By: Dr. Francesca Vazquez
As the temperatures start to rise and the skies begin to clear, here's a reminder to log off and catch some rays of sun! Spending time outdoors is essential for both mental and physical health. In the spirit of #MentalHealthAwarenessMonth, we're sharing how sunlight can have a direct impact on mental health and wellness.
Here are 3 reasons why you should spend more time outdoors this season:
1. Increase levels of Vitamin D
Sunlight has been known to create health advantages, mostly because of its importance in maintaining adequate levels of vitamin D in the body. The sun is the biggest source of Vitamin D, a vitamin that has been found to be related to mood, energy and overall health. Vitamin D deficiency is associated to symptoms of depression. Some studies have shown that by replenishing vitamin d levels in the body, we are able to prevent a wide array of medical conditions, balance mood, and find relief from low energy and sadness. This explains why seasonal affective disorder (or poor mood in the winter months) can be treated with light exposure and vitamin d supplements.
2. Balance levels of serotonin (feel-good neurochemical involved in mood)
Having balanced levels of serotonin leads to positive moods. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter involved in mental health and it is partially produced through exposure to daylight as well as through the intake of certain foods.
3. Increase chances of getting much needed restorative sleep
Sunlight is involved in the production of melatonin, a hormone involved in maintaining our body’s circadian rhythm (or sleep-wake cycle). Having a balanced circadian rhythm leads to good sleep patterns and restful nights, which in turn also helps improve mental health. Serotonin is the precursor of melatonin, converting to melatonin in darkness. By descent exposure to daylight and sun, we are boosting our levels of both serotonin and melatonin.
We all know there’s a limit to how much sun we should expose our bare skin to, as prolonged exposure to UVA radiation can lead to skin cancer and premature aging. The amount of recommended sun exposure varies per person and mainly depends on skin pigmentation. Generally, 15-20 minutes of sun exposure a day (without sunblock) is enough to maintain healthy levels of vitamin D and for the production of serotonin. For these reasons, it’s important to create a balance by applying mineral sunblock 15 minutes after direct sun exposure and to get to know your needs by visiting your doctor and getting your vitamin D levels checked.
Featured Image: Write and Roam
Dr. Francesca Vazquez is the founder and editor of Ease to Wellness, LLC. She is a licensed health psychologist and vinyasa yoga instructor based in Miami, FL. She completed her training at Ponce School of Medicine, Jackson Memorial Hospital/University of Miami, and UF Health Cancer Center, specializing in health psychology & behavioral medicine. She has worked in spinal cord injury rehab, neuropsychology, pain management, stress management, mindfulness based stress reduction, psycho-oncology, wellness counseling and substance abuse. She is passionate about writing, wellness and living creatively, doing what you love.
Currently, she runs Ease to Wellness while also providing health psychology services for private clients, teaching yoga, and running wellness workshops. She is a regular contributor for websites such as www.mindbodygreen.com and a part-time Clinical Psychologist at Adaptive Center in Miami, FL.
To contact or for more information, visit www.francescavazquez.com.