Head outside when it’s nice and sunny, and feeling the rays on your face may make you feel a boost of happiness. But sunlight does way more for us than just boosting our mood. Getting enough natural light from the sun can make a big difference in how we feel, how well we can think, and even how healthy we are. Keep reading to find out all the ways sunlight helps us thrive.
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Sunshine Makes Us Happier
Our bodies are wired to react to sunlight signals in our surroundings. The natural sunlight we get during the day serves as a cue that tells our internal body clock when we should feel awake and when we should unwind for sleep. But the sun does a lot besides setting our sleep patterns. It actually makes us feel more positive and upbeat.
Studies show that being out in the sun prompts our brain to produce more of the “feel good” chemical serotonin, which is known to help relieve anxiety and sadness. In fact, sitting in front of a therapeutic light box that mimics sunshine is an effective treatment for seasonal affective disorder (SAD) - a type of depression that happens more often during the darker winter when there is less sun. The light therapy works super fast - most people feel less gloomy in just a couple of days! Research also shows that getting sun through the windows at hospitals helps patients feel less worried about being there. Sunshine can give our mood a boost.
Sunlight Keeps Our Brains Sharp
On top of brightening our outlook, getting enough rays also makes us think more clearly and concentrate better. A study in a science journal had people sit under different lighting conditions. Folks exposed to more natural sunlight showed increased activity in areas of the brain tied to processing information compared to those who got less sunlight. Other research on students indicates that natural light in classrooms helps kids pay better attention, stay more focused on schoolwork, and remember the material they learned better than pupils who learn in rooms without much daylight.
Recognizing these brain-sharpening benefits, many companies now orient workspaces and common areas to let in more sunshine. Some also add solar-powered tubed skylights to get workers more exposure to natural light. Employees performed better on all types of mental and physical work tasks under these sun-filled conditions across different kinds of jobs.
Sunshine Wards Off Health Issues
Vitamin D, which protects our bones and defends against some cancers, heart problems, and diabetes, is made in our skin from sunlight. Despite this, over 40% of people in America have lower vitamin D levels than what’s considered healthy. To get enough, we only need 10-15 minutes of direct sunlight exposure about 3 days a week. Sunshine is also key for keeping our inborn body clock in sync so we sleep well at night. Our systems use morning sunlight as a signal to wake up and feel alert. As daylight fades in the evening, it lets our body know it’s time to release melatonin and start unwinding for restful sleep. Getting ample sun during the day keeps our natural rhythm balanced so we sleep better at night without relying on sleep medications.
Greener Buildings, Healthier Planet
Letting more natural light shine into buildings is also easier on the planet. Structures intentionally designed to minimize the need for indoor lamps and overhead lighting use up to 80% less electricity overall. That adds up to big savings in energy bills and fewer greenhouse gasses warming our atmosphere from power plants.
Employees also share they feel more satisfied at sun-filled offices with fewer harsh fluorescents glaring above. This helps companies retain staff better so they don’t waste resources continually training new hires. Mental health centers and hospitals that incorporate healing natural light also help patients recover faster.
Simple Ways to Get More Daylight
Even though we spend lots of time cooped up indoors nowadays, getting enough healthy sunshine is totally doable with a few easy tweaks to our routines. Try to get a desk or work station near a window, if possible, so you can briefly glimpse outside and give your eyes a break.
Take “sunshine snacking” breaks for 10 minutes or so to step out and soak up some rays midday. Pick a bright, cheerful cafe as your makeshift office when you work remotely to sharpen your thinking. Seek out apartments with sunlit rooms and skylights when you move. Coat walls in lighter, reflective paint colors to amplify brightness indoors. Getting just a little extra daylight through choices like these can make you feel so much better.
Hopefully, you now see all the ways that free, abundant sunshine keeps our minds and bodies running smoothly. Bring the power of natural light indoors whenever you can by opening blinds, adding more windows, and decorating with sun in mind. Our systems will thank us!
At BLOOM, we offer more than treating challenging behaviors, and do more than treat symptoms: we support families & children everywhere, providing unique resources to meet you at your point of need. View our courses about ADHD, anxiety, impulsivity, and more on our course homepage.