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Sunlight Can Lift Your Mood, But Exercise Caution

Stay Out of the Sun Day (July 3) carries a lasting message as we continue to enjoy the warmth and freedom of summer. This national day is celebrated every year in July to encourage people to stay indoors in comfortable attire with cool temperatures while engaging in relaxing activities. It’s designed to give your skin a break from the heat and sun. If you have a loved one in hospice in San Francisco and surrounding areas, take this day to spend with them indoors or invite them out to sit under a shady tree if they can.

While the summer is certainly about enjoying carefree days on the beach, at the park or by the pool, there are plenty of other ways to have fun in the shade or indoors. While moderate sun exposure gives you a healthy, all-natural dose of Vitamin D, spending too much time soaking in the sun can speed up the aging process and increase your risk of skin cancer (particularly melanoma), sun spots and wrinkles.

Sunlight and Mood

Exposure to sunlight increases the release of a hormone called serotonin in your brain, which is a chemical associated with boosting mood and helping you feel calmer and more focused, says Healthline. By contrast, when nighttime falls, darkness triggers the brain to make another hormone referred to as melatonin, which helps you relax and fall asleep.

If you don’t get enough sun exposure, such as in the winter time, your serotonin levels will dip, which can put you at a higher risk of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression brought on by the changing seasons. But boosting your mood isn’t the only benefit of sunlight. There are also many health benefits associated with getting moderate amounts of sun. Sunlight can also:

  • Build strong bones
  • Help prevent cancer
  • Heal certain skin conditions, such as acne, psoriasis, and eczema
  • Help alleviate rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, inflammatory bowel disease (IBS) and thyroiditis

While we as a society are taught to shy away from the sun, due to its ties to skin cancer and premature aging, a growing body of scientific research suggests that shutting sun out of your life completely is bad for your health. Forbes points out these reasons for getting moderate amounts of sunshine:

  • It elevates mood by boosting serotonin levels — also referred to as the “happiness hormone” — making you calm yet alert.
  • It improves sleep. The brighter your exposure to the sun in the daylight hours, the more melatonin you produce at night, which improves sleep, synchronizes your biological clock and lowers stress. When you experience distorted circadian rhythms, you are more prone to both depression and bipolar disorder.
  • It promotes bone growth through calcium absorption which is critical for strength and formation. The sun actually helps convert inactive Vitamin D levels to active.
  • It helps strengthen the immune system, lowering chances of infection, cancer and mortality rate after surgery.
  • It lowers blood pressure, which reduces the risk of stroke and heart disease.
  • It promotes weight loss, helping to reduce body fat and assist you in shedding those stubborn extra pounds.

Take Caution

Experts say that getting anywhere from five to 15 minutes of sunlight on your arms, hands and face two to three times weekly will give you vitamin D-boosting benefits from the sun. That being said, you are more likely to experience a burn when out in direct sunlight between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when UV rays are at their strongest. Therefore, it’s wise to limit your exposure to UV light during these times. You don’t always have to cower indoors, as this can lead to a sedentary lifestyle. However, there are steps you can take to protect yourself, such as using sunscreen with at least SPF 15, wearing a light shirt, donning a hat and sporting sunglasses to keep glare at bay.

Keep in mind, though, that UV rays reach the ground all year long, even on cloudy or hazy days. The strength of those UV rays changes depending on the time of year, with UV rays becoming more intense in the spring and peaking in the summer, says the American Cancer Society. Even if you’re in the pool or ocean water, UV rays can still penetrate below the water’s surface. They can do the same to windows in your car, home, and office. To be safe, always wear sunscreen, especially on your face and arms.

Contact Pathways Home Health and Hospice

Our providers are happy to give you a break as a caregiver and entertain your loved one at home or in hospice. Our caring, compassionate team recognizes the importance of taking care of YOU so you can be the happiest, healthiest person possible. To learn more, contact us at 888-755-7855.