By Marc Sorenson, Sunlight Institute
Mood (a good mood) is critical to optimal living, and those who work in natural light experience improvement. In addition, a good mood leads to better performance, behavior and psychological health.
Furthermore, very few things improve wellbeing like arising early in the morning and walking outside on a sunny day: Our attitude improves too, and our serotonin and endorphin levels increase. Consequently, there is an almost immediate feeling of exhilaration. So, we become happier and less confrontational, and our minds seem to click on all cylinders. This mood change is all due to the morning sun exposure. Does midday sun exposure also help?
Mood and midday sunlight
Later on, around midday, we produce large quantities of vitamin D, and our nitric oxide levels increase. That is, of course, if we are fortunate enough to safely sunbathe (with a lot of skin exposed). As a result, we experience a delicious feeling of relaxation and a lowering of blood pressure as the cares of the day melt away. Therefore, mood is again enhanced.
Mood and sun robbery
Regrettably, due to various factors, most of us live in a society robbed of the sun. We are confined to artificially lighted buildings and poor little cubicles and our mood is crushed. These little cubicles, of course, seem like prison cells that won’t allow our happiness to manifest itself.
Consequently, concerned scientists are recognizing that modern humans suffer from artificial, insufficient light in their lives. So, these scientists are advocating a return to natural light. One of their studies on the subject of light and mood is most noteworthy. They, due to their concern about light availability, measured the impact of windows and daylight on mood. They studied the physiological, psychological and behavioral health of working nurses. First of all, they used biological measurements, behavioral mapping and data analysis in a nursing unit of two wards. While both wards exhibited similar conditions, one ward had more windows and more natural lighting than the other.
As a result, in the ward with more windows and natural light, the nurses had better health. They had lower blood pressure and higher body temperature, less sleepiness and a better mood. Communication and laughter also increased. Heart rates were shown to be lower with greater exposure to light, and caffeine intake was reduced as well. In conclusion, mood was improved, as was performance. Rana Zedeh, the lead researcher of that study, made the following statement: “Research has shown a range of different outcomes are impacted by sun, including regulation of the circadian rhythm, shorter length of stay for patients, reduced perception of pain for patients, and reduced anxiety and agitation among elderly patients with dementia. Improved outcomes for patients also help staff manage their patients better.”
Change the environment, change the mood
Finally, one can only imagine the potential benefits that could be realized if unencumbered sun rays are allowed. Vitamin D production would increase, and it is likely that patients as well as nurses would improve their health.
Hence, Dr. Zadeh also made this declaration: “Intelligently designed clinical workspaces could lead to higher safety and quality levels… By default, when we think of a healthcare workspace, we may think of a large, deep building with no windows for staff, little access to greenery or outdoors, an institutional feel, complex way-finding, and monotonous color and lighting. Knowing how the human brain receives stimuli from the environment and constantly changes neural hormonal responses controlling cognitive performance and alertness, we might be able to improve outcomes by creating more vigilant and restorative elements in environments.” The translation is, “elevate your mood by getting out of the little dark boxes and back into the sun.”
How does the sun work to improve mood?
First of all, what does the sun do to relieve “the blues?” The answer lies in a chemical responsible for transmitting impulses between nerve cells. This “neurotransmitter,” serotonin, is a natural “upper,” working in synchronization with the natural “downer,” melatonin. So, when we awake to sunshine, light enters the eye and stimulates serotonin production. Because of this reaction, sunlight can dramatically increase serotonin levels in the brain and immediately improve mood.
Dr. Gavin Lambert and his colleagues in Australia measured serotonin levels in response to varying degrees of bright light. To do so, they drew blood samples from the internal jugular veins of 101 men and compared the serotonin concentrations of the blood to weather conditions and seasons. The remarkable results: Men who were measured on a bright day produced eight times more serotonin. That is, compared to those who were measured on a dismal day. Of course, the mood was improved due to sunlight.
Get your regular, non-burning sun exposure and enhance your good mood!
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