Helping Your Mental Health with the Sun

 

The switch from winter to spring can be jarring - you have to change from wearing boots to shoes and from wearing three layers to just one. Pastels are in and gone are the darker colors of the winter. The sun is shining and temperatures are up! In short, the changes in the weather causes multiple changes in a person’s everyday life. And one of the biggest adjustments can be in their mood.

In the winter, what’s the general aesthetic? Snow is cold (obviously). The sun is blocked out by clouds most of the time, which means that even the limited time we get in the sun is often prevented. In general, winter weather is just cold and dark. It throws off a person’s circadian rhythms and thus affects their mood negatively. This can lead to Seasonal Affective Disorder, which causes major problems during the winter months. This is why you might feel incredibly happy for the first warm, sunny day of spring. I know I was.

But in the spring, when the sun finally comes out for longer than 20 minutes, that all changes. Everything negative that was going on during the winter goes away and is traded in for the opposite. The world is brighter for longer and the coldness slowly leaves. Things are growing and being reborn. Your circadian rhythm gets back on track and is easily maintained. This allows you to get better sleep and to be less tired during the day. The sun is also around more to encourage the creation of Vitamin D.

Vitamin D is a significant part of the benefits of sunlight. Besides helping us with our mental well-being, it also helps with cell growth and the health of bones. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to depression, osteoporosis, and rickets. The vitamin connects and helps with almost every part of the human body to make you run as smoothly as possible. And the best way to get this lovely little vitamin in from the sun!

 

Although the best place to get Vitamin D is the sun, it can also be found in some foods, such as egg yolk and salmon, as well as in vitamin supplements. There is also light therapy, which includes the use of a lamp that creates light with similar properties to the sun to help during the dark winter months. My older sister uses one of these to help and I’ve been looking into getting one myself to deal with seasonal depression.

Oftentimes you hear about the negative aspects of sun exposure, like sunburns and skin cancer. And while it’s vital to keep those in mind, it’s also important to remember the positives of it, too. Most exposure problems can be fixed with a healthy dose of sunscreen and being responsible with your time in the sun. They shouldn’t stop you from doing whatever you can to be the happiest you can be.

Note: This article is not saying that going outside is going to cure your depression. There are multiple factors that lead to depression and if you are suffering from mental illness, please reach out to a professional or contact the National Helpline. Getting out and seeing the sun is just one way to take care of yourself.