Gloomy & cold weather makes me grumpy. Sunny & warm weather makes me happy. I don’t have seasonal affective disorder, even though I may claim to from time to time. Maybe upstate NY wasn’t the best place to plant my roots- but I know I’m not alone in saying the weather affects my disposition. Yet, the question remains…
Can summertime sunshine actually make you a healthier person?
Absolutely! You can actually use aspects of the nice weather to improve all of the dimensions of your health. Here’s your 5 second mini lesson:
PHYSICAL HEALTH = your body’s outward health (i.e. exercise, diet, sickness)
MENTAL HEALTH = your emotional feelings, stress levels and self esteem
SOCIAL HEALTH = the health of your relationships with other people
Get some sunshine.
If you’re like me, you’re emerging from a winter hibernation. When it’s cold outside, my only sun exposure is while darting from a heated vehicle to a heated building. By now I’m sure you know the sun’s rays are what stimulates Vitamin D in our bodies, but did you know that you can meet your quota of sun exposure for Vitamin D purposes in a matter of minutes? Sorry, tanning bed companies. Don’t accredit over-exposure to the sun to a need for Vitamin D. Use sunscreen- no exceptions. If it’s below 30 SPF it doesn’t count. [Lecture over.]
I’d say the benefits of seeing some sunshine are more so related to mental health than anything else. Something about unplugging from our hyper-connected world and taking in the natural environment around you can really put things into perspective. The stress you previously had over instagram followers seems to dissolve when you focus on the serenity of the world around us. Being outside always makes me feel lighter and more relaxed- that is, as long as there’s no spiders nearby.
There is a proven connection between the food we put in our bodies and the way we feel. During dreary days I tend to seek warm comfort from my food. Eating fresh, real foods always sounds more appealing on a beautiful day. Take advantage of the bountiful farmers’ markets and produce stands this time of year. Incorporating berries into desserts and veggies as side dishes is easier than ever right now! It doesn’t have to be fancy- this time of year I serve my produce pretty much straight-up. Throw some washed fruit in a bowl and call it fruit salad- easy peasy. Besides, who wants to sit down to mashed potatoes and gravy when its 80 degrees outside?
Another downside of winter hibernation; lack of social interaction. After work, my desire is to burrow into a blanket and binge on Netflix during colder months. A great upside to nice weather is all of the opportunities to gather with friends! Rather than the wintertime staples of meeting for dinner or drinks, sunshine lends itself to walks, tennis, garage sales and so many other great outdoor social events! Not only do these options spark more creativity since they are outside of the ‘norm’, but they also get you out and moving! Standing and walking for entertainment has a greater calorie burn than sitting around and eating for fun. Having happy and healthy relationships can help you live longer and be sick less. Laughter banishes stress, and happy people tend to take better care of themselves- it’s a circle of benefits!
While summer sunshine has huge health benefits, it’s worth nothing that being happy where you are is also important. I whine a lot about NY weather, but to me it’s who I’m with and what I’m doing that makes me happy- not where I am. Being on a sunny beach hours away from everyone I care about wouldn’t make me happy at all.
The moral of the story is that life is truly about what matters most to you. That being said, I have no shame in taking full advantage of the warm weather’s health benefits! Do you feel like the weather effects your health? How?
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