As we move into early spring and eventually summer, the weather is finally getting nicer in Seattle. For the first time this year, it looks like temperatures are reaching over 70°F in western Washington this week, and the sun is finally out. Even in the middle of the quarter, it can be really tempting to just forget about your assignments and midterms and spend the day outside enjoying this rare sunshine. While it is important to note that too much sun exposure can be dangerous for your skin and lead to some serious forms of cancer, you might be surprised to know that moderate sunshine everyday can actually be beneficial to your health. If you’re someone who would rather spend the day in a cool, air-conditioned room, read on to learn some reasons you should be trying to spend some time outside everyday.
Seasonal depression is real. As students who live and go to school in a city as gloomy as Seattle, we probably all know what it’s like to feel moody and dull on a cold, rainy day. As it turns out, this is actually directly related to a lack of sun exposure in the colder months. Sunshine is largely responsible for triggering your brain to release serotonin, or your “happy hormone.” If you’re feeling sad or down in the dumps, try going out and getting some sunshine!
If you’re someone who has trouble sleeping at night, it’s possible getting more sun exposure could fix some of your problems. Not only does the serotonin mentioned above play a role in maintaining your circadian rhythm (your sleep-wake cycles), but the brighter the sunshine you experience during the day, the more melatonin is produced at night. Melatonin is super important for regulating your sleep and can even help you manage your stress!
The obvious benefit from getting some sun is getting more Vitamin D. Vitamin D is super important for bone health, the immune system, and the absorption of other vital minerals, and sunshine is one of the main ways Vitamin D is activated in the human body. By going out and enjoying some sunshine, you’ll be getting enough vitamins to protect you against osteoporosis and autoimmune diseases, reduce your risk of infection, and help support healthy bones and teeth.
All of that being said, it’s super important to note: always protect your face and body with sunscreen and sunglasses when going out in the sun for more than 15 minutes at a time! While sunshine is obviously good for your health, UV radiation can have some nasty effects on the way your skin cells reproduce, and possibly cause skin cancer. If you try to spend 5-15 minutes outside in the sun everyday (longer the darker your skin tone), you’ll be sure to reap the benefits listed above. Of course, I’m no doctor and this is in no way a comprehensive list; if you’re at all unsure whether your outdoor habits are unsafe, make sure to do some of your own research and talk to your healthcare provider if need be. So stay safe and go out and get some sun!