It’s the season for sun worshipping, but even if you are not a go-to-the-beach type, there are some great reasons to make sure you are catching some rays.
It may sound surprising but increasing your sunlight exposure can be beneficial for your mental health. The sun is a great source of vitamin D, a lack of which is linked to depression. Over 40% of people in the United States are vitamin D deficient, and the problem often gets worse as we age.
Sunshine also stimulates the production of serotonin, a hormone that is associated with boosting mood. Lack of serotonin is linked to mood disorders, according to Tri-City Medical Center. “Serotonin levels can be influenced by sunlight exposure, rising in the summer and decreasing in the winter,” Dr. Alexandra Sowa, MD, internist and founder of SoWell Health says. This seasonal dip, combined with other factors, may be why some people experience seasonal depression, she says.
Sunlight exposure can also help your body’s internal clock, also known as the circadian rhythm. This system regulates when we feel sleepy and when we feel alert. When the sun rises, we feel awake and alert. When the sun sets, we feel sleepy because our body produces melatonin, a hormone that helps us get adequate shuteye every night. “Melatonin increases with decreased sunlight. Excess melatonin can often make people sluggish and fatigued,” Dr. Sowa says.
Our circadian rhythm affects many aspects of our wellbeing, including our mental health. Make sure you get enough sunlight in the day to uplift your mood and get a good night’s rest, the Sleep Foundation says.
Luckily, there are many ways to catch the rays and bask into the sunlight to reap all these benefits. Some methods can even be done from the comfort of your home.
Here are some ways to get more of this natural mood-booster into your life.
Bring an activity you do everyday, outdoors.
A lot of the activities you partake in on a regular basis can be done outside. From drinking your morning coffee to catching up on emails, you can lounge in the sunshine while doing your daily tasks. Try to incorporate the natural environment in your daily schedule when possible. For instance, bring plans for listening to music or eating a healthy lunch to a sunny spot outside.
Incorporate an outdoor workout into your routine.
There are many activities you can do in the open air that will get your heart pumping and blood flowing. Incorporate a simple walk in your local neighborhood or an outdoor sport like tennis in your daily routine.
If you enjoy interacting with others, you may want to look into group sports like ultimate frisbee, flag football, or volleyball.
Socialize in nature.
Connecting with others is helpful as it not only can improve your mood, but also provide a sense of self-worth and belonging. There are a lot of events you can bring outside, like a birthday party, holiday scavenger hunt, or family reunion. Whether it is video chatting with your loved ones on an outdoor patio or organizing a picnic with your friends in a local park, enjoy building community in the sunshine!
Prepare your windows accordingly.
You can still expose yourself to sunlight without going outside. Make sure your windows are clean to ensure as much light can filter through the glass to enter your home. If you have curtains on your windows, choose lighter colors, like white or beige to allow light to pass through. Darker colors absorb more light, so it’s harder for light to trickle through colors like brown or black.
Add more mirrors to your home.
Installing more mirrors on walls that are opposite the windows can maximize light reflectivity. Mirrors reflect more sunlight in a space, which allows the space to look brighter and larger. This is especially great for a dark room, as natural light can bounce off the mirror and brighten up a gloomy space. To maximize your absorption of sunlight, try sitting near a window when doing your daily activities, like having a meal, or studying.