What Is Sunlight?
Sunshine! It gives us tans, beach days, blooming flowers, pretty green grass, a need for oversized sun hats, an excuse to go outdoors, and oh so much more. But the most important thing sunshine may contribute to our lives is it’s effect on our mental health. But before I get into that, let’s learn a little more about the sun. Let’s learn the facts.
Sunlight is a portion of the electromagnetic radiation that is given off by the all mighty and powerful sun. Using more specific terms, the sun gives off infrared, visible, and ultraviolet light. For us little people down on Earth, sunlight is filtered through the atmosphere surrounding the Earth, thus providing us with daylight. This means the sun is present above the horizon. When the sun’s rays are not being by clocked by clouds, which creates diffused light, they shine right on down to us. This creates sunshine, which is an unbeatable combination of radiant heat and bright light. Too much sun isn’t always a good thing. It’s important to always wear sunscreen, protect your skin from overexposure, and always drink enough water. The sun is more than powerful and can easily control our bodies.
If you’re like me, you cross your fingers, pray to the weather gods, and hope with everything inside of you that every single day of the year will be sunny. This is because sunlight is known to have positive effects on the brain, can drastically improve your skin, can ease health problems, and most definitely raises energy levels. If we are smart about how we manage our time with the sun and how it fits into our lives, we can be exposed to a world of health benefits. The most important effect the sun can have on our bodies, may be our mental health.
Our Mental Health…
Our mental health is something that shouldn’t be tampered with too much. According to Mental Health, a website dedicated to the study of the human brain, mental health is not only important, it’s also intricate. According to the website,
“Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.
Over the course of your life, if you experience mental health problems, your thinking, mood, and behavior could be affected. Many factors contribute to mental health problems, including:
- Biological factors, such as genes or brain chemistry
- Life experiences, such as trauma or abuse
- Family history of mental health problems”
It’s important to remain happy, remain sane, and have a good outlook on life in order to achieve the highest possible quality of life. Our mental health is a sensitive part of us. It can be quite a rollercoaster so it’s smart to always keep your seatbelt on.
Of course, there is an endless list of factors that could have a negative effect on our mental health. We could have family issues, we could be suffering from heartache, we could be struggling with a severe disorder, disease, or condition. The list goes on an on. However, one of the most common reasons why someone’s mental health levels would decrease is due to the weather.
It is incredibly common for people who struggle with Depression, seasonal changes and Seasonal Depression to just shrug it off, but it is taking a toll on their mental health for sure. For example, the way the weather effects us. It’s easily to call feeling down during winter the “winter blues.” Or if you get to work before the sun is up and then get out once the sun has already set, you are not going to stay at the top of your game. This is where Depression can either show up again or appear for the first time. It’s easy to just wait it out, letting yourself hibernate and feel low. But the truth is…our brains love the sun! Our bodies are far more sensitive to sunlight than most people recognize. The winter blues and our not so great daily schedules can take a serious toll on us and they rely on whether or not the sun is out and planning on sticking around.
Light Therapy For Mental Health…
When struggling from Depression, Seasonal Affective Disorder, Seasonal Depression, or seasonal changes, you don’t need to just sit and wait around for things to get better. One form of light therapy was created in order to help treat the conditions we are discussing. A light therapy device can be used to help treat the symptoms associated with these conditions. It doesn’t work in one day, but it’s a step in the right direction.
People struggling with Depression or these seasonal related conditions first choose which form of light therapy prefer according to their lifestyle as well as their symptoms. A light therapy device for this sort of treatment provides a measured amount of light through fluorescent bulbs or panels. The light intensity is typically between 2,500 to 10,000 lux. Depending on the device chosen, which could be a panel, box, lamp, or simulator, the patient would choose a schedule. The treatment is most effective if a set amount of time is scheduled on a regular basis.
Natural Sunlight For Mental Health…
Sunlight does more than just lift our moods, it actually cures depression symptoms. It does this by raising levels of anti-depressants in the brain. Serotonin, which is a mood lifting chemical, is produced at a higher rate on sunny days. While light therapy devices can help raise Seratonin levels as well, nothing beats the real thing.
It may sound funny at first, but treatment for depression and seasonal depression can most certainly be done with natural sunlight. Similar to a light therapy device, setting aside a part of your day on a regular basis is the same concept. Not everyone is lucky enough to live somewhere where they can receive this sunlight throughout the year, but if you are, you should take advantage of it. It’s too good for you not to!
“Adding a little sunshine to your life by getting outside more can relieve anxiety and reduce depression. If you live in higher latitudes with little sunlight, a light box may provide some mood-boosting benefits. From treating skin conditions to strengthening bones, sunlight has other health benefits as well. Because excess sun exposure is linked with increased skin cancer risk, refrain from staying outside too long without sunscreen. If you’re going to be outside longer than 15 minutes or so, you’ll need a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15.” -(HealthLine.com)
“Discovering the environment’s impact on cognitive functioning within the context of seasonal disorders may lead not only to better understanding of the disorders, but also to the development of targeted interventions to enhance everyday functioning and quality of life.”
-Shia Kent, University of Alabama at Birmingham