September 2014
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How Just One Small Dose of Sunshine Awakens the Brain

sunlightIt’s funny how the sun has been so misunderstood by the public over the last few decades. People are afraid to bathe in the sun like they used to because there is so much rhetoric about how sunlight exposure causes skin cancer.

People are lathering themselves with so much (usually toxic) sunscreen every day that they not only don’t get enough sunlight to make enough vitamin D to stay healthy, but they are also likely exposing themselves to the toxins that are often found in so many traditional sunscreen brands.

There is a growing trend, thankfully, the realistically looks at the risks of sun exposure. The good news is that you can get sunlight every day without getting cancer as long as you follow a few simple rules. The bad news is, excessive UV exposure really is a dangerous thing. However, not getting ANY sun at all is believed to be the more evil of the two thanks to a more open minded view and growing body of evidence.

One of my favorite benefits of getting sun is that it really seems to drastically improve my mood. As soon as my eyes filter the sunlight’s rays, it’s almost like a complete psychological switch goes off in my head. I’m not sure if it is really all just a mental thing, like you literally talk yourself out of a foul mood because you think that traditionally people are supposed to be cheerful and bright when the weather looks the same.

And so what if it is all a “placebo effect”? If getting just a few minutes of direct sunlight on your face and in your eyes make you feel better in an instant most of the time, isn’t it valuable either way?

Research has shown that when sunlight, or even artificial sunlight, enters the eyes, it produces a reaction in the brain that is akin to “waking it up”. It enlivens the nerve endings, brightens the mood, and generally makes someone feel more positive.

This is why so many people undergo SADD light therapy in the winter when the sunlight is sparse in most areas of the world unless you live in the tropics or down south. There are even record sales of these “light boxes” that purport to help you with mood by stimulating neurpathways in the brain to believe that there really is sunlight penetrating them.

Furthermore, a secondary effect of sunlight on mood is that vitamin D has proven a highly valuable remedy against depression and mood disorders. People who are clinically depressed or suffer chronic anxiety are often diagnosed with low vitamin D levels. Coincidence? I think not!

Even artificial light can have this awakening effect. Recent research has shown that the backlighting on so many of our portable tablet devices can keep us up when we don’t even want to be up. The recommendation has been made that people who are having trouble sleeping do not use their iPads and so forth in bed or right before bed time because the artificial light stimulates and enlivens the brain into action, making it harder to sleep and wind down.

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