Sunshine = happiness

Why we feel good when it's warm

If you're still feeling low from winter there’s plenty you can do to brighten your mood, and it all revolves around getting extra light.

The majority of people tend to naturally adapt to the changing of seasons; however, this is not the case for people who regularly experience seasonal affective disorder

What is SAD?

“Underlying SAD is the persistent rhythm of our circadian pacemaker,” says Jennifer Ackerman, author of Sex Sleep Eat Drink Dream – A Day in the Life of Your Body.

“In response to the shorter hours of daylight, the brain secretes melatonin for a longer period during the longer night hours, putting the body in ‘night mode’. It also reduces the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in regulating mood. In modern society, we don’t slow down to accommodate our shifting seasonal chemistry. We continue to work long hours and stay up late at night, and our bodies suffer.”

And our circadian clock is not the only clock we need to be in tune with.

“In addition to the clock set by cues of day and night, we also have a neurological clock that has an internal schedule set in the brain,” says professor Michael Holick, author of the Vitamin D Solution. “When these two clocks don’t agree on the same schedule and compete with one another, we feel ‘off’, which is what happens with classic jet lag.

Why sunshine makes us feel good

Sunlight, and in particular morning sunlight, is capable of ‘resetting’ our circadian clock, and making us feel pretty good at the same time, although it doesn’t produce a great amount of vitamin D (you’ll have to wait until later in the day for that).

Sun exposure provides a natural high by stimulating the release of ‘feel-good’ substances in your body, such as serotonin, dopamine, and beta endorphins, the body’s natural opiate. It also suppresses hormones like melatonin, which make us feel sluggish and down. “Spend as much time as you can outdoors,” says Dr Holick.

“If you’re at home during the day, keep the curtains open as much as possible. If you work in an office, try to get a workspace that’s near a window. Be physically active, and begin your physical activity before the symptoms start. Physical activity outside in the bright morning light is a win-win.”

Disclaimer: If you're getting out in the sun, be sure to protect your skin with sunscreen or protective clothing – you can absorb adequate vitamin D with just your face and forearms and while wearing sunscreen. 

NEXT: see 7 tips for happiness at work or read about Why sleep is the third pillar of health

Rate This

No votes yet
The information presented on this website is not intended as specific medical advice and is not a substitute for professional medical treatment or diagnosis. Read our Medical Notice.