The sun has inspired humans around the world since antiquity. It gives us energy and light. We bask in its warmth. We celebrate the sunrise as a powerful symbol of rebirth. We flourish.
Many movies and songs have been written about the positive effect of sunshine, literally or figuratively, and the negative consequences when it is absent from our lives.
There are several good reasons for this. Exposure to the sun’s UVB rays has many positive effects on health and wellness.
When the Sun is shining, I can do anything. No mountain is too high, no trouble too difficult to overcome. – Wilma Rudolph, American sprinter who overcame childhood polio to become a world-record-holding Olympic champion (1940-1994)
Sunlight increases your physical health and wellness
- It boosts the body’s production of vitamin D, known as the “sunshine vitamin”. Vitamin D enhances calcium and phosphorus consumption, building strong bones. It contributes to heart health by reducing inflammation and keeping arteries flexible and relaxed, which helps to control blood pressure. It supports the immune system and glucose metabolism.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), about one in four adults are vitamin D-deficient. The sun is the best source of vitamin D. You are more susceptible to this deficiency if you have a darker skin tone, live in a higher latitude in which there is less opportunity for exposure to sunlight, or keep your body and head covered. People with medical conditions or have undergone surgeries that limit fat absorption, are obese, or are older, also absorb less vitamin D.
- It stimulates the immune system mechanisms that may help prevent auto-immune diseases, and that treat some skin disorders.
- It promotes the production of beta-endorphins, hormones that function as natural opiates to relieve pain and help wounds heal, among other things.
- It also promotes the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is helpful to the body by speeding up digestion, enhancing wound healing and increasing bone density.
A sunny disposition is worth more than a fortune. – Andrew Carnegie, Scottish-American industrialist and philanthropist (1835-1919)
Sunlight boosts your spirits and wards off depression and cognitive decline.
A “sunny disposition” is more than just an expression. In fact, sunshine impacts your mood more than temperature, rainfall, or any other environmental factor.
- Serotonin is called the “feel good” chemical because it makes you feel focused, happy, calm, and emotionally stable, and even enhances sexual health.
- Beta-endorphins also make you feel good. They improve your mood and foster a sense of well-being, promote both relaxation and alertness reduce depression, and even increase job satisfaction in workplaces exposed to sunlight.
- Recent studies have found that increased long-term exposure to sunshine is associated with better memory, learning and attention span in middle-aged adults, and that that people in northern latitudes who have an average sun exposure of 1.5 hours per day are less likely to develop dementia. This is especially true for older people and women. Researchers from both studies believe that these beneficial effects might be attributable to factors such as increased synthesis of vitamin D and regulation of circadian rhythms, including converting serotonin into melatonin, which promotes high quality, restful sleep.
Some sunshine is good for the soul, but I always make sure I wear a big hat. – Miranda Kerr, Australian model and businesswoman (1983- )
Of course, too much of a good thing is not healthy. This includes sun exposure. Wearing sun protective clothing and using sunscreen helps prevent skin cancer, but it also reduces your exposure to sunlight’s beneficial effects.
A recently-published public health literature review suggests that roughly ten percent of deaths in the United States and Europe are due to a lack of sun exposure, and recommends that public health advice on sun exposure should be restructured to better communicate both the benefits and harms of sunlight, especially at higher latitudes where ambient levels of ultraviolet radiation are relatively low even in summer.
Those who bring sunshine into the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves. – James M. Barrie, Scottish novelist (1860-1937)
Creating your own sunshine by helping others is also helpful to you
Simple acts of kindness to others, motivated by genuine warm feelings, bring sunshine into the lives of the recipients – and are also beneficial to your health and wellness. The more you do for others, you more you are also doing for yourself. Helping others to feel good:
- Enhances our self-esteem and sense of well being
- Creates a sense of belonging and reduces social isolation
- Helps us to keep things in perspective
- Makes the world a happier place
So — the next time the sun shines outdoors, set aside some time to soak up its warmth and enjoy all the benefits it has to offer – and if the sun isn’t shining outside, create your own sunshine indoors by doing something kind for someone else.
Written by: Marti Klein
About the author: Marti is a health and wellness coach and the owner of Flourish! Health and Wellness Coaching in Dana Point, California, offering telehealth coaching. Connect with her at www.FlourishHWC.com or via LinkedIn. She received her graduate-level training in health and wellness coaching at Emory University, and looks forward to sitting for the National Board for Health and Wellness Coaching/National Board of Medical Examiners exam next month. She is dedicated to helping people enhance their health and wellness and has a special interest in lipedema, a chronic loose connective tissue disorder primarily affecting women. She is also the co-owner of Klein + Klein, a corporate communications consulting firm.