5 Good Reasons for being in the Sunshine
I love the sunshine. I love the way it draws patterns on the ground when it pokes through the leaves of the trees; the way it lights the marigolds in my garden and makes them glow like burnished gold; the way it paints silver linings on white pillowy clouds towering in the sky; the way it flickers and flashes on windblown puddles after a quick summer shower; the way it warms my arms and toes . . . sorry! I’m getting carried away. But I’ve got to say it again, I just love sunshine!
I know my love of sunlight has a lot to do with childhood memories. You see, I lived most of my life on the island of Barbados where I was born and there you can depend on no less than 11 to 12 hours of daylight, day after day, month after month all year round, and more often than not the day would be bathed in sunlight – bright sunlight that burns a piercing white hole in the blue sky. Sigh! Nostalgia.
As a child it seemed as though the sun was always shining. How simple life was then, so happy, so exciting –living in a child’s world ruled only by pleasure and spontaneity. Climbing the neighbor’s huge ackee tree, reaching from branch to branch trying to reach the biggest bunch of ripe fruit; sitting in the shade of the manchineel tree, flying home-made kites on the open savanna, hoping that the cord doesn’t break and the kite go whirling off across the pasture; hiding between white sheets flapping on the clothesline in warm tropical breezes – I didn’t want the day to end and when it did, I went to bed reluctant but eagerly anticipating whatever joys the next sunny day would bring. So was life on Sunshine Island.
I always feel better on sunny days and recently discovered that is neither coincidental nor psychological. Digging into the topic and I found some info that really amazed me. It became clear that my mother’s insistence that I “get some morning sun” was, after all, scientifically valid.
So here’s what I found: (I don’t want to bore you with all the scientific details so I included links to the original articles just in case you want the full spiel.)
Sunlight prompts your skin to make the all-important Vitamin D
You probably already knew that. You probably also knew that you need vitamin D for healthy bones and teeth. But did you know that it is also very important for many other body functions? Sunlight . . .
- boosts our immune system by making T-cells perform better – translation, less infections. Research even suggests a link between vitamin D deficiency and some autoimmune diseases. Could that be true?
- helps our cardio-vascular system to work better. The heart muscles, blood vessels and all the other nuts and bolts of our circulatory system depend on vitamin D to work at peak levels.
- lessens symptoms of arthritis and other inflammatory diseases.
“Sunshine is the easiest and healthiest way to get vitamin D – the “Sunshine vitamin” – which is almost as vital to life as oxygen.” Top 10 Home Remedies
Exposure to sunlight can help you sleep better at night.
Sunlight sends our brain the signal to produce melatonin – the hormone that helps us get a good night’s sleep. Now that I can really use. Melatonin also regulates our circadian rhythm – our sleep-wake cycle. I just hate it when I am laid up in bed and doze off a few times during the day and then, lay awake all night trying to count sheep, but forgetting which number I’m on and having to start all over from the beginning!
Sunlight “lifts your spirits”
– puts you in a better mood. That is because of the natural lift you get from the feel-good chemical serotonin that our bodies make when we are exposed to the sun. Serotonin also
- controls appetite and helps digestion, and that can promote weight loss (or not)
- helps memory and learning
- regulates body temperature and some social behavior (nobody specified which).
Sunlight exposure can lower blood pressure.
A compound called nitric oxide is responsible. This one I knew absolutely nothing about. Apparently, it is a chemical that causes blood vessels to widen. That means it can
- lower the risk of heart attack and stroke. That also affects stamina, fitness and muscle development. In addition, Nitric oxide can
- lower the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes. Wow!
Direct sunlight has a cleansing and healing effect.
- clear up some skin conditions like psoriasis, eczema and acne. It can even help heal minor wounds. It seems that sunlight kills not only air-borne bacteria and those on the skin, but those inside the body as well. “There is nothing better than sunlight and fresh air to kill germs,” my mother always said – never any differentiation between bacteria, fungus or virus. Getting some sun was a part of her cure for almost every ailment and “sunning” floor rugs, pillows and mattresses was essential to a keeping a clean house.
If you want to look at it another way, lack of sunlight is linked to:
- poor quality sleep
- increased risk of infection
- heart attack and stroke,
- many autoimmune disorders
- increased risk of type 2 diabetes
- increased risk of many cancers (especially breast and colon cancer)
And the list goes on – but I’ll stop here. It’s beginning to look too depressing – maybe I could use some sunlight just about now.
“People who have more sunlight tend to live longer even though their population gets more skin cancer.” Daily Mail
Okay – not saying that you should pack up your georgie bundle (West Indian word that means a small bundle of possessions) and move to Barbados – or Florida – and spend your days basking in the sun. You can’t ignore the risks of over-exposure and skin cancer. So moderation is the key. Most sources suggest 5 to 15 minutes of direct sun exposure (no sun-block) in the early morning or late afternoon hours. And you may want to check the warning on any medications you may be taking. I take a couple that strongly advise against prolonged exposure to sunlight.
Now I am not one to believe everything I read on the internet, but I had to admit that the articles seem well researched AND, more importantly to me, they support my mother’s practices. She was just “an ordinary housewife” practicing the customs her mother passed down from her mother, but it seems to me that our forefathers – and foremothers, intuitively knew these things. Well it just goes to show “mother knows best” after all.
So what about you? I would love to hear about some of your childhood or adult sunshine memories – maybe what you enjoy doing on bright sunny days. What about your favorite Sunshine Song?
My Top 3 Sunshine Songs
- World Health Organization – official website
- Environmental Health Perspectives – a peer reviewed journal supported by the National Institute of Environment and Health Services, The National Institutes for Health and The US department of health and human Services.
- LifeHack – a lifestyle blog featuring tips to help improve all areas of life.