Somewhere along the line sunshine got a bad reputation. It received all the blame for skin cancer when, in reality, human behavior has been a huge part of the issue. There are hours upon hours of tanning. There’s a depleted ozone layer allowing more UVB radiation to reach the earth’s surface. There are also strange things like long daily car commutes on the LA freeway with the sun blazing through the windscreen. Even sunscreens have been called into question.
But, getting out in the sunshine can be a great thing. The sun can have a positive impact on both our mental and physical wellbeing. In fact, using the sun mindfully, as a boon to our health, is something that can truly improve our lives on a daily level. As we engage our minds in a positive act, i.e. getting some sun and fresh air, our overall welfare gives us positive feedback. We are happier, healthier and full of sunshine.
1. Sunshine keeps you happy
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Sunlight triggers the brain to release serotonin. Serotonin is the body’s way of keeping us in a good mood and easy-peasy, a hormone that makes us happy. To further point, a lack of sunlight equates to a decrease in serotonin, which is why some people get seasonal depression in the wintertime: not enough sun. If something is proven to make us happy and (as you’ll soon see) healthy, wouldn’t we want to pay it some mind?
2. Sunshine builds strong bones
Vitamin D is sometimes referred to as “the sunshine vitamin”, and that’s because when our skin is exposed to sunlight it creates vitamin D. This very important vitamin helps to transport calcium to our bones and teeth and, thus, is instrumental in building strong bones. Just 10-15 minutes of raw (no sunscreen) sunshine on our skin a day is enough to provide our daily recommended amount of vitamin D. Strong bones means you have a sturdy foundation from whence to develop mental stability.
3. Sunshine improves sleep
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As a counter to serotonin, getting daily sunshine, particularly at dusk, stimulates the brain to produce melatonin, the hormone that helps us sleep. Melatonin is a signal to the body that it’s now nighttime, hence dusk, so it can start to shut down and relax. In this way, melatonin is in tune with our bodies’ circadian rhythms. Quality rest is integral to a healthy mind and body.
4. Sunshine strengthens the immune system
In addition to making bones strong, vitamin D is a vital component to nearly every cell in the human body. With healthy cells that regenerate readily, our immune systems run better. Studies have even shown that vitamin D can help to fight cancer, decrease the risk of getting the flu and—obviously—protect against bone diseases like osteoporosis. It also reduces blood pressure and lowers the risk of heart attack and strokes. Imagine for a moment the power gained for those moments in the sun.
5. Sunshine relieves pain
Sunshine is great for relieving pain, particularly joint pain. In the simplest terms, the warmth and soothing from the sun provides a sort of topical (possibly tropical) therapy. Then, of course, the vitamin D allows the body to absorb more calcium and it lowers blood pressure. The calcium helps with bone troubles, and the reduced blood pressure can help with inflammation. Less pain on your brain means more time for your mind.
6. Healthy sun exposure is short and daily
To get a sufficient amount of sun, we only need about 15 minutes a day. That makes for a great moment in which to practice mindfulness. Not only is the physical body, both internally and externally benefitting from it, but 15 minutes a day provides an ideal amount of time for mindful meditation. For that matter, a few moments of checking in with yourself while the sun kisses your skin sounds like a great thing to do.
7. The sun is life
Aside from water, the sun is the life force of this planet. The food we grow needs the sun. The trees and plants the provide oxygenate the planet need the sun to grow. The water cycle needs the sun to evaporate water back into the atmosphere, in essence cleaning it. The animal kingdom, that whole circle of life thing, is completely reliant on the sun, from the phytoplankton eaten by krill that’s then eaten by blue whales and everything in between. Taking a moment each day to appreciate the power of sun and the privilege we have in relying on it, well, that’s just a minefield of mindful.
Whether it’s a walk in the park, maybe it’s a quick breath on the balcony at the end of the day, or it could be coffee on the patio at sunrise, whatever form it may take, the sunshine can help you be more mindful, and mindfulness in and of itself is worth the effort. Get the sun involved and the benefits expound from there.
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