I don’t know if this is just another part of growing older, but in the past few years I have started to realize how much the weather affects my mood. This was not the case when I was a child. Dropping my candy bar on the floor or having to go to bed early is what really brought my mood down back then. A cloudy day had nothing on me. Now if the sun isn’t shining for a couple of days in a row I feel like crawling in a hole and never coming out. This time of year provides a light at the end of the tunnel. The days are getting longer and brighter, and that is good for the soul. There are actually several benefits to enjoying time in the sun!

Before I dive into why we should all be catching rays, I need to talk about how to do it safely. May is skin cancer awareness month, and according to the American Cancer Society there are expected to be over 106,000 new cases of skin cancer this year. I hope that you will join me in practicing sun safety as we head into the summer months. Here’s what you need to do – SLIP, SLOP, SLAP, and WRAP! What does that mean exactly? Slip on a shirt, slop on some SPF (you should apply a lot and reapply often), slap on a hat, and wrap on some sunglasses to protect the sensitive eye area. Don’t forget to take plenty of breaks in the shade too. Sun safety is really that simple.

The sunshine truly makes my heart happy, and I know that I am not the only one. There is very strong evidence that shows there are both physical and mental health benefits to (healthy amounts of) sun exposure. A lot of people know that vitamin D is good, but do they know just how good it really is? There are numerous health benefits associated with this wonderful vitamin that is produced when the sun hits the skin. Mayoclinic.org says that vitamin D’s “anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and neuroprotective properties support immune health.” After the year we’ve had, I think we are all looking for ways to keep our immune systems strong. Not only that, but vitamin D helps to strengthen bones as well as the muscles and brain activity. Pretty great, right? Well, it doesn’t stop there. My favorite part is the serotonin boost that comes from good ol’ Mr. Golden Sun. Healthline.com explains that serotonin is a chemical that is released in the brain when a person is exposed to sunlight. Serotonin is associated with mood-boosting and helping a person feel calm and focus. To top it all off, sun exposure can actually help you sleep better at night too.

In the midwest, we can end up going weeks without the sun in the winter. To combat that dreariness and keep my mood up, I invested in a “happy light” this past year. It has been a game-changer. The key is to use it consistently. I am not always good at that, but when I do, it helps tremendously. While this could never replace the actual sunshine, it is a close second.

The bottom line is that spending time outside in the sun can help keep your body healthy and your spirits lifted. Get out there and enjoy, but don’t forget to slip, slop, slap, and wrap before you do!

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