Hey there, sunshine seekers! As a counsellor, I hear a lot about the impact of weather on mental health. And let me tell you, there’s a whole lot more to sunshine than just feeling warm and fuzzy inside! Research has shown that sunshine can seriously boost your mood, especially when it comes to melatonin and sun exposure. On the cusp of summer, I thought this would be a great time to talk about it.

What is actually happening in your body to make the sun increase your mood? I’m so glad you asked 🙂

What is Melatonin?

Melatonin is the hormone that helps regulate our sleep and wake cycles. It’s produced by a tiny gland in the brain that’s sensitive to light – the pineal gland. When it’s dark out, the pineal gland pumps out more melatonin, making us feel sleepy. When it’s bright and sunny, less melatonin is released, making us feel alert and awake.

Exposure to Natural Sunlight

So, what does this have to do with sunshine and mental health? Well, getting some natural sunlight during the day can help keep our melatonin levels in check and our sleep patterns on track. This is especially important for those who struggle with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression related to changes in sunlight exposure. While light therapy boxes can help alleviate SAD symptoms, there’s nothing quite like soaking up some natural sunshine!

Serotonin: The Happy Hormone

But wait, there’s more! Sunshine can also work wonders for our optic nerves, which are the pathways that carry visual information from our eyes to our brain. When we bask in sunlight, it stimulates the optic nerve and releases serotonin – the “happy hormone.” Serotonin helps regulate our mood, appetite, and sleep, making us feel like we’re walking on sunshine!

Stay Protected in the Sun

Of course, we want to make sure we’re soaking up sunshine safely. Too much sun exposure can lead to skin damage and increase the risk of skin cancer. So don’t forget to wear sunscreen and protective clothing, seek shade during the hottest parts of the day, and skip the tanning beds!

Essentially, sunshine can benefit our mental health through melatonin regulation and the release of serotonin through the optic nerve. So next time you’re feeling blue, take a stroll outside and soak up some vitamin D – your mental health will thank you!