Sunlight’s A Natural Mood-Booster. Here’s What A Doctor Has To Say
Summer’s in full swing –– a time to embrace the outdoors and soak up some warm sunshine. It may sound surprising, but sunlight is a natural mood booster. The sun is a great source of vitamin D, Harvard Health says. A 2017 review found that a lack of vitamin D is linked to depression –– although, it is not clear whether the vitamin D deficiency causes depression or the other way around. Over 40% of people in the United States are vitamin D deficient, the Cleveland Clinic says.
Sunshine also stimulates the production of serotonin, a hormone that is associated with boosting mood. Lack of serotonin is linked to mood disorders, according to Tri-City Medical Center. “Serotonin levels can be influenced by sunlight exposure, rising in the summer and decreasing in the winter,” Dr. Alexandra Sowa, MD, internist and founder of SoWell Health says. This seasonal dip, combined with other factors, may be why some people experience seasonal depression, she says.
Sunlight exposure can also help your body’s internal clock, also known as the circadian rhythm. This system regulates when we feel sleepy and when we feel alert. When the sun rises, we feel awake and alert. When the sun sets, we feel sleepy because our body produces melatonin, a hormone that helps us get adequate shuteye every night, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says. “Melatonin increases with decreased sunlight. Excess melatonin can often make people sluggish and fatigued,” Dr. Sowa says.
Our circadian rhythm affects many aspects of our wellbeing, including our mental health. While the link isn’t exactly understood, studies have found that those with circadian rhythm disorders also have poor mental health and vice versa. A 2017 study found that those with mood disorders, like depression, have disruptions in their sleep and wake cycle. Make sure you get enough sunlight in the day to uplift your mood and get a good night’s rest, the Sleep Foundation says.
Luckily, there are many ways to catch the rays and bask into the sunlight to reap all these benefits, such as heading to the park or going for a walk in your neighborhood. When you go outdoors, make sure to apply sunscreen to protect your skin from the UV rays! Use a sunscreen of at least SPF 30, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends. That way, you’ll get to enjoy the sunshine without it causing any harm to your skin.