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A Sunny Disposition

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by Isaac Davis

The February snow has finally relented, March’s off and on chill has faded, and steadily spring-even summer- is emerging in the April heat. It’s undoubtedly a beautiful transformation to see  as sunlight prompts the bare trees to unfurl delicate blossoms, and the hills to reclaim their forgotten vibrancy but is there more than just an aesthetic benefit to be had from this season. Is there science behind a sunny disposition?

Research into the effects of sunshine on serotonin levels, which are associated with boosting mood and helping a person feel calm and focused, suggests that there is a positive correlation between light exposure and Serotonin release. While experts do not deny that UV can cause great harm to your skin, they are also adamant of its mood lifting qualities.

In contrast, without sunlight exposure serotonin levels can dip low, resulting in excessive production of Melatonin – a hormone that makes us sleepy. In extreme cases this leads to the development of disorders like Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). The positive impact of sunlight is legitimised by the popularity of light therapy for treating SAD and depression. Here a lightbox is introduced to the patient. Light cues areas in the retina that triggers the release of Serotonin.

A little sunshine in your life is also important to your physical health. Getting anywhere from 5-15 minutes of sunlight on your arms, hands and face two to three times a week is enough to enjoy the vitamin D boosting benefits of sun. Vitamin D is majorly accredited to bone development, however, the Vitamin D Council suggests it is also helpful in treating or preventing autism, autoimmune disease, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, neuromuscular diseases, and osteoporosis. Further evidence has highlighted a use in cancer treatment, specifically: colon cancer, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, ovarian cancer, pancreatic cancer, and prostate cancer.

Getting out in the sun is a great step toward that summer tan, but it is also good at clearing up skin conditions as well; notably acne and eczema.

As you slump out of your last class today try to resist the call of the air conditioned dorm, of that series on Netflix. Have a look up, smell the fresh air, grab a good book and some suntan lotion and set up camp in the back quad for a few hours – it’ll do you the world of good.