What if you learned that an effective mood-boosting vitamin was free, invisible and totally abundant in the air around you? Well, it’s not a lie. Sun rays help our body make Vitamin D, an essential nutrient that helps our body absorb calcium that supports optimal bone, connective tissue, lung, muscle and nerve health.
Yes, those golden, glowy summer days are not just good for the ‘gram. While too much sunlight can be hazardous (i.e. skin cancer, premature aging and sunburns), sunlight is an ally to both the mind and the body.
These are just a few of the ways sunlight cheers us up:
It combats seasonal depression
Ever get bummed out in the winter? Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a common type of depression that occurs in the months with fewer hours of sunlight.
In a 2009 study, scientists found a correlation between lower amounts of sunlight and depression. That’s because sunlight triggers your serotonin levels when you absorb it through your retinas.
Therefore, light therapy, also known as phototherapy, can be an effective treatment for SAD.
It builds better bones and muscles
When our bodies absorb sunlight, it produces Vitamin D, which is essential for bone, heart, lung, dental, immune, nerve, and muscular health. Vitamin D facilitates calcium production in our bodies, which helps us build strong bones.
According to one 2008 study, people can make anywhere from 8,000 to 50,000 international unites (IUs) of Vitamin D in just 30 minutes of sun exposure while wearing a bathing suit.
Low Vitamin D levels have been linked to calcium deficiencies in children, not to mention diseases like osteoporosis in adults.
It strengthens your immune system
Research has shown that Vitamin D is critical for your immune system. Beyond improving calcium absorption and bone health, Vitamin D helps reduce the risk of illness, infections and even some cancers.
It can lower blood pressure
Researchers have noted a link between sunlight exposure and lower blood pressure levels. Blood pressure has serious impacts on your health, and can even lead to premature death from cardiovascular issues. But sunlight triggers the skin to release nitrogen oxide, thus causing the arteries to dilate.
Dilated arteries means blood has more room to pump and move through the body with ease, leading to lower blood pressure over time with regular sun exposure.
It can improve job satisfaction
Ever had a desk crammed inside a dark cubicle? You probably hated your job. Some research shows that workplaces with more direct sunlight and larger windows have happier employees. In a 2016 study, more sunlight led to lower levels of anxiety and depression among employees, which led to a happier workplace environment.
It supports overall mental health
The mental health benefits of sunlight don’t just stop at depression. A 2014 study found an association between low Vitamin D levels and schizophrenia. Meanwhile, other studies suggest that both too much sunlight and too little sunlight may contribute to psychosis.
The bottom line? Avoid overexposure to sunlight, but make sure you get enough to have the best health.