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How to brighten up your days (now that the sun’s shining)

A grassy space with people relaxing in the sun in Chicago.

Winter is behind us! Although some last-minute harsh weather can never be fully ruled out, in general we can expect an increase in sunshine and clear days. 

It’s a nice time of the year that naturally makes us feel more cheerful. So, why not maximize the effect and use this opportunity to build a series of positive habits?

Enjoy the sun itself

Let’s begin by talking about the catalyst for our new improved moods – the sun. While the harm of too much sun exposure shouldn’t be ignored, there are a huge range of natural benefits from getting out and about. 

If you need to destress after a hard day’s work or similar situations, one of the best things you can do is get outside into the fresh air.

Vitamin D levels

Firstly, the sunshine helps top up those all-important vitamin D levels, which helps your body to absorb calcium, magnesium, and phosphate (along with many other biological effects). It’s particularly beneficial for people suffering from osteoporosis or similar issues. 

If you experience muscle pain, bone pain, or an increased sensitivity to pain it could be due to low vitamin D levels. Of course, check with your doctor before taking any kind of medication, but getting a healthy dose of sunlight may help with some of these symptoms. 

A boost in serotonin

There is some research to show that sunlight may help boost serotonin levels. To put it simply, serotonin is a neurotransmitter and hormone that helps the nervous system to work in harmony. 

What this means for you is that it can help increase feelings of well-being and happiness, particularly when it comes to mood regulation. This is just one benefit of serotonin, with the hormone also helping regulate bowel movements, help heal wounds (through blood clotting), improve bone health, and even improve sleep. 

In general, the right level of serotonin can have wide-ranging effects on individuals, including helping you feel more focused, emotionally stable, happier, and calmer.

Better sleep

Serotonin isn’t the only sun-related factor that can improve the quality of your sleep. Many of you who have trouble sleeping may be aware of the hormone melatonin. Of course, it doesn’t only come in a bottle. Research shows that the sun can impact the melatonin circadian rhythm, which is produced in the skin through sun exposure.

When combined with the other factors (adequate vitamin D levels are also a factor in sleep), the combined effect is to enjoy better sleep. 

A sunny trail in the woods.

Build on nature’s gift

Have you ever noticed that starting a good habit is so much harder than keeping one up? We are all different, but one reason for this may be that “we assume implementing a new routine starts with a single, firm decision and is carried out by iron-clad self-will.”

This is rarely the case. In fact, it is surprisingly difficult to jump start a habit – whether good or bad. Habits are built through behavior and repetition, as a response to cues. The elements of habits are the cue (or trigger), the routine (or behavior), and the reward.

This means that, if you want to begin a new habit, it is often easier to piggyback on a natural situation than to conjure a new routine out of nowhere. 

Sunshine and exercise

We all know there are wide-ranging benefits of exercise, both physical and psychological. At a neurochemical level, exercise reduces levels of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, while stimulating the production of endorphins

The sunshine, with its natural properties, can act as a springboard to help us develop new habits. By simply going for a walk in the park on a sunny day, you can stack up the natural feel-good hormones, positively impacting how you feel throughout the day. 

Even if you live in an urban center, like Chicago, there are many different green spaces that you can enjoy in the city. And that’s without mentioning the incredible hiking spots outside the urban area. Take advantage of the sun shining to create some new plans – and who knows they may even stick!

Controlling your diet

Likewise, the food we put in our body has an enormous impact on how we feel. Oddly, studies show that sunlight affects your appetite differently if you are a man or a woman. Men, as a whole, experience an increase in hunger due to the sunlight, whereas women report lower levels of hunger. 

No matter what, try to opt for the two basic principles of good eating – quality and quantity. Look for the highest quality food you can afford, without eating too much of it. When combined with sunlight, exercise, and good sleep, you will soon notice the difference in your mood (and your waistline). 

We are well aware that this is easier said than done and that controlling what you eat is a struggle for many of us. Where possible, try to disassociate feelings of food with those of self-worth and remember, tomorrow can always be better. 

Be honest with your mental health

The above tips can help to improve your mood and embrace a more healthy, sustainable lifestyle. No matter who you are, regular exercise, an improved diet, and plenty of sleep will certainly help. 

But it’s important to know that they aren’t magic pills that will cure all. 

Feelings of depression, whether due to natural imbalances or triggered by an external cause (such as a traumatic event) can go deep. It is important to look for the right support for your situation and not simply wonder “why isn’t this working for me?”

If you are constantly struggling with feelings of low mood, please get in touch with us or your local medical professional to help you regain control.


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