Perhaps we know anecdotally that sunshine gives us a feel-good vibe, but is there any science behind it? Does spending more time in the sun make us happier? If so, why? This article looks at the facts about sunshine and positivity, and how it’s not just beneficial but we actually needed. The right amount of time in the sun can provide you with health nurturing vitamin D and can even reduce depression and anxiety.
The Serotonin Boost
Serotonin is one of the bodies feel-good hormones, as it helps regulate our mood. Serotonin is boosted when we spend time in the sun as our brains are triggered into producing more, which in turn makes us feel better. In fact, one study among many puts the winter blues down to our reduced serotonin production. It’s important to note that it’s not only those suffering from Season Affective Disorder (SAD) who need boosts of serotonin, we all do. It’s one of our natural defences against depression.
Vitamin D Requirements
In winter in the UK 30-40% of all adults are thought to be vitamin D deficient. It’s been big news over recent years. Our fear of skin cancers has led to a sharp increase in the use of sun protection. While still undoubtedly essential it has also meant that we aren’t getting the vitamin D we need. It’s about balance.
Vitamin D is a funny one. Once in the body, it turns in to a hormone. This is then used for a range of purposes including maintaining strong and healthy bones as well as boosting your immune system. The body is designed to enact this process, but it can’t do it without enough vitamin D coming in. The vast majority of this doesn’t happen from our diets, but the sun.
From around late March until the end of September, you should be able to get all the vitamin D you need from spending time in the sun. The amount of time you need to get your vitamin D quota varies based on skin colour and other factors. Although you still need to take care not to burn.
What is important is that you must be outside to benefit from sunlight for vitamin D. Your body can’t make it from rays streaming through a sunny window because this blocks the UVB rays. Vitamin D deficiency can result in aches and pains in bones and muscles, lower immunity, fatigue and even depression. Therefore some careful time in the sun can make us happier!
It’s true that during winter we are more inclined to hide away and hibernate yet in the summer months we’re more motivated and active. It’s certainly easier to get out of bed for a run in the sunshine than it is in the cold grey drizzle. Indeed, it goes further than that. Exercise, when done in the sunshine, is more beneficial to our health and wellbeing than the same exercise without the sunlight exposure. Well documented studies have shown that spending time outdoors results in us feeling happier, healthier, and even more alive.
Sunlight Aids Good Sleep
Sleep is essential to our mental and physical state. Get enough, and we feel energised and vibrant, suffer from too little, and the knock-on effects are profound. Sunlight, and light, in general, stimulate alertness, but can also help is sleep if we get the timing right. Essentially, you need to be getting enough sunlight earlier in the day to facilitate a good night’s sleep. Getting a good amount of sunlight during daylight hours can help to regulate our body clock and ensure we slumber peacefully when our head hits the pillow.
Make Time for the Sun
So getting time in the sun makes us happier. It boosts our mental and physical health through chemicals such as vitamin D and serotonin. With our modern, frequently sedentary office based lives, perhaps one of the simplest things we can do is make time for natural sunlight on our skin each day. Perhaps some time outdoors is the modern equivalent of an apple a day?