Everyone looks forward to summer outdoor fun, and you may even feel your energy pick up when you head outside, but it’s not just a summer state of mind. It has been proven that the sun can improve your mood, increase your energy, and provide measurable health benefits.
According to Dr. Casey Adams, board-certified alternative health practitioner and book author, the sun offers up multiple benefits: “The sun delivers heat, raising core body temperature. Higher core body temperatures facilitate increased cell function and higher energy. This increases our detoxification and purification systems. Sun also regulates our natural biorhythm cycles. Boosted core temperatures increase cortisol levels during the day, ushering more relaxation and deeper sleep during the night.”
In addition, Dr. Adams, among others, points to the need for vitamin D production. It has been reported that as many as one in seven adults is vitamin D deficient; however, vitamin D can be synthesized by exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D is converted to calcidiol in the liver which is in turn converted to calcitriol in the kidneys. Calcitriol regulates the amount of calcium and phosphate in the bloodstream, which ensures healthy bones and teeth.
So despite the warnings to minimize sun exposure, moderate sun exposure (including a thorough application of sunscreen) can have tremendous health benefits. For sun-aided stress relief, here are four suggested activities:
1) Meditate in the meadow – or anywhere outside. If you are an experienced practitioner, simply find a comfortable place and let the fresh air breathe new life into your practice. If you are a beginner, simply find a comfortable seated position. Then close your eyes and take slow deep breaths. Feel the warmth of the sun and allow it to flow through your body – from the top of your head to the tip of your toes. Quiet our mind and think only of the breath and the warmth. Smile.
2) Downward dog in the daylight. Take your yoga mat and find a nice flat area outside and perform literal sun salutations! Many have found that a higher body temperature improves their yoga practice. Doesn’t a warrior pose in the park breathing in fresh air sound like a nice change of pace from the hot yoga studio?
3) Walk with wonder – take in everything around you. No matter where you’re heading to – the store, to find lunch on your break, or nowhere in particular – notice everything you pass. The trees, the flowers, how the sunlight reflects off the buildings, the birds chirping – just take it all in. For that moment, think of nothing else but what your senses are delivering to you at that very second in time. You are truly in the present.
4) Journal your joy. Step outside to write down what makes you happy, what you are grateful for, why you feel joy. Removing yourself from your walled environment – whether it be home or office – can help you let get past the distractions and away from the sources of stress so you can open up your mind and heart to feelings of gratitude and contentedness.
Not only will participating in these activities bring your relief in the daytime, they have also all been proven to help you relax and sleep better at night. Combined with the boosted core temperatures and increased cortisol levels achieved by the sun exposure, you should not have any trouble drifting off. And there’s nothing like a good night’s sleep to relieve stress.
Many have observed that moods elevate in the summer – and there is a scientific explanation. But by proactively harnessing the power of the sun, you can leverage this phenomenon to even greater benefit. So, put on something cool and comfortable, lather on the SPF 30, and drink in the summer sunshine. Your mind and body will reap the rewards.