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Why Sunshine Makes us Happy

Here's the science behind why those rays are so good for us.

Mood booster: Most of us will agree that it’s hard to feel unhappy in the sun. This is down to the link between sunlight and our serotonin levels - the hormone that makes us feel happy.

Sleep better: Regular exposure to sunlight encourages the production of melatonin – the hormone which helps to regulate the body's sleep-wake cycle. This encourages feelings of drowsiness, allowing us to drift off easier at night, which leads to us feeling happier in the day.

Sex drive: Believe it or not, even our sex drive is affected by time spent in the sun, so a spring heatwave is good news for those who have found their libido dampened somewhat in lockdown. The experts put this down to the role of vitamin D, which is produced after exposure to sunlight.

Bones: Vitamin D is also crucial for helping our body to absorb calcium, which is responsible for strengthening your bones. More than 90 percent of a person’s vitamin D requirement tends to come from casual exposure to sunlight, making it the best source of the nutrient. So how much exposure do we need to boost our health? On average, experts believe we should be aiming for 10 to 30 minutes of midday sunlight, several times per week.

Brains: While most of the research around sunlight and the brain has focused on serotonin levels, a dose of vitamin D could also be good for our intellect. Scientists from the University of Manchester found that higher levels of vitamin D are linked with improved mental ability in middle-aged and older men. Men in the study were tested for memory and speed recollection, as well as for mood and physical activity levels, before their blood samples were taken. The researchers found that men with higher levels of vitamin D performed consistently better than those with lower levels.

Blood pressure: University of Southampton researchers exposed participants with a normal range of blood pressure to ultraviolet light. They found that after exposure, the participants saw a modest decrease in their blood pressure levels, which could be down to the role of nitric oxide stored in the top layers of the skin. When it reacts to sunlight, it causes the blood vessels to widen - moving the oxide into the bloodstream. Long term, having lower blood pressure can reduce your risk of cardiac arrest or a stroke - so even more of an excuse to soak up the rays!


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