Why We Need the Sun

Reaching for the Sun

Over the past few days, many of you have mentioned just how much you are affected by the rain and overcast skies. You have related how tired, depressed, and unmotivated you felt with all the low pressure and darkness. This really comes as no surprise since we literally need the sun!

Exposure to sunlight accounts for over 90% of the vitamin D produced by most individuals. Vitamin D not only improves immunity, strengthens bones, and protects against high blood pressure and Alzheimer's, it also boosts the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood. In fact, many common anti-depressants work by artificially elevating levels of serotonin, including Selective Serotonin Reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like Celexa, Lexapro, Luvox, Paxil, Prozac, and Zoloft. Parkinson's disease is another condition where serotonin levels are low, and recent research has shown that vitamin D can be a helpful supplement. To keep our vitamin D at optimal levels it is recommended that we receive at least ten to fifteen minutes of sunlight per day and eat a diet rich in foods that contain Vitamin D like fish, eggs, cheese, milk, yogurt, and mushrooms.

Of course, Chinese medicine has a slightly different understanding of why we need the sun. According to this theory, we need a balance of both yin and yang, two general categories into which everything can be organized. Yang is represented by the sun, warmth, and light, and correlates with activity. Yin is represented by the moon, cold, and darkness, and correlates with rest. For ideal health, we must have a balance of these two opposing energies. If we don't have enough yang we will be tired, depressed, and unmotivated, but if we have too much we will have mania, insomnia, and burnout. Since most of us spend so much time indoors and inactive, especially during these days of COVID-19, the positive effects of being outside in the fresh air and sunshine at this time cannot be understated. In Chinese medicine, being outside immersed in the natural elements is even more beneficial. This is akin to the Japanese concept of "shinrin-yoku," or nature therapy, and comes with a host of added benefits including reducing stress and high blood pressure, accelerating recovery from illness, improving mood, and boosting immunity.

Foods High in Vitamin D
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