The Power of the Sun: Unlock the Mental Health Magic of Sunlight

What is Holistic Mental Health?
May 31, 2024

It’s June, which means that it’s officially summer! The snow and rain are becoming a thing of the past. The days are getting longer. Overcast days will shortly become a rarity as the sun makes its much-needed summertime appearance.

Speaking of the sun, did you know that the sun makes life not only possible but more enjoyable?

The sun wears many hats. It makes life on Earth possible by regulating climate and seasons, promoting plant life, and driving weather. It also plays a role in Earth’s gravity and energy production and boosts people’s positivity and mood.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

The sun is so crucial to mental health that many experts link the absence of the sun to a common type of depression, Seasonal Affective Disorder, commonly known as SAD. A variation of this condition, winter-onset SAD, tends to spike in the fall, get worse in the winter, become better in the spring, and disappear in the summer.

The Four Benefits of Sunlight on Mental Health

The sun has a big impact on your health, especially your mental health. Here are four mental health benefits that come directly from the sun:

  • Boosts Mood: Sunlight can prompt the brain to produce a hormone called serotonin. Serotonin is known to improve mood and positivity.
  • Increases Vitamin D: Sunlight is the main source of Vitamin D. This nutrient promotes bone growth, reinforces your immune system, and improves learning and memory.
  • Inspires socializing: Just as dark days can inspire you to cancel plans and stay in bed, light days can prompt you to go out and be with people.
  • Improves sleep: More daylight exposure in the evening can increase melatonin production, making it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep. Enjoying the daylight in the morning can also help you remain awake throughout the day.

Build EnLIGHTening Habits

Because the sun is so important, you might consider implementing habits that allow you to enjoy the benefits of natural light. Here are a few sun-themed habits that can work in summer and winter:

  • Develop a regular waking-up schedule. Sleeping in until noon means missing several hours of sunlight. So be sure to plan a schedule that you can keep consistent, allowing you to enjoy the benefits of the sun.
  • Open your blinds and curtains. Open your windows as soon as you wake up. Let the light filter through your home.
  • Exercise outside. This could be as simple as backyard yoga and stretching or a walk or run around the block.
  • Sit close to open windows. While indirect sunlight is no substitute for direct light, this practice can still give you an energy boost.
  • Avoid using screens for at least an hour before bed. The light from your screen can disrupt your melatonin production, which is what allows you to feel tired and eventually fall asleep.
  • Minimize synthetic lights in the evening. If you have the option, consider dimming your lights around the time the sun sets. This will allow your body to prepare for rest.
  • Go to sleep when you feel tired. Not surprisingly, this practice will help you wake up more easily.

Building daily light-related habits during the warm months will help you when the cold months hit. Even though the sun may be hiding behind the clouds and the temperature might be unsuitable for outdoor yoga, you can enjoy the benefits of the sun by opening windows and sticking to a routine sleeping schedule.

You might aim for 10-30 minutes of sun exposure every day. If you plan on being outside for a lengthy period of time, be sure to apply an appropriate amount of sun protection and drink plenty of water.

Integrated Counseling and Wellness

At Integrated Counseling and Wellness, we strive to provide resources and information that can help you live your best life. If you are experiencing anxiety, depression, or stress or are seeking ways to improve your life and relationships, contact us today. Our team of trained counselors can help you build habits that can facilitate strong relationships and make life more livable.

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