Did you know the solution to better health is located above your head, in the sky? We often fail to realize the importance of sunlight because it’s there every day. Sun exposure offers a solution to improving our mental and physical health. Without the sun, both perish. Before COVID, Americans were spending 90% of their time indoors. As the pandemic continues to force us inside, and cold weather makes going outside even less accessible, that number rises. These factors cause us to forget about the importance of the sun. With this in mind, here are ten benefits of sunshine. At the end of this article, I’ll provide some alternatives to sunlight that can replace it when it’s hard to get outside.
1. Mental Health Boosts
Perhaps one of the more significant benefits of sun exposure is better mental health. Sunlight assists in our body’s production of two hormones: melatonin and serotonin. Melatonin is the hormone that regulates our sleep patterns (circadian rhythm). A good sleep pattern is vital to maintaining mental health. On the other hand, serotonin aids in our energy levels, mood, memory, and more. Without serotonin, our energy levels become low, and we don’t have the mental capacity for good mental health.
2. Strong Bones (vitamin D)
Milk is not the only source of vitamin D. Exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet-B radiation causes our skin to produce vitamin D. Having healthy
vitamin D levels is a significant component of having healthy bones and can prevent conditions such as osteoporosis.
3. Cancer Prevention (With Moderate Exposure)
One of the more well-known facts about the sun is that too much exposure can cause cancer. But many overlook the fact that proper amounts of exposure can aid in preventing cancer. One study found that those in higher regions with less sun (think Vermont, Washington state, etc.) were more prone to cancer than those in more sun areas. Yes, the sun can cause cancer. But when exposure is healthy, the sun is proven to aid in prevention.
4. Clear Skin
Studies conducted by the World Health Organization have concluded that exposure to limited amounts of UV radiation can help treat conditions including psoriasis, eczema, jaundice, and acne. It’s still essential to always wear sunscreen and limit your exposure to sunlight. Too much contact with UV rays can have adverse effects.
5. Better Sleep
One of the most significant benefits we get from the sun is melatonin production. When in contact with sunlight, our bodies react by producing melanin, which becomes melatonin and balances our sleep patterns. More melatonin production means your sleep pattern becomes regulated, you sleep longer, and you sleep deeper.
6. Increased Energy
We mentioned serotonin earlier in this article. Access to sunlight causes our bodies to produce more serotonin, a critical hormone that gives us energy. If you find yourself feeling tired, try sitting in the sun and seeing if you feel more energized. That sunlight will spark your body’s serotonin levels and make you feel less sleepy.
7. Weight Loss
Scientists think that sunlight may shrink fat cells below your skin’s surface. If you’re trying to use sunlight for weight loss, experts recommend getting 20 to 30 minutes of daylight before 8 AM. Early access in the day works best.
8. Healthy Eyes
While yes, too much sun can hinder eyesight, the proper amount of sunlight is beneficial for your eyes. Maintaining a healthy amount of sunlight exposure helps prevent nearsightedness. Just be sure to avoid looking directly into the sun.
9. Lower Blood Pressure
Studies have found that one of the benefits of sitting in the sun is it causes blood pressure to decrease. This is a significant benefit as it cuts the risk of having a heart attack and stroke.
10. Improved Healing
Sunlight provides vitamin D. Having an adequate amount of vitamin D aids in your body’s immune system, which results in a more effective healing process.
Alternatives to Sunlight
The most effective solution to getting sun health benefits is to get outside. Five to fifteen minutes of sun per day is what scientists believe is enough. This can be in the form of a daily walk. It’s essential to get some sunlight even on cloudy days as you can still reap some of the health benefits of sunshine. Light therapy is another option for those that find themselves struggling more than others during darker months. While it can’t altogether replace sunlight, it can help your body produce the necessary hormones to function correctly and prevent conditions such as seasonal affective disorder. A few other options to replace sunlight when it’s not as accessible include:
- Exercise more: Exercising helps with weight loss while also boosts your body’s immune system, aids in your sleep, helps with mental health, and lowers blood pressure. It can be as simple as taking walking breaks while working. One habit I try to abide by is taking a small break at work every hour to get up and walk around.
- Take more vitamins: We’re fortunate to live in a time where vitamins offer the additional nutrients our bodies need. Taking vitamin D supplements can help replace those nutrients lost during the winter months.
- Practice wellness: There has been a significant increase in wellness practices such as meditation, yoga, and mindfulness exercises, and for a good reason. Making your wellness a priority allows you to be more in touch with yourself. It aids in relieving stress, handling any challenges life may throw at us, and can even ease mental illness. If you feel your wellness slipping during darker months, these practices can help.
As we’ve proven, sunlight isn’t just a factor of health; it’s a necessity. The importance of sunlight to humans cannot be stressed enough. Getting enough sunlight has proven to aid in many aspects of both physical and mental health. Taking time to get some sunlight each day can significantly impact one’s quality of life. And when it is not as accessible, taking the proper actions to replace it can have positive effects.
Brandon Landgraf is a digital marketing manager and content creator for Carex Health Brands, a health and wellness brand whose mission is to improve the lives of others. He finds passion and fulfillment in creating content that enhances, improves, and enlivens others' quality of life. All of his written work is formulated to not only offer essential advice and tips but back it with proven studies and experts. His mission is to connect with readers and provide steps to make their lives beter.