You know that familiar feeling—the gentle warmth when you first step into the sun after a long day indoors. We feel this way because ultraviolet rays from the sun photosynthesize in our bodies (yes, just like a plant) and help us produce and maintain healthy levels of vitamin D and serotonin—two necessities to feel truly alive.
Our modern ways have pushed us to the limit in terms of time in our cars, homes, and offices. In fact, the average American spends about 93% of their lives indoors. Artificial light and screen time have made it easy to forget about prioritizing the most important light source in our lives.
This week, for Mental Health Awareness Month—we challenge you to feel the sun on your skin for at least 15 minutes every day. Here’s why:
1. Sunlight has a direct impact on optimism.
You’re probably familiar with serotonin. It’s a neurotransmitter that helps regulate psychological functions—like memory, mood, and behavior. When ultraviolet sunlight hits our skin, our body begins to produce vitamin D, which then signals our brain to make more serotonin—aka, the optimism molecule.
Higher serotonin levels correlate with satisfaction, calmness, and all kinds of good feelings—while low levels are often linked to anxiety and depression. In fact, most antidepressants work by boosting serotonin levels. With the majority of money and research being tunneled into pharmaceutical efforts to raise serotonin levels, we often forget about the natural mood-boosting resources available to us every day—like sunlight.
New research also suggests that we have vitamin D receptors in our brains. With sunlight being our top source of vitamin D, vitamin D deficiency may also be directly linked to too much time indoors, which often manifests itself in mood and depressive disorders.
Of course, sunlight is likely not an end-all remedy for severe mental illnesses. But if you haven’t been feeling the brightest—it’s worth considering how much time you’ve been spending outside. Start to think of your weather app as a mental health tool.
2. Sunlight also helps maintain physical well-being.
Vitamin D and serotonin are not only crucial for mood health, but also in how well our bodies function. At least 1,000 different genes are known to be regulated by vitamin D. A few major call-outs: calcium metabolism and immune system function. Without adequate vitamin D levels, our bones will not develop properly, and our immune cells have to work overtime to keep us from getting ill.
As far as serotonin goes, this optimism molecule also makes our guts a bit happier as well. If you are experiencing low serotonin levels, this could manifest in symptoms of being overly hungry—or never hungry at all. Serotonin commonly promotes nutrient storage, increasing gut mobility and healthy cycles.
While the UV and skin narrative is usually a negative one—there are some real benefits of limited UV exposure for our skin, especially if you experience any skin conditions such as eczema. Short-term exposure to UV rays may produce an anti-inflammatory effect; just be sure to apply some sunblock if you’re outside for more than 30 minutes.
Other possible benefits of sunlight include eye health, so when taking your 15 sunlight break—try going shade-free so your retinas can absorb the full spectrum of light.
3. Sunlight is crucial for a healthy sleep/wake cycle.
Circadian rhythm is arguably one of our body's most important cycles, in charge of our internal clock, healthy sleep, and alertness. Morning sunlight not only naturally wakes you up and gets you alert for the day but is also said to help us fall asleep on schedule at night. This means if we don’t prioritize morning and daytime sun, and fail to reduce blue light after sunset—our internal clock and melatonin release could become dysregulated. Noticeable signs of this could be midday drowsiness, trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, and waking up.
Basically, daily sunshine provides more than just an instant uplift—it also works ahead of time, preparing your internal clock for quality nighttime rest when the day is done.
If you live in an area with limited UV exposure—or have other limitations to sunlight, like a night shift job or a cold climate year-round, you may consider a light box. These guys mimic UV light and are often used to treat seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and may help with proper sleep cycles.
Studies suggest all you need is 15 minutes of sunlight a day for optimal vitamin D levels. That’s it. Set this number as your daily goal to start, and once you get the habit going, you’ll likely find yourself gravitating outside more often.
This week, notice how your energy shifts when you are under the sun. Wake up 10 minutes earlier than usual and take a quick stroll before your day starts. Instead of spending your lunch in the break room, take it outside for a midday serotonin boost. When you get home, watch the sunset and journal about the day. And remember: a cloudy day is still an opportunity to get some UV rays.
If you love cannabinoids like we do—be sure to check out our rise products. CBG feels like sunshine, so it's only natural you pair this wellness booster with your daily UV rays.
During this month, post a pic of your daily 15 in the sun and tag us @getsunmed for a chance to win a free CBG neuro water soluble. We can’t wait to see how you choose to embrace the sun.