We Bet You Never Knew How Good the Summer Solstice Actually Is For Your Health
You’ve been conditioned to think of the final day of school or the pool’s opening day as “the start of summer.” In reality, the Northern Hemisphere celebrates the official start of summer on June 21 — the summer solstice.
The summer solstice offers more daylight than any other day of the year. The warm months produce the fresh fruits and vegetables we rely on for nutritious meals while the sun influences everything from our sleep schedule to our mood.
So are people really healthier in the summertime? These experts believe so. Plus, their argument for why the longest day has the potential to be one of your healthiest of the year.
You’re more cheerful in the summertime
Philip Gehrman, the associate director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at the University of Pennsylvania, confirmed what we feared: Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is real, and you’re generally happier come he summer season.
“People tend to feel better in summer months,” Gehrman said. “There’s a slight elevation in our mood. More positive emotions are reported.” Natural sunlight better regulates your circadian rhythms than darkness. They affect your body temperature, sleep patterns, and hormonal fluctuations over an estimated 24-hour period.
Your brain is more active
Researchers from the University of Liege in Belgium measured the brain function of 28 volunteers every month for an entire year. Each participant spent 4.5 days in the lab during testing to shield their bodies from seasonal cues.
The researchers found that brain activity, specifically attention and focus, peaked in June near the solstice and dipped most around the winter solstice. “Our findings indicate that, in addition to time of day, time of year influences higher cognitive brain function in healthy participants,” lead author Christelle Meyer, M.D., said.
Simply waking up in the sun helps your mood
Similar to how sunlight can lift your mood, the lack of light in the winter poses a challenge for many people. This has brought SAD to the forefront and led to common complaints of “winter depression.” Frank Scheer, director of the Medical Chronobiology Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, told Time how strong that effect can be.
“In wintertime, when the days are shorter, we are more likely to wake up when it’s still dark outside and before the circadian system stimulates wakefulness and improved mood.”
The right amount of sun can be good for your skin
It’s a common misconception that all sun does for your skin is create wrinkles and leave sunspots. While researchers still promote the consistent use of sunscreen, they’ve found preliminary evidence that suggests the vitamin D sunlight provides can protect and help repair damage such as that caused by the same sun exposure.
According to WebMD, a growing body of research suggests vitamin D deficiencies increase the risk for a host of human cancers, as well as other disorders like tuberculosis and rheumatoid arthritis. A dermatologist told the site that the potential for small doses of sunlight to actually protect the skin from damage is possible … but obviously controversial.
Take advantage of the extra few moments of sunlight to soak up the sun, protect your skin, and enjoy healthy summertime delicacies like watermelon and corn. Your body (and your mind!) will thank you.
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