There is an affliction that overcomes many in the northern hemisphere during the winter months known as SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder. It’s not often that this is actually diagnosed, but many of us in these northern areas without much sunshine for months at a time know exactly how it can make you feel.
6/4/22 Update: Did you know that UV exposure actually produces beta endorphins as part of the chemical reaction that occurs on the surface of the skin? That's right. Those anxiety-reducing, appetite controlling, feel good chemicals - it's one of those. Just another reason to seek out natural, common sense sun exposure on a regular basis.
What we don’t totally grasp or even think about is the question behind why the sun has such a powerful effect on our mood and overall emotional well-being. Related: The Undeniable Benefits of Infrared Sauna Bathing It’s actually quite fascinating how profound the effects of sunlight exposure are. It’s also scary how vilified sunlight exposure has become in that past few decades.
Instead of being viewed as a powerful source of renewal, disease prevention and vitality, it is viewed by many as an aging accelerant and cause of skin cancers. While it is true we have to protect our skin against excessive sunlight exposure and sunburn, there are certainly ways we can SAFELY get the exposure we need to maintain optimal health and wellness. Related: Is there a Way to “Safely” Tan the Skin?
Natural Light Exposure and Mood – What is the Link Between the Two?
Natural sunlight is several times brighter than even the brightest overhead lights in any office or home environment. Our eyes register much less “light flow” indoors than they do outdoors. This influx of light has an interesting chain reaction once it filters through the eye. Once sunlight hits the retina, a signal is sent to the brain center which controls the production of critical “mood” transmitters, namely melatonin and serotonin.
If we go for long periods deprived of this light, it gradually affects the everyday production of these critical mood lifting neurotransmitters. This is why people often report having the blues during the winter months, especially if they live in climates that have distinct and severe changes in daylight and weather with the seasons.
Not only are they affected by the lack of mood-boosting natural light, but the lack of vitamin D (the best form of which comes from our skin’s interaction with the UV rays) plays a pivotal role in mood regulation as well. Essentially this is a double whammy when it comes to mood regulation in the dark winter months.
Your body goes into a sort of hibernation mode when it is deprived of natural sunlight. This is due to a general lack of energy, a darker mood to go with the darker environment, and a general malaise that can accompany this type of natural light deprivation. Light therapy has proven helpful not only in Seasonal Affective Disorder, but also in non-seasonal mood disorders and different types of depression. Related: Scent's Profound Impact on Mood
Light therapy has even been studied for improving the symptoms of anorexia nervosa as well as epilepsy. Various types of sleep disorders may also benefit from light therapy since it plays a role in producing the critical neurotransmitter melatonin which plays a critical part in sleep patterns.
Natural Sunlight Emits Deeply Warming, Comforting Infrared Heat Energy
Have you ever noticed how good, how comforting and decompressing it feels to be bathed in the uniquely warming light of the sun? It seems to have a totally different warming effect on the body than the type of heat received from a car’s heater or the heat of a fireplace or home heater for instance.
That is because the sun generates what is called radiant, or infrared heat. Radiant heat penetrates the tissues of the body, causing a much more intense warming sensation than other types of non-penetrating heat. This can not only feel wonderful, but some say it even may have healing qualities.
Since infrared heat like the heat produced from the sun penetrates the tissues, it is thought that it may be able to help detoxify and rejuvenate these tissues by increasing circulation and producing an even, cleansing sweat throughout the experience. Infrared saunas have been used as a means of detoxification and profound relaxation for this reason.