Sunshine & Happiness

Feeling drained and depressed? If you’re one of the many who work indoors all day, sunshine might just be the easiest part of a cure.

Utah is just coming out of winter and cabin fever has set in with an almost urgent itch to get outdoors, even if it’s still quite crisp. After a hard winter, there doesn’t seem to be need for an extra reason to bask in the sun. Turns out, there are quite a few good justifications to spray on some SPF and take your work outside if you can or just take a day off outdoors…for your health and happiness.

Research has linked too little sun to depression, fertility problems, impaired immune function, and even a couple forms of cancer. Namely prostate, colon, and even skin cancer, all due to a Vitamin D deficiency.

Depression is often tossed around as if it isn’t seriously debilitating. If you’ve ever been depressed, even for just a week, you can attest to the likelihood that it is the leading cause of low productivity, relationship problems, and weight gain. We need energy, motivation, and excitement in our lives to tackle the monumental.

There exists a complex relationship between sunlight and our mood rooted in our evolution. We weren’t always so sheltered from the sun’s warm rays. This processĀ involves melatonin, a hormone that controls our sleep, and serotonin, a neurotransmitter primarily responsible for wakefulness and experiencing a “good mood.”

When the sun comes up and we physically experience it, a message is transmitted through our optic nerve to our brain: stop secreting melatonin and increase serotonin. When your body perceives the sun has gone down, your brain reverses this process.

Simultaneously, you create Vitamin D when the sun’s ultraviolet rays hit your skin. Vitamin D helps the body sustain higher levels of serotonin. Researchers have even shown a link between high exposure to sunlight during the summer months and sustained serotonin in the dark, winter months. You only need about 15 minutes of unprotected sun exposure a few times each week to boost your Vitamin D production.

The bottom line: the more sunlight your body is exposed to, the more serotonin released into your system, which is maintained by higher levels of Vitamin D.

A few ideas to help you take advantage of the sun’s happiness effect today:

  • Take your coffee on your porch, or at least a bright window in your break room if you’re stuck in an office.
  • Take a 15-minute walk during morning and afternoon breaks. Exercise releases endorphins, so even if it’s cold outside, a walk indoors can still boost your mood.
  • Take an indoor activity outdoors. Your laptop is portable for good reason. Or you could use your outdoor time as an excuse to read a motivating book.
  • Unwind from a day at the office with an ice tea in the sun. Remember, just 15 minutes will boost that Vitamin D production.

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