What does summer do to help my mental health?
The sun is staying out longer, and the sunny summer days are fast approaching.
With what for many felt like the longest winter finally behind us as we emerge from lockdown, many people are already feeling the mental health benefits of the longer days and brighter mornings.
After being stuck inside through the majority of winter we are finally getting a reprieve. The sun has begun rising earlier, spilling through our windows and making everything feel less dark. But what does the sun have to do with your mental state? Here at Dandelion Therapy Services, we will be explaining why having the sun on your skin benefits your mental health and wellbeing.
The sleep cycle
Sleep is often neglected, even though it is a vital component of every person’s overall health and wellbeing. Everyone needs sleep in order to allow your body to repair and be fit and ready for another day. In addition to it being harmful to your physical health increases the chance of excess weight gain and heart disease, disrupted sleep cycles and poor mental health usually go hand-in-hand.
Getting out into the natural light will help regulate your sleep cycle by 'switching on' your infernal clock. Your infernal clock signals to the body when to create sleep-promoting chemicals. To set this off, you can try factoring in time to have a 30-minute walk sometime in the morning or whenever suits you.
Sunlight is very beneficial to your sleep cycle because when the optic nerve registers sunshine and helps the body to create Serotonin, this 'happy' chemical in the brain turns into melatonin (the sleep hormone).
One of the most commonly known benefits from the sun, also known as the 'Sunshine vitamin', is important for bone health. This is because it helps us to absorb calcium. But the lesser-known fact about Vitamin D is that we also have Vitamin D receptors in the brain. This is part of the direct relationship between Vitamin D and the creation of Serotonin (the happy hormone).
It is no coincidence that you feel brighter and even more energetic during the summer. This is because the vitamin D we get from the sun is vital when it comes to our mental health. However, many people in the UK have low levels or even Vitamin D deficiencies. “Many studies found lower circulating serotonin levels in people with chronic pain conditions, such as endometriosis and fibromyalgia.” – Michaella Mazzoni. In addition to this, low levels of Serotonin are also found in people with depression.
The peaceful power of nature
Feel inclined to get outdoors and 'enjoy it when the sun is shining? It is not uncommon and is actually a very healthy inclination. Studies have linked that spending time outdoors can have a range of mental health benefits. The activity that we do outside can in many cases help to promote mental health in itself. An example of this is going for a walk, gardening or practising mindfulness.
This can also further help us to reduce stress by promoting feelings of relaxation. All of this added together is enough to brighten up any day.
Lowering blood pressure
Interestingly, getting out in the sun can actually help contribute to lower blood pressure. Nitric oxide is a molecule produced in the body and is released when the sun hits your skin. This is what lowers your blood pressure, in turn helping you feel more relaxed.
With that being said, you should speak to your GP and follow their guidance if you have any concerns about your blood pressure.
We're not telling you to stay outdoors as much as you possibly can during the summer. Even just 30 minutes each day spent outside in the sun can go a long way in supporting your serotonin production. This also does not mean you have to spend your time outside exercising; you can do whatever you'd like. And lastly, it is important to stay safe and aware during your sun exposure; too much with no sun cream is dangerous and remember to keep hydrated.