A Quick Guide to Sunshine

By Megan Wiley – September 27, 2021

The summer sun is in full effect here in Austin, Texas. Those longer days drenched with sunshine are perfect for a dip in Barton Springs Pool, paddleboarding around Ladybird Lake or enjoying a happy hour on your favorite patio. Taking it easy and enjoying the sunshine is a great way to relax and unwind. Even better news, sunshine has many proven health benefits. Here are some other ways that sunlight improves your health — as if you needed any more reasons to get out there and lounge by the pool!

Vitamin D is the most commonly talked about health benefit of daily sunshine. This vitamin, however, is actually a hormone that influences many different processes in the body. Our bodies manufacture vitamin D when exposed to the sun’s rays and as our work has gradually migrated to indoor settings, vitamin D deficiencies have become much more prevalent. Here are some of the systems affected by vitamin D levels:

  • Vitamin D is one of the most powerful players in keeping our immune system functioning optimally. This important hormone regulates our body’s ability to protect us from pathogens that we encounter and keep us healthy.
  • Vitamin D is also a big player in growth and bone health. In children, low vitamin D levels can actually stunt growth and lead to rickets. In adults, low vitamin D levels are associated with osteoporosis.
  • Vitamin D is one of the many important hormones that regulate our mood. Seasonal depression has been linked to decreased sun exposure during the winter months and is commonly treated with indoor bulbs designed to copy sunlight.

A lesser talked about benefit of daily sunshine is its impact on our circadian rhythm. Our circadian rhythm controls our sleep/wake cycle and energy throughout the day. At different times of day, the wavelengths of light from the sun change. Getting exposure to morning, afternoon and evening sunlight helps calibrate our circadian rhythm so that we can optimize our sleep and energy cycles. This translates to waking up feeling more rested, and a better ability to wind down at bedtime and get to sleep at a decent hour.

It is possible to get too much of a good thing, even when it comes to sunshine. Too much sun exposure has been linked to an increased risk of skin cancer.

 

Here are my top tips for finding the right balance:

  •  Incorporating antioxidants and healthy fats into your diet can help protect your skin from the inside out.

  • About 20 minutes of sunshine a day is the go-to rule, but that number may increase if you have more melanin in your skin, if you are covering up with more clothing, or if you are wearing a high SPF sunscreen.

  • When outside for prolonged periods of time, help keep your skin protected by hanging out in the shade or throwing on a cover-up.

Megan Wiley is a nutritional therapy practitioner and certified yoga teacher. She founded Wiley Wellness to empower people to take charge of their health through a full mind-body approach. By addressing the root cause of symptoms, she helps clients reclaim their physical and energetic health. For more nutrition and mindset resources, find her on Instagram @wileywellness.

 
 

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