Have you ever noticed that you feel happier during the summer? If so, you’re not alone! Thanks to longer days and warmer temperatures, summer is a season of increased exposure to one of nature’s most powerful mood boosters: sunlight! Let’s look at how moderate exposure to sunshine can have a positive impact on both your mind and body.
Nicknamed the “happy hormone”, serotonin is associated with boosting our mood and helping us to feel calm and focused. Exposure to sunlight triggers a release of serotonin in our brain. To maintain a healthy level of serotonin, eat healthy, nutrient-dense foods and aim for 15-30 minutes of mid-day sun exposure several times per week. Without enough sun exposure, serotonin levels can dip, leading to depression with a seasonal pattern. Our natural tendency to enjoy the outdoors in the summer contributes significantly to our serotonin levels, and therefore, our happiness!
2. Vitamin D
Referred to as the “sunshine vitamin”, Vitamin D is manufactured inside of our bodies as a response to sunlight reaching our skin. Vitamin D serves an important role in keeping our bones, teeth, and muscles healthy. It is common for people that suffer from seasonal depression to also have a deficiency of Vitamin D.
3. Better Sleep
According to a study by the CDC, 1 in 3 American’s don’t get enough sleep. Fortunately, exposure to sunlight during the day may actually have a positive impact on your sleep during the night. Our body has a natural time-keeping clock called the circadian rhythm. Exposure to bright sunlight during the day can help to keep our circadian rhythm healthy and may improve sleep quality and duration. A good night’s sleep is one of nature’s ultimate mood boosters!
4. Disease Prevention
It’s important to emphasize that excess sun exposure is not advised, as it can contribute to skin cancer. However, studies have shown that moderate sun exposure (15-30 minutes of mid-day sunlight, several times per week) can have positive benefits when it comes to fending off disease. Doctors often prescribe sunlight for conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, jaundice, or acne.
When the weather is pleasant, it’s much easier to get moving! Long walks, bike rides, swimming, and sports are common on a warm summer day. When we exercise, our body releases feel-good chemicals into our brain; endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine. One of the best ways to feel happier is to enjoy some physical activity in the sunshine!
Sunlight provides incredible benefits to our bodies and minds. Remember to limit your sun exposure to an amount of time that is healthy for your skin, and to wear sunscreen when sun exposure is prolonged. And most of all, have a great summer!