Many people are aware that soaking up the sun can have benefits for both physical and mental health, but not everyone knows how sunlight improves our wellbeing.
Here are some of the key factors that explain why sunlight can boost your mood – and how you can make the most of them. However, do always remember to take appropriate care and caution in the sunshine. Ensure you don’t become dehydrated or damage your skin.
When sunlight passes through the eye, it affects parts of the retina that trigger serotonin production. Serotonin is a hormone that is associated with wellbeing; it can improve your mood and help you feel calm. Without enough exposure to sunlight, your serotonin levels could drop, causing you to have less energy and feel lower in mood. To maintain healthy serotonin levels, try to spend some time every day in natural light.
2. Vitamin D
Ultraviolet-B radiation in sunlight prompts vitamin D production in the skin. Vitamin D has been associated with improved emotional regulation and preventing mental health conditions such as depression and schizophrenia. Research has demonstrated that people who experience depression or schizophrenia are more likely to have low vitamin D levels compared to the general population. Additionally, taking vitamin D supplements has been associated with improved depression symptoms. Some research has suggested that Vitamin D plays a role in the regulation of serotonin.
You might be familiar with the concept of the body’s “internal clock”, which is also referred to as a person’s circadian rhythm. Your circadian rhythm uses sunlight (or lack thereof) to determine whether it is time to feel awake, or ready to sleep. Without enough sunlight, you could disrupt this rhythm, making it difficult to get enough sleep at night, meaning you are sleep deprived the next day. Sleep deprivation is often very detrimental to mental health; it can lower your mood and mean you have less energy to cope with your day. Therefore, it is essential to absorb enough sunlight, particularly first thing in the morning, to boost your mood and energy levels.
4. Sunshine tips
While sunlight has its advantages, it is very important to stay safe. This means drinking enough water, avoiding sun exposure at the hottest parts of the day, and using adequate SPF protection. Talk to a pharmacist about sun safety if you require further support.
Remember, you can also increase your sun exposure in small steps. Try drinking your morning coffee outside, or walking to work or school. You can also move your desk or sofa in front of a window to gain some extra rays.
Additionally, you can boost your sun exposure by investing in light therapy devices. You can purchase a light box to help you boost your serotonin levels, or a daylight simulation lamp, which will wake you up with gradually increasing light, mimicking a sunrise. Try incorporating more sunlight into your daily routine to improve your wellbeing.
Help and Support
If you are in crisis, ring 999 or The Samaritans free on 116 123. Visit our help and support pages for resources, signposting, and information about our individual and group mental health services.
Our guest blogger:
Huge thanks to our Ambassador and Assistant psychologist Lucy for her timely blog, as Summer has finally arrived!