The Benefits of Sunshine
Sunshine has a bigger impact on health than most would think. Simply going outside and getting some sunshine can boost your mood, energy levels, and immune function. This connection between sunlight and health sheds some light our synergistic relationship with nature.
While there is concern over potential damage to the skin and the adverse effects of ultraviolet radiation, moderate sun exposure is still recommended. The benefits of moderate sun exposure go beyond the skin- they affect the entire organism.
Here are the top three reasons to go into nature and enjoy the sunshine:
1). Vitamin D
Vitamin D synthesis is perhaps the most well-known benefit of sunlight. Our skin naturally makes vitamin D in response to light stimuli and going into the daylight will promote it. It is a powerful antioxidant that boosts mood, energy levels, bone density, and immune function.
It is possible that going into the sunlight will not promote sufficient vitamin D and need to supplement. Ongoing research on this vitamin suggests that it has a unique role in preventing upper respiratory infections and certain types of cancer. Since vitamin D deficiency is common, it is recommended to supplement it if you spend most of the day indoors.
2). Circadian Regulation
The light stimulation from the sun helps regulate the circadian rhythm- a daily rhythm of hormone oscillations that follow roughly a 24-hour cycle. Melatonin is perhaps the most well-known hormone that follows this pattern. The circadian rhythm is key to getting good sleep at night and being productive during the day.
Light stimuli from the sun regulate our internal biological clock (the suprachiasmatic nucleus) which in turn influences many homeostatic functions in the body- like body temperature. Waking-up to the morning sunlight will help ensure that you are alert during the day and sleepy at night.
Apart from sunlight, spending time outdoors is good for stimulating our immune system and gaining biodiversity in our microbial populations. The outdoors (the wind, the earth, the plants) is full of different types of antigens to which our immune system responds and adapts to. By going out and increasing our exposure, we are strengthening our immune function.
Microbial populations in our bodies become more diverse when we interact with nature. This is beneficial because a diverse microbial population in the body helps us better respond to our environment and synchronize with it. Microbes, especially those in our gut, have been found to play countless roles in our health- from digestion to even our behavior. So go out and enjoy nature!
—Content and images courtesy of Santa Cruz Core
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