When you give your skin access to a healthy dose of the sun’s rays, you are likely to experience some benefits immediately. Humans have a long history of using sunlight therapy that dates back to the ancient Greeks. Today, sunlight therapy is referred to as heliotherapy.
5 Ways the Sunshine Can Affect Mental and Physical Health
1. Increased Vitamin D
The best-known benefit of sunlight is its ability to boost the body’s vitamin D supply. Vitamin D has some important functions. It promotes reduced inflammation and modulates cell growth. The sun is the best natural source of Vitamin D, and it takes about 5-15 minutes of sunlight a few times a week to notice a difference. When you get outside, expose yourself to direct sun on your arms and face to soak up this critical vitamin. Use sunscreen if you’ll be outside for more than 15 minutes.
2. Improved Mood
It turns out “sunny disposition” is more than just an expression: Researchers at BYU found more mental health distress in people during seasons with little sun exposure. On the contrary, days with plenty of sunshine were associated with better mental health — in fact, the availability of sunshine has more impact on mood than rainfall, temperature, or any other environmental factor.
Getting some sun increases your serotonin and helps you stave off Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Sun exposure can also help people with anxiety and depression, especially in combination with other treatments.
3. Higher Quality Sleep
That serotonin you soak up from the sun’s rays does more than boost your mood – it might also help you get more restful sleep at night.
4. Stronger Bones
Low Vitamin D has been linked to diseases like osteoporosis and rickets, and one of the most specific benefits of Vitamin D is earning stronger bones and teeth.
While calcium intake is also crucial for bone health, getting enough sun helps your body absorb calcium. Increasing sunlight exposure and blood Vitamin D levels decreases knee cartilage loss in those suffering from arthritis.
5. Lower Blood Pressure
When sunlight hits your skin, your body releases something called nitric oxide into your blood. This compound brings down blood pressure and improves heart health. Maintaining healthy blood pressure can reduce your risks of cardiac disease and stroke. Feelings of relaxation may also naturally bring down blood pressure, so boosting your happiness by soaking up rays also aids in keeping your pressure down.
Balance is key. If you are going to be in the sun for extended periods of time, protect your body with sunblock.