Many of us are stuck in lockdown and that lockdown has its own health side effects separate from covid-19. Being confined indoors limits our intake of sunlight, which has repercussions for our mood and more. This great article in Time Magazine discusses why sunlight is so important for our emotional and mental health – and even our immune health.
As people spend more time indoors staring at computer and television screens, scientists are starting to appreciate how exposure to sunlight affects various body systems.
The most interesting support for our dependence on daylight emerged with a condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. The term was coined by Dr. Normal Rosenthal at Georgetown University to describe the so-called winter blues: the lethargy and feelings of sadness and hopelessness that come when the weather forces people to spend more time indoors and the season provides little opportunity for exposure to natural light. Some people have speculated that our modern lifestyle, which keeps people indoors under artificial light for so many hours, may be encouraging a form of SAD year-round.
Studies of shift workers also support the possible role that exposure to sunlight has on mood. Messing up the normal light and dark cycles by sleeping during the day and being awake at night, under artificial light, can disrupt the body’s metabolism. That can have domino effects on nearly everything: how we break down energy from food, how strong our immune systems are and the vast array of brain chemicals and other substances that contribute to mood, weight, energy and more. People who consistently work night shifts, for example, tend to be heavier than people who don’t.
The strongest support for the role of sunlight in health, however, comes from its effect on mood. Studies generally focus on the brain chemical that’s most directly linked to mood, serotonin: higher levels of serotonin correlate with better mood and feelings of satisfaction and calmness, and lower levels link to depression and anxiety.
We Are All Flowers
We all need sunlight for optimal health. If you can safely be outside, go get your daily dose of the sun – even if it’s just sitting in your backyard or on your porch or balcony. According to an University of Exeter study in 2019, two hours a week seems to be the minimum we need. I don’t know the research on sunlight through glass, but even sunning in a sunny window like a cat may help. I certainly feel my well-being increase when I do!
Go laze in the sun but don’t fall asleep and get sunburn! You might feel your mood lift and who wouldn’t love that?
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