known as a circadian rhythm—and light exposure is a big way that rhythm stays in-sync.
Light exposure releases cortisol—a hormone that pushes our body to be alert and energetic. Conversely, melatonin—a hormone that aids in sleep—is produced when the lights start to dim.
This is one reason nighttime device usage is frowned upon. The later into the night we stare into our backlit phone, laptop, or TV screens, the less melatonin we get and the more our circadian rhythm takes a hit.
Regular exposure to sunlight throughout the day is one of the best ways to keep our natural sleep cycle in-check. Advocating for sleep when the sun sets and waking when it rises may sound like an antiquated farming platitude, but some pieces of wisdom never change.
Times are tough right now. There are many ways you can and should work on your mental health if you’re struggling, but one readily available tool is—surprise, surprise—sunlight.
An obvious connection is the sun’s correlation with sleep described above. The more rested we are, the more control we typically have over emotional regulation.
But that’s just part of it. Sunlight also stimulates serotonin release, just like many anti-depressants. Serotonin is commonly referred to as the happiness hormone, as it is one of the key culprits responsible for feelings of well-being.
Of course, another tried-and-true method for battling the blues, improving health, and sleeping well is exercise… so why not kill three birds with one stone by incorporating an outdoor walk into your daily routine? In a year as tumultuous as 2020, it may be just what the doctor ordered.