Would it surprise you to learn that there are several very powerful impacts of spending time outdoors? Natural daylight impacts a variety of physical, mental, and emotional functions.
Let’s remember that without the sun plant and animal life could not thrive.
As you probably remember from early science classes the sun helps plants grow by providing energy for the process of photosynthesis to occur. Photosynthesis is the way plants convert sunlight, water, carbon dioxide, and minerals into resources that the plant can use to grow.
Similarly, the energy from the sun has a variety of chemical responses that take place in humans. Here is how it works.
First of all, when light strikes the skin, Vitamin D is activated. As you may know, Vitamin D is important for building strong bones and absorbing calcium. As a matter of fact, Vitamin D is known as the Sunshine Vitamin.
There are a variety of benefits to our body from Vitamin D: strengthening of the immune system, cardiovascular system, muscles, brain, and many other systems.
Some of the other physical improvements made by spending time in the sun or basically in natural light include:
- Reduced blood pressure
- Boosted immune system
- Lowered Type 2 Diabetes
- Lowered blood sugar levels
- Lowered risk of nearsightedness
There are also mental and emotional benefits:
- Boosted alertness
- Enhanced mental function and memory recall
- Increased happiness through the release of serotonin, a happiness hormone
- Reduced effects of depression, and Seasonal Affective Disorder, a condition which occurs in the northern region during winter months, when many days pass without direct sunlight and much lower levels of serotonin. SAD is estimated to affect 10 million Americans every year.
Sleep is another important area impacted by light. Melatonin is released at night and cortisol, during the day. That is why we are sleepy at night and are alert during the day. You can help balance your body clock or Circadian Rhythm by going to bed on time and getting enough sleep. Having a balanced circadian rhythm impacts energy, mood, alertness, and other mind-body functions.
Another benefit of a balanced Circadian Rhythm is a suppressed appetite. Who knew spending time outside could reduce your appetite?
In terms of stress and anxiety, light improves the communication between various parts of the brain to help us handle emotions. Furthermore, studies have shown that the more time you spend outdoors, the more serotonin you get and the happier you feel. And you also get a boost of endorphins, the feel-good hormone.
Conversely, decreased sun exposure is associated with a drop in serotonin levels which can lead to major depression
Without enough sun exposure, your serotonin levels can dip, which can impact your mood & symptoms of major depression.
During this Covid crisis, you can easily get outside and take a walk. That’s one area that is still open to us. The benefits include not only the exercise but the added benefit of saying hello to neighbors and all the happiness chemicals you will receive from the social interaction as well as from the sun.
Finally, have you ever noticed the awe you feel when you travel to an exquisite natural site, such as the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, the Adirondacks in New York, or the Upper Peninsula of Michigan? In 2015 researchers at the University of California, Irvine found that people commonly experience awe when they spent time in nature. They describe awe as “that sense of wonder you feel in the presence of something vast that transcends our understanding of the world,” and went on to explain that “awe serves as a vital social function which helps people behave more socially.”
Just imagine a mental and physical health treatment that is free and easy to access, that does not require a doctor’s prescription, nor a lot of time and that can boost your productivity at work. In just ten to twenty minutes per day, you can have improved physical, mental, and emotional health.
Janice Litvin is on a mission to help leaders and teams banish burnout in their organizations. If you would like more information about Janice’s talks, visit http://www.JaniceLitvin.com or Janice@JaniceLitvin.com / 415.518.2202.
Her new book, Banish Burnout Toolkit™ is due out later in September. Order information will be available at http://www.JaniceLitvin.com/book. When you book Janice to speak for your conference, books can also be made available.