by Amy Skentelbery
With Coronavirus bringing us all indoors I think it’s fair to say most of us have realised the importance of being able to go outdoors and experience nature, especially when the sun is shining. Why is this?
The sun has always greatly influenced cultures, religions, and practices all over the world and affects the whole planet, animals, and mankind. Without it, we wouldn’t survive.
Various studies state that the sun affects both the mind and the body. It is suggested that the mind and body are linked because the nerves and chemicals that make up our brain structure have a direct connection with the body. This connection causes the mind and body to communicate and produce certain behaviour. A good example of this can be seen in the body and minds relationship to the sun: vitamin D from the sun is processed by the body but a lack of this vitamin can affect a person’s behaviour, psyche, and their brain.
It has been argued that avoidance of sun exposure due to fear of skin cancer has resulted in an epidemic of vitamin D deficiency. Sunlight exposure is vital for the production of vitamin, and vitamin D deficiency is associated with various psychiatric and immune-related disorders. Unfortunately, Vitamin D deficiency is now being recognised as one of the most common medical conditions worldwide.
Another reason that people don’t go outside as much as they should Is because they have jobs that keep them indoors, i.e. office jobs, and by the time that they finish their day sunlight time is limited. The consequences of vitamin D deficiency include poor bone development and health as well as increased risk of many diseases including type I diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
Some people are so affected by the weather and sunlight that they develop a condition called seasonal affective disorder (SAD). The NHS explains that symptoms of SAD are similar to those of normal depression, but they occur repetitively at a particular time of year. They usually start in the autumn or winter and improve in the spring. The nature and severity of SAD vary from person to person. Some people just find the condition a bit irritating, while for others it can be severe and have a significant impact on their day-to-day life.
Sunlight has been related to a higher mood and better memory. Studies show that pleasant weather improves mood and increases cognition in the spring because people have been deprived of such weather during the winter. But It has been found that bad weather increases individual productivity by eliminating distractions resulting from good weather, as when the sun is out people in general wish to be outdoors.
The sun does affect all areas of our life. It provides us with warmth, grows our food, and it’s even been discovered that relationships between people are affected by the weather. For example, a study concluded that a restaurant waitress was more likely to receive a tip if the sun was out.
Sunlight is really important for our mental health and overall well-being, but we have been told to stay at home and practice social distancing due to the current situation of COVID-19. If you have a garden, you can go outside, as well as going on a walk. If you don’t have a garden, you can open a window to feel the natural sunlight on your face.
References and suggest reading:
Cadell, S. (2007), ‘The Sun Always Comes Out after It Rains: Understanding Posttraumatic Growth in HIV Caregivers’, Health & Social Work, Vol. 32, No. 3, pp. 169–176, https://doi.org/10.1093/hsw/32.3.169
Cohen, R. (2011), Chasing The Sun: the epic story of the star that gives us life, Simon and Schuster, London.
Cunningham, M., (1979), ‘Weather, mood, and helping behaviour: Quasi experiments with the sunshine Samaritan’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 37, Vol. 11, pp. 1947-1956.
Geddes, L. (2019), Chasing the Sun: The new science of sunlight and how it shapes our bodies and minds, Clays, Suffolk.
Holick, F. (2009), ‘Vitamin D and Health: Evolution, Biologic Functions, and Recommended Dietary Intakes for Vitamin D’, Clinical Reviews in Bone and Mineral Metabolism. vol. 7, no. 1, pp. 2-19.
HugDahl, K., (2001) Psychophysiology, The mind- body perspective. Harvard University Press. London.
Keller, M., Fredrickson, B., Ybarra, O., Côté S., Johnson K., Mileks, J., Conway, A., Wager, T., (2005), ‘A warm heart and a clear head: The contingent effects of weather on mood and cognition, Psychological science, Vol. 16 No. 9, pp. 724-731.
Kööts, L., Realo, A., Allilk, J. (2011), ‘The Influence of the Weather on Affective Experience’, Journal of individual differences, Vol. 31, No. 2, pp. 74-84.
Lee, J., Gino, F., Staats, B., (2014), ‘Rainmakers: Why bad weather means good productivity’, Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol. 99 No. 3, pp. 504.
Rosen, R. (2019). Here Comes the Sun: The Tradition of Surya Namaskar, Yoga Journal, viewed 1 Jun 2019, https://www.yogajournal.com/poses/here-comes-the-sun.