health benefits of sunlight

Soak up the sun: The mental health benefits of sunlight

As long as you are aware of how much time you spend soaking up the sunlight, you will benefit from it. Ideally, 10-30 minutes of midday sunlight should be enough.
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Think about it. How relaxing do you feel when the warm sunlight falls on your face? The sunlight instantly elevates your mood and keeps you energised for the day. Even five-time Ballon d’Or winner, Cristiano Ronaldo recognises its benefits. In the Amazon documentary, All or Nothing: Juventus, Ronaldo says, “The sun is good for the body. Of course, if I’m here all day, it’ll be bad for me and I’ll get lines. But spending 30 minutes (under the sun) makes me feel good.”

A moderate amount of sun exposure is beneficial for your wellbeing, not just physical but mental as well. Albert Ascherio, a nutritional epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health says, “Getting moderate sun exposure is more likely to be beneficial than not.” As long as you know how much time you are spending time under the sun, you will benefit from it.

Ideally, 10-30 minutes of midday sunlight should be enough, according to Healthline. The exposure time can also depend on how sensitive your skin is to the sunlight. However, just keep in mind that spending too much time under the sun can lead to serious health problems including skin cancer, premature ageing, sunburn, et cetera.

Here are a few mental health benefits of moderate sun exposure you should know about.

Boosts your mood

Dive deep into your memory and travel to the time when you were not having the best of days. Frustrated, you went outside to get some fresh air. After spending some time absorbing sunlight, can you recall how you felt? Probably good, as if a load was lifted from your shoulders. Why? For one, you were away from the stressful environment, and secondly, sunlight helped boost a chemical in your brain called serotonin, which helps you stay calm, positive and focused. A Brigham Young University study suggests, “If you’re able to soak up enough sun, your level of emotional distress should remain stable. Take away sun time, though, and your distress can spike.”

Gives you an excuse to go out

You may be wondering, how can sunlight make you sociable? But it does play a vital role in making you more outgoing. If you think about it, you rarely step out of the house when it’s raining or cold outside. But on sunny days, you simply need an excuse to go out, meet your friends, and make most of the day. You feel great. Why? Because the sun is bright and you don’t want to be at home watching the day passes by. You want to soak up the sunlight, for some time at least, and enjoy the warm weather.

Reduces the risk of depression and schizophrenia

Various studies have linked vitamin D deficiency with depression and schizophrenia. According to one of them, “vitamin D-deficient individuals are twice as likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia as people who have sufficient levels of the vitamin.” Hence, its supplementation either via food, medicine or sunlight can help improve the symptoms of these illnesses. A study Vitamin D and Depression: Where is all the sunshine? says, “Effective detection and treatment of inadequate vitamin D levels in persons with depression and other mental disorders may be an easy and cost-effective therapy which could improve patients’ long-term health outcomes as well as their quality of life.”

If you ever feel sad or depressed, or exhibit symptoms of schizophrenia, go out and spend some time absorbing sunlight. Doing so can improve your mood and keep such mental illnesses at bay.

Improves your quality of sleep

If you want to sleep peacefully, soak up the sunlight from time to time. Moderate sun exposure can improve the quality of your sleep. According to the researchers at the University of Groningen, “exposure to sunlight allows people to sleep more deeply and soundly the following night.” Another research found that “people who were exposed to greater amounts of light during the morning hours, between 8 a.m. and noon, fell asleep more quickly at night and had fewer sleep disturbances during the night compared to those exposed to low light in the morning.”

Helps ward off Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) occurs seasonally. It means people will be fine during the spring and summer months but exhibit symptoms of depression during winter. They develop a sense of sadness and lose energy as the days become shorter and nights longer. One of the reasons this happens is because the time spent under the sun is shortened, which leads to vitamin D deficiency. Hence, to ward off SAD, soak up the sunlight. The serotonin boost that you’ll get will help keep this disorder at bay.

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