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WHY SUNLIGHT CAN MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE

The sun is literally the centre of our universe, here’s me thinking it was coffee! Now Australia is several weeks into Autumn and the daylight disappearing earlier and earlier it is essential we still make it part of our day to day.

The sun’s heat and light, are the reasons our beautiful planet exists as it is. Earth would be a lifeless ball of ice-coated rock without the sun’s power. The sun warms our seas, stirs our atmosphere, generates our weather patterns, and gives energy to the growing green plants that provide the food and oxygen for life.

Walking along the beach with my family last week I completely underestimated the power of the sun for the hundredth time. I got sunburnt. I know better. The temptation to soak in the sun was too much and I let my guard down. We are all aware of the sun’s ability to harm, too much sun damage can kill. However, getting the balance just right can be important.

Sunlight increases our happy hormone serotonin. Serotonin helps boost our moods and it can help keep you calm and focused. Over the cooler months, we spend a larger portion of our time indoors with artificial light. This can mean our serotonin levels can dip low. With the change of the seasons, we can suffer and it’s easy to see why.

When the sun sets, and darkness falls our incredible brains release another wonderful hormone melatonin. This hormone helps us slow down, feel drowsy and helps us drift off to sleep when we go to bed. If we are not getting some natural sunlight throughout the day we can, unfortunately, get an influx of melatonin. This is not what we need to get us through the day. Too much melatonin can cause serious issues such as depression.

We also know that we get vitamin D from sunlight. Vitamin D forms in the skin when it is exposed to UV from sunlight. It can also be obtained from some foods. We need vitamin D to maintain good health and to keep bones and muscles strong and healthy.

So, we need sunlight for vitamin D and serotonin, how do we do that safely?

The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation is both the major cause of skin cancer and the best source of vitamin D, go figure! In Australia, we need to balance the risk of skin cancer from too much sun exposure with maintaining adequate vitamin D levels.

So how much sunlight should we get?

The Cancer Council of Australia covers everything you need to know about sun protection. Their website is brilliant even if you think you know, it’s absolutely worth going over, it’s like first aid, taking a refresher saves lives. You can check that out here https://www.cancer.org.au/

The Cancer Council of Australia advises the following about how much sun is ok:

“The best source of vitamin D is UVB radiation from the sun. UV radiation levels vary depending on location, time of year, time of day, cloud coverage and the environment.

For most people, adequate vitamin D levels are reached through regular incidental exposure to the sun. When the UV Index is 3 or above (such as during summer), most people maintain adequate vitamin D levels just by spending a few minutes outdoors on most days of the week.

In late autumn and winter in some southern parts of Australia, when the UV Index falls below 3, spend time outdoors in the middle of the day with some skin uncovered. Being physically active (e.g. gardening or going for a brisk walk) also helps boost vitamin D levels.”

It’s a slippery slope negotiating how much sun and when. The reality is we need the sun to maintain optimal mental and physical health, yet we don’t make it a priority. Sunlight is just as important as a nutritious diet and exercise.

With the cooler months upon us take a little moment to think about how much natural light you are getting throughout an average week and its effect on your mood. If you feel you aren’t getting enough do a little research for your area and the healthiest way to go about it, the health benefits are worth getting it just right.

I hope you have a fabulous week!

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