Mental Health Monday – Why Does The Sunshine Make Us Happy?

In the last few days I have had a massive up-shift in my mood as the sunshine has made an appearance in the UK and it seems Spring really has arrived. This hasn’t just affected me, I know some of my friends have also said they are feeling the same way. So what is it about the longer days and the sunshine that helps lift the mood? Read on to find out!

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What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that is experienced in particular seasons or at certain times of the year. It generally affects people in the Winter months, when the days are shorter. It is really common to experience a low mood and energy drops during this time and your eating and sleeping patterns may be affected. If this happens at the same time every year, you may be diagnosed with SAD.

Symptoms of SAD can be different for everyone and will change depending on the time of year. Some of the things you might feel include:

  • low energy levels
  • feeling sad, hopeless, down, tearful and guilty
  • not wanting to socialise
  • sleep issues – sleeping too much or not enough, trouble falling asleep and staying asleep
  • difficulty concentrating
  • changes in appetite – eating much more or less than usual, snacking more, opting for less healthy options
  • losing interest in sex or physical contact
  • lower immune system resulting in more physical health problems – coughs, colds etc.
  • suicidal thoughts

Remember – if your feelings of depression are affecting your day to day lives or making you feel suicidal please go and have a chat with your GP who can listen, advise and let you know options for getting help. You can also check out my post – Where Can I Find Support for my Mental Health?

Why Does The Sun Make Us Happy?

Exposure to sunlight is thought to increase the release of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is associated with boosting mood and helping a person feel calmer and more focused. Without enough exposure to sunlight, your serotonin levels can dip, which can lead to a dip in mood and even depression.

Photo by Belle Co on

Vitamin D Benefits

Did you know?

Nearly half of the UK population were vitamin D deficient in the National Diet and Nutritional Survey. Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups are most at risk, as darker skin produces far less vitamin D than lighter skin.

Symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency include:

  • muscle weakness
  • pain
  • fatigue
  • depression

 The UK Government advises everyone to consider taking a daily vitamin D supplement of 10 micrograms from October-March to help keep bones and muscles healthy. During the pandemic, scientists have also advised that taking a vitamin D supplement, which can help protect people against Covid-19 and it’s effects. Vitamin D also plays a big role in bone health and strength.

Getting anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes of sunlight on your arms, hands and face two to three times a week is enough to enjoy the vitamin-D boosting effects of the sun

Other Benefits of the Sun

Research has also showed that the sun could have preventative benefits with some forms of cancer including colon, prostate, ovarian and pancreatic cancers. Excess sunlight can also contribute to some skin cancers though, so it is always important to stay protected and wear sunscreen.

The World Health Organisation has also suggested that sunlight may help treat some skin conditions such as psoriasis, acnes, excema and jaundice.

Research has also revealed preliminary links between sunlight helping other conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, thyroiditis, lupus and IBD. Personally I haven’t noticed a link between sunlight and my IBD, but the warmer weather does seem to help my RA generally, however it is not always the case – I often had flares in my school Summer holidays which was very frustrating!

So the sunshine really does seem to have tangible benefits for us all on the whole and I hope you have enjoyed reading about these. Has the recent sunny weather helped you in any ways in particular? Have you noticed your mood is lifted or has it affected your chronic health conditions? Please do share your experiences in the comments below! Taker care and enjoy the sunshine,

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