Summer Sun for Winter Blues
Basking in the sun for depression?
The Summer-Winter Connection continued...
The critical link seems to be the relationship between
summer light and winter levels of vitamin D. Light stimulates the production of
cholecalciferol, which the body eventually transforms into vitamin D. The
vitamin then helps the body maintain higher levels of serotonin during the
Partonen's team has found that blood levels of
cholecalciferol naturally peak in the fall months. So getting more exposure to
sunlight during the summer may help you build up a store of cholecalciferol
that lasts through the fall. All this cholecalciferol apparently spurs your
body to produce more vitamin D during the darker winter months, which leads to
higher serotonin levels.
Partonen contends that the amount of serotonin you have in
the winter is determined by your exposure to light the previous summer -- and
that soaking up more sunlight in the summer will increase your chances of
preventing or reducing depression during the winter.
What You Can Do
Next winter doesn't have to be all gloom. It depends on what
you do this summer. While simply slathering on the sunscreen and heading
outdoors may be fine, try the following strategies to take best advantage of
the summer sun:
- Dose up: Get up and out early to enjoy the added hours of morning sunlight.
These are also the hours in which the risk of sunburn is lowest. (Avoid dozing
during the midday sun.)
- Ritual: Practice some form of ritual, meditation, or exercise outdoors for
at least 20 minutes each morning. One practice is to face the sun and imagine
you are inhaling its light with each in-breath, and that the light is being
absorbed throughout your body.
- Sun breaks: During your workday, spend coffee breaks or lunch breaks
outdoors to increase your exposure each day.