Sunny days are on the way, and the natural world isn’t the only thing that will start to flourish…
With what often felt like one of the longest winters in living memory finally behind us, many people are already feeling the mental health benefits of the lighter mornings and longer days. But why is that? Here, we explain why having the sun on your skin can make you feel brighter.
1. Vitamin D
Sometimes referred to as the ‘sunshine vitamin’, vitamin D is important for bone health, as it helps us absorb calcium. But did you know we also have vitamin D receptors in the brain? This is part of the direct relationship between vitamin D and the creation of serotonin – the happy hormone.
If the sun starts to shine and you begin to feel perkier, it’s no coincidence. Vitamin D is key when it comes to our mental health, but many people in the UK have low levels, or even vitamin D deficiencies. Many studies find lower levels of circulating serotonin in people with depression, and chronic pain conditions, such as fibromyalgia and endometriosis. It has also been suggested that vitamin D can help to reduce inflammation in the brain – something which can cause brain fog and grogginess.
"Even just 30 minutes each day of being out in the sun can go a long way to support your serotonin production"
Even just 30 minutes each day of being out in the sun can go a long way to support your serotonin production, and you don’t have to be out exercising. You could spend some time sitting and relaxing in your garden, or on a park bench, soaking up the rays.
2. The sleep cycle
When the optic nerve registers sunshine, and helps the body to create serotonin, this ‘happy’ chemical turns into melatonin – the sleep hormone. Disrupted sleep cycles and poor mental health often go hand-in-hand, and who doesn’t feel better after a good night’s rest?
Getting out into the natural light within an hour of waking will help to regulate your sleep-wake cycle by ‘switching on’ your internal clock, which signals to the body when to create sleep-promoting chemicals. To set this off, try factoring in time to have a 30-minute walk in the mornings, either before or after your breakfast.
3. Lowering blood pressure
High blood pressure is often related to high levels of stress and/or anxiety. Whereas lower blood pressure is associated with feelings of calm or relaxation – and, interestingly, getting out in the sun can actually help contribute to this.
Nitric oxide, a molecule produced in the body, is released when the sunshine hits your skin. This lowers your blood pressure, which in turn helps you to feel more relaxed. That said, you should speak to your GP and follow their guidance if you have any concerns about your blood pressure.
4. The soothing power of nature
It’s only natural that when the sun is shining you feel more inclined to get outdoors. Studies have linked spending time outside with a wealth of mental health benefits and, in many cases, the activity that we do outside promotes mental health in itself – for example, gardening, going for walks, or practising mindfulness. This can further help us to reduce stress and promote feelings of relaxation. All this together is enough to brighten up any day.
Before you rush out, it’s important to be safe during your sun exposure. Wear sunscreen, avoid tanning beds, and stay hydrated.
If you’re looking for ways to incorporate more sunshine in your life, why not try:
- Gardening in your backyard or local allotment
- Walking to the next bus stop
- Take a short walk within one hour of waking up
- Take your phone calls outside
- Drink your mid-morning or afternoon tea outside
- Eat your lunch outdoors
- Meets friends and family for local walks or picnics
- Spend some time reading, writing, or drawing while on a bench or a blanket
To connect with a life coach or discuss ways that you can work on your own mental wellbeing, visit lifecoach-directory.org.uk