Decrease Stress & Increase SPF

Why You Should Always Try to Get Out In The Sun

The Brain-Friendly Newsletter

By now we are all well aware that sunlight can have a dramatic effect on our moods. Discussions around Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) are more commonplace, especially in more northern and nordic countries. During the winter months, decreased exposure to sunlight can lead a lot of folks to feel more withdrawn and listless, have trouble with their sleep, and even begin to have intrusive thoughts. 

Even if we ignore the many reputable studies that confirm this, the anecdotal evidence in our lives is clear: exposure to sunlight has a direct benefit on our mental health.

But why? 

And even more importantly, how can we use this to our benefit?

The rays from the sun have a direct impact on our bodies’ production of cortisol, dopamine, serotonin, and melatonin! 

Blue light from the sun (which is what is produced as it rises and throughout the morning) triggers our bodies to wake up and feel alert thanks to a spike in cortisol and dopamine. This light also triggers our serotonin system, which improves our well-being and happiness. It is this serotonin release that in turn triggers our melatonin system, letting our bodies know that in roughly 12 hours it should start putting those sleepy, relaxing chemicals into our bloodstream so that we can start to wind down. 

When we delay exposure to this kind of light, or interfere with it by using artificial sources such as scrolling through TikTok in bed (we’re guilty too, don’t worry), we cause our bodies to be confused about what should be happening and when. Effectively, we put them into an unnecessary state of stress!

You might be thinking “…you just said that the sun produces cortisol, isn’t THAT putting my body into a state of stress?!” And while yes, cortisol is mostly demonized as the “stress hormone” it can also do the body a world of good! 

Healthy levels of cortisol help your body:

  • 🍔 Manage its use of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins (which is why some people will hold put on excess weight during times of stress)
  • 🦵️ Reduce inflammation
  • 🛌 Regulate your sleep/wake cycle 
  • 🧠 And help restore your neurobalance so you back bounce back after short-term stress. 

By helping to activate cortisol and dopamine in your body as it rises, the sun is giving you a free, daily boost of feel-good endorphins. It’s prompting your body to produce nitric oxide which signals your blood vessels to dilate and let more freshly oxygenated blood flow towards your brain. When we have insufficient levels of nitric oxide, it has been linked to heart disease, diabetes, and erectile dysfunction

Clearly, we need and benefit from sunshine!

So how do we get more of these feel-good rays? 

  1. Open your drapes or blinds as soon as possible after you wake up. Let that sunshine fill your room first thing in the morning. 
  2. Try your best to get outside, ideally before 11 am so you are able to get the most out of the blue light being produced. Even as little as 2 minutes (though I would suggest 20 if you can) will be beneficial. 
  3. A simple change of only checking your voicemail while you are out walking will make getting more sun exposure an easy habit to fall into! 

It is always important to protect your skin from potential sun damage, so make sure to always wear a good SPF and a hat if needed when getting those feel-good benefits. 

Remember, there is no bad weather – only bad clothes. 

Now go catch some sun!