After lunch yesterday, my 3-year-old lay down on the floor quietly.
“What are you doing, cutey?” I asked.
“I just want to lie in the sunshine,” he stated matter-of-factly.
I lay down next to him and for the next 15 minutes that’s all we did. My god it felt good.
I am a sun-seeker. Right now, as I type this, I’m not sitting at the kitchen table or a desk, but I’m lying on my stomach on the carpet, in a patch of sunshine streaming in through the glass sliding doors. Since I was a kid, I’ve sought out the sunny spots of the house to read or listen to music, or just ‘be’. And things are no different now. There’s something about sunlight hitting my skin that warms me up internally. I visualize it like having sunshine poured into me, filling up my body and energizing my cells. And really, that’s not far off what it actually does. (Side note: I’m often blown away by how my preschooler just instinctively ‘knows’ things like this. He might just be my new healthy living guru.)
Exposure to sunlight triggers the release of the hormone serotonin in the brain – the happiness hormone. It actually calms you down and boosts your mood!
Plus, it’s great for our sleep. We’re designed to be active in the day and sleep at night, but we mess up our natural circadian rhythm by hanging around indoors all day then staying up late under artificial lights. When we get outside in the day, our bodies become better at recognizing the shift between day and night, so when the sun goes down we release more melotonin – the sleep hormone. The brighter your daylight exposure, the more melotonin at night, and even cloudy days are much brighter than artificial lights (usually at least 40x brighter than most office spaces).
When sunlight hits skin, nitric oxide is released into blood vessels, which lowers blood pressure. Researchers investigating this effect at Edinburgh University have even said “We suspect that the benefits to heart health of sunlight will outweigh the risk of skin cancer.”
UVB rays hitting the skin cause the conversion of Vitamin D from it’s inactive form to it’s active form, giving you all the benefits vitamin D provides, namely stronger bones and better immunity. A note here: window glass blocks UVB rays, so head outside for this, or at least open the windows. Yesterday, I opened the glass sliding door so my son and I could lie in the sunshine without a glass barrier.
Proctection against some cancers
Getting some sun has been linked to a reduced risk of colon, ovarian, prostate and pancreatic cancers and get this: it might even protect against melanoma! Outdoor workers have a decreased risk of melanoma compared to indoor workers. This makes sense to me. I feel that someone who gets outside regularly, in all seasons, gradually tans up as days get longer and warmer, and thus has better ‘protection’ from getting sunburnt, etc., than someone who spends 48 weeks of the year indoors then heads out over one summer holiday. That’s my theory anyway, what do you reckon?
Helping some skin conditions
Light therapy is sometimes used to help people who suffer from psoriasis, acne and eczema. I’ll take a prescription to go to the beach please!
In the time it’s taken for me to write this, the clouds have come out and my patch of sun has disappeared. Time to move to another part of the house or, even better, get outside.