Stress is an inevitable fact of life. However, you can fight it naturally: simply step outside on a sunny day. Read on for a list of reasons to let the sunshine in.
Sunlight Boosts Serotonin
Researchers from the Baker Heart Research Institute in Melbourne found that levels of serotonin—a neurotransmitter that regulates appetite, sleep, memory, and mood—are lower during the winter than the summer.
The research team noted that the only factor that affected participants’ moods was the amount of sunlight they were exposed to on any given day. More sunlight meant better moods; less sunlight lead to symptoms of depression.
The study suggests that low levels of serotonin directly correlate with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which most often occurs during winter months.
Sunlight Can Reduce Surgery Pain and Stress
Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University conducted a study to see if sunlight affected the moods and pain medication usage of patients undergoing surgery.
They found that patients who were placed in bright rooms reported less perceived stress and took less medication per hour than patients in dim rooms. This study also suggests that even indirect exposure to sunlight (i.e. through a window) can improve one’s mood.
Natural Daylight Can Improve Sleep
Sunlight shuts off the body’s production of melatonin, a hormone produced at night that makes you feel drowsy. Constant exposure to sunlight can help your body maintain its circadian rhythm. Your circadian rhythm is a 24-hour cycle that regulates biochemical, physiological, and behavioral processes and makes you feel tired when it’s dark outside.
Going outside for 15 minutes at the same time every day, preferably in the morning, tells your body that it’s no longer nighttime. Sunlight that’s unhindered by sunglasses will reach the brain’s pineal gland more easily and signal it to stop releasing melatonin.
Sunlight Can Reduce Cancer Risks
Studies have linked vitamin D, known as the “sunshine vitamin,” to protection against colon, kidney, and breast cancer. It’s also linked to improvements in bone health and overall mortality. Neurological, cardiovascular, and immune diseases are associated with vitamin D deficiency. By increasing your exposure to sunlight, you can decrease your risk for these diseases.
Vitamin D combined with other cancer treatments also tends to improve the patient’s prognosis. However, dietary, genetic, and environmental factors can mask the effects of vitamin D on the body.
Like Everything Else, Sunlight Should Be Enjoyed in Moderation
Sunlight has many health benefits. However, you should keep exposure moderate. Factors such as skin pigmentation, time of day, and how much skin is exposed all determine the healthiest dosage of sunshine for you.
Those with fair skin should spend no more than 10 minutes outside during the hottest time of the day without sunscreen. After that, the risk of developing skin cancer increases.
Those who tend to tan and not burn can get about 15 minutes of sunlight exposure without sunscreen, while those with darker skin may require up to six times the sun exposure of a fair-skinned person to reap the benefits of vitamin D.
- Lambert, G., Reid, C., Kaye, D., Jennings, G., & Esler, M. (2002). Effect of sunlight and season on serotonin turnover in the brain. The Lancet, 360(9348), 1840-1842.
- Spina, C., Tangpricha, V., Uskokovic, M., Adorinic, L., Maehr, H., & Holick, M. (2006). Vitamin D and Cancer. International Journal of Cancer Research and Treatment, 26(4A), 2515-2524.
- Walch, J., Rabin, B., Day, R., Williams, J., Choi, K., & Kang, J. (2005). The Effect of Sunlight on Postoperative Analgesic Medication Use: A Prospective Study of Patients Undergoing Spinal Surgery. Psychosomatic Medicine, 67(1), 156-163.
– Written by Tayla Holman (http://www.healthline.com)