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The Bright Side - How the Sun Affects your Health

sunshine boosts mood, sunshine helps sleep cycle

A little bit of sunshine can go a long way! Spending time outside catching rays can make all the difference in your overall health. Here are some ways the sun can improve your physical and mental health:

Healthy Bones

Did you know your skin actually absorbs the sun’s UV rays? Specifically, when the rays are absorbed, they trigger the body’s tissues to make Vitamin D. This mineral is immensely important for growth and bone health. The sun provides a natural form of Vitamin D that aids in the absorption of calcium. This means the sun indirectly helps calcify bones to keep your body strong. Staying in the sun for about 10-30 minutes each day can help most people reach the daily recommendation for vitamin D.

Healthy Blood Pressure

Some sunshine can help lower your blood pressure biologically and neurologically. When the sun’s rays are absorbed by your body, nitric oxide is released in your blood, which can lower blood pressure. Additionally, sunlight can bring feelings of warmth, relaxation and comfort. These feelings can lower your blood pressure by relieving stress in your body. Lower blood pressure can also improve your overall heart health and mental health. Who knew that relaxing in the sun could be a simple act of self-care.

Healthy Mind

The focus on mental health is becoming more important when considering your overall health. The sun’s rays can release and increase serotonin within the body, which is a natural mood-boosting hormone. Thus, those with regular sun exposure are associated with better mental health. Those who do not get enough sunlight exposure are at higher risk for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This type of depression is associated with the months of the year where there is less sunlight that affects the chemicals in your brain. This disorder can be treated a number of ways; one way is with light therapy that mimics the purpose of the sun. Let this be a reminder to catch some rays to keep your brain healthy.

Healthy Sleep Cycle

Did you know the sun can function as your own personal alarm clock? The natural light shining through your window is an aid in the regulation of melatonin. Melatonin is the hormone that gives you a sleepy feeling when the sun goes down. The amount of serotonin released in your body decreases when it becomes dark, which allows melatonin to be released and give you that sleepy feeling. This cycle is called your body’s circadian rhythm. The sunrise and sunset have always been the body’s natural guide to a healthy circadian rhythm. Enough sun time during the day can help you get a great night’s sleep, which plays a factor in reducing the risk of depression and many other health conditions.

Ways to Get More Sun

In a time where it is encouraged to stay inside, it may be difficult for some to get sun time outside. An easy way to get your daily dose of Vitamin D may be having your morning coffee or daily lunch outside of your house or apartment. Working from home can also mean working outside your home, on a park bench or near an open sunlight window. Taking a break from your daily routine to go for a walk can provide not only regular exercise but the optimal amount of sunlight your body needs. Just don’t forget the sunscreen for prolonged sun exposure!

Learn more about ways to boost your mental and physical health and other wellness programs offered by Wellness Workdays.

Written by Claire McDonald, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern




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